NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Obama's Climate Five-Year Plan

July 5, 2013

President Obama's new national climate action plan ambitiously seeks to control nearly every aspect of how Americans produce and consume energy. The goal is to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases and thus stop boosting the temperature of the earth. The actual result will be to infect the economy with the same sort of sclerosis seen in other centrally planned nations, says Ronald Bailey, a science correspondent with Reason Magazine.

Consider four aspects of the Obama five-year plan.

Rationing Carbon.

  • Obama's plan directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants."
  • The standards are still being formulated, but they currently would limit new power plants to emitting 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity generated.
  • Since conventional coal-fired plants typically emit around 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour generated, the new rule would essentially be a ban on building plants.
  • If the EPA were to establish a uniform 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour standard, that would eliminate nearly all coal-fired plants in the United States, which generated about 37 percent of the country's electricity last year.
  • In comparison, natural gas plants generated 30 percent, nuclear 19 percent, hydropower 7 percent, wind 3.5 percent, biomass 1.4 percent, petroleum 1 percent, geothermal 0.4 percent and solar 0.1 percent.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.

  • The president plans to mandate improvements in the energy efficiency of appliances and buildings.
  • The amount of energy it takes to produce a dollar of gross domestic product has fallen by more than 50 percent over the past 40 years, mostly without the help of central planners.
  • That's not enough for the president, who wants to double energy productivity by 2030.

Climate Resilience. The president's plan proposes to aid communities to get ready for the deleterious effects of future global warming, but it is questionable that they need a proliferation of federal rules and bureaucrats to help them.

International Limits.

  • As Obama noted approvingly, United Nations negotiations are supposed to result in some kind of legally binding global treaty by 2015 to cut greenhouse emissions, a kind of global 50-year climate and energy plan.
  • Given the utter failure of the Kyoto Protocol, the predecessor accord, there is little reason to believe that most of the rest of the world will agree to pay substantially more for energy.

Source: Ronald Bailey, "Obama's Climate Five-Year Plan," Reason Magazine, June 28, 2013.


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