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Sneak Peek At New EPA Carbon Pollution Regs: 30 x 2030

Word leaked out to The Wall Street Journal yesterday that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new rules for carbon pollution from existing power plants will call for a stunning 30 percent national average cut by 2030, based on 2005 emission levels. That’s going to affect about 600 coal fired power plants along with others. The numbers were picked up all over the mediasphere even though EPA declined to confirm them in advance of the big announcement scheduled for today.

Here’s a shoutout to WSJ reporter Amy Harder for the scoop (as far as we can tell, WSJ was first out of the box), and also for highlighting EPA’s use of a phrase that’s even more important than the actual numbers: carbon pollution.

EPA carbon pollution regulations

30 (cropped) by Colin Milligan.

Carbon Emissions Vs Carbon Pollution

That phrase “carbon pollution” is a clear signal that the gloves are off and the Obama Administration is gearing up for an epic public relations battle.

Until now, you’ve been hearing stuff like “greenhouse gas emissions,” “global warming emissions,” and maybe “carbon emissions,” and let’s face it, the word “emissions” is an abstraction that has so far failed to give the general public something meaty to bite on.

So, it seems that from now on you’re going to hear more about the impacts of carbon pollution.

Harder brings it up at the close of her article, citing EPA spokesperson Tom Reynolds (emphasis added):

EPA will release its proposed carbon pollution reduction rule on Monday. Until then the agency will not comment on any information that may or may not be in the proposal.

Carbon Emissions And Asthma

To make things even tastier, the Obama Administration has spent the past couple of days steering public attention away from narrowly focuing on the connection between carbon pollution and climate change, over which the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests have succeeded in churning up considerable misinformation.

Instead, the emphasis is on connecting carbon pollution to other forms of pollution from human activity, specifically asthma. If you’re wondering why asthma rather than, say, pollution-caused cancer, we’re guessing it’s because asthma affects more people across a broader spectrum, especially children.

In other words, the asthma connection is far more familiar ground, affecting the daily life and health of millions of American individuals and families.

So, last Friday you have a long, detailed post leading off the EPA blog advising summer travelers about scenarios like this:

Air quality in the United States has improved considerably.  But, summertime air quality can still reach the unhealthy ranges of the Air Quality Index (AQI) – even in remote locations such as our beautiful national parks. Picture this: you’re camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (one of my favorites). You’re ready to take your kids hiking for the day, and you see a sign announcing a park-wide ozone advisory.

One of your teenagers has asthma. What can you do?

President Obama followed up the very next morning with his weekly Saturday radio address, which as of this writing is still highlighted on the official White House website ( under the title “Reducing Carbon Pollution in Our Power Plants.”

The intro to the transcript references “carbon pollution” twice (nary a whisper about “emissions”) and the address was delivered from the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Here’s the lede in full (emphasis added):

Hi, everybody.  I’m here at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., visiting with some kids being treated here all the time for asthma and other breathing problems.  Often, these illnesses are aggravated by air pollution – pollution from the same sources that release carbon and contribute to climate change.  And for the sake of all our kids, we’ve got to do more to reduce it.

Kids Vs. Koch Brothers

After years of fighting the climate change denial machine on science, it looks like the Obama Administration has finally brought out the heavy guns: kids.

We’re guessing it’s only a matter of time before the anti-science lobbying organization Heartland Institute sets its sights on that argument. The group, which has ties to the Koch brothers through the conservative legislative lobbying group ALEC, gained its reputation through a long time fight to delay smoking regulations, later transferring its misinformation-based game plan to climate change denial.

However, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep stirring up doubt when millions of voters see the evidence every day in their medicine cabinets.

Carbon Pollution And Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The fossil fuel industry has always had one thing going for it, and that is until recently there was no other option for powering the national economy, with the spotty exception of nuclear energy.


However, the old jobs-vs-environment saw is seriously out of date as renewable energy generation emerges as a mainstream source. Just yesterday we noted that US wind power, for one, is poised for domination, but don’t take our word for it. Here’s Bloomberg reporting last year on legendary investor Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Co.:

MidAmerican Energy Co., Iowa’s largest utility, plans to build as much as 1,050 megawatts of new wind power plants in the state, adding to about 2,285 megawatts of projects that it already owns and operates…

MidAmerican is the largest U.S. owner of wind generation capacity among rate-regulated utilities, according to the statement. Iowa ranks third in the U.S. for states with the most wind generating capacity, behind Texas and California, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Translation: hundreds of jobs, jobs, jobs for the wind industry in Iowa.

All we can say is that when you’ve lost Iowa, well, you’ve lost.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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