The Obama administration’s climate-change rules targeting existing power plants will look vastly different from the ones Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy announced Friday.
The rules McCarthy unveiled last week, which apply only to plants not yet built, will require new coal-fired power plants to install costly technology called carbon, capture, and sequestration (known as CCS), which captures and stores carbon emissions underground instead of emitting the carbon into the atmosphere.
By contrast, the rules EPA is scheduled to unveil next summer will not require this technology, McCarthy told reporters at a breakfast briefing Monday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.
The distinction is important but sometimes overlooked as critics of President Obama’s climate-change agenda roundly pan the entire effort as a war against coal. The rules are poised to help reduce coal’s share of the electricity pie — right now it’s about 42 percent — over the next several decades. But coal-fired power is already facing significant challenges competing with natural gas, which accounts for 50 percent fewer carbon emissions than coal and, for right now, is both cheap and plentiful.
“It is really safe to say, if you read the rule, that CCS is really effective as a tool to reduce emissions when it is designed with the facility itself,” McCarthy said in response to a question about whether EPA’s rules for existing power plants would also require CCS. “It is not seen, at least at this stage, as an add-on that could be used to put on an existing unconventional coal facility.”
CCS is considered a prohibitively costly technology that is being demonstrated in only a few places throughout the entire world and is not, for now, commercially available. McCarthy struck an optimistic tune on this issue Monday, just as she did in Friday’s announcement, which prompted several questions about the technology’s viability.
“CCS is feasible and is available,” McCarthy said Monday. “We’re not suggesting that it doesn’t add cost to coal, compared to conventional coal. But if you’re looking at coal being a viable fuel for the future over the next decades, when we believe climate change must be addressed internationally, it does create a path forward.”
EPA’s rules for the roughly 6,600 power plants operating throughout the country today, including nearly 600 coal-fired plants, will rely on a wholly different method of rule-making compared with the rules announced Friday.
“The new power plant [rule] follows what everyone thinks of the traditional approach that EPA has,” McCarthy said. “Set a standard on what science tells you to reduce and also on technology availability.”
The rule affecting existing sources, which EPA is scheduled to propose by June 2014, will not be an across-the-country technology standard.
“EPA is supposed to look at guidelines for what kind of reductions nationally are achievable, and then each state is supposed to develop its own plan, take a look at its own suite of activities, and look at what’s reasonable,” McCarthy said. As potential methods of emissions-cutting states could pursue, McCarthy cited more ambitious energy-efficiency upgrades and integrating more renewable energy into the electric grid.
“We know where the investments in clean energy are going,” McCarthy said. “Renewables are getting to a tipping point now where they make great sense.”
McCarthy also reacted to the news of a potential government shutdown, which would occur Oct. 1 unless Congress doesn’t pass a continuing resolution to keep funding the government.
“It will mean that EPA effectively shuts down with only a core group of individuals who are there in an event of a significant emergency,” McCarthy said. “If there is no budget, EPA cannot pay its employees. People will not be working; the vast majority of people will not be working. It’s safe to say I will be.”
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."