Falling back on tired scare tactics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy today announced carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants as part of the President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. From McCarthy:
The overwhelming judgment of science tells us that climate change is real, human activities are fueling that change, and we must take action to avoid the most devastating consequences. We know this is not just about melting glaciers. Climate change—caused by carbon pollution—is one of the most significant public health threats of our time. That’s why E.P.A. has been called to action. And that’s why today’s action is so important for us to talk about.
I humbly disagree both as to the “public health threat” of carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, as well as with the idea that the EPA can do anything to alleviate whatever climate change may result.
What the new emissions limits do is to basically force the administration’s preference for natural gas over coal as the fossil fuel source for our nation’s electricity production going forward, perpetuating the administration’s seeming “War on Coal.” It does this by setting the carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants such that they are impossible to meet by burning coal, but can be met readily by burning natural gas. The reason for this is simple chemistry: the act of burning coal releases nearly twice the amount of carbon dioxide as does burning natural gas per unit of energy released.
The funny thing is, the market was already moving in that direction. Cheap natural gas is displacing coal for generating electricity, which in turn is reducing our national carbon dioxide emissions.