President Obama is stepping up his drive to combat greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, this time by ordering the federal government to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent from 2008 levels over the coming decade and expanding its use of renewable fuels in the government’s electricity supply.
At the same time, the administration has enlisted voluntary agreements from federal suppliers including giants General Electric, IBM, Honeywell and United Technologies to slash their carbon emissions by five million metric tons over the coming decade, compared with 2008 levels.
“We’re proving that it is possible to grow our economy robustly while at the same time doing the right thing for our environment and tackling climate change in a serious way,” Obama said yesterday at the Department of Energy where he signed an executive order to implement his new strategy.
Taken together, the new federal government and private sector policies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2025 from 2008 levels, or the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year, according to a White House fact sheet.
While many environmentalists and climate experts warn that climate change is approaching crisis levels, efforts by the U.S. and other major international polluters to reduce carbon emissions appears to be having some impact. Global greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise by around 2.5 percent in 2015, an increase over 2013 levels but lower than the average increase during the past decade, according to a recent analysis by the PricewaterhouseCoopers consultancy firm.
While the Obama administration was celebrating the president’s latest initiative, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill declined to comment on the new program, according to The Washington Post. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear that he hopes to block a key part of the Obama’s climate control agenda.
McConnell campaigned for reelection vowing to block new administration regulations limiting carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. He recently sent a letter to all 50 governors urging them not to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon limits on existing power plants – the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Once enacted, those new EPA rules could close hundreds of coal-fired power plants, including many in McConnell’s coal-rich home state.
While McConnell is limited to what he can do as majority leader to thwart the new EPA policy, The New York Times reported yesterday that he has taken the unusual step of providing governors with a legal blue print for them to follow in attempting to stop the rules in their state. The well-research letter asserted that Obama was “allowing the E.P.A to wrest control of a state’s energy policy.”
Ironically, McConnell and a network of foes of the EPA policy have structured their arguments in part on a legal brief written for a major coal company by Laurence H. Tribe, a renowned scholar of constitutional law at Harvard and a former mentor to Obama when he attended Harvard.
In that brief for Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal company, Tribe argued that the president’s use of the existing Clean Air Act to promulgate the climate change regulations was unconstitutional, the New York Times reported.
McConnell launched his campaign against the EPA rules on March 3 with an article published in the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky citing Tribe in urging governors to refuse to submit climate change compliance plans to the EPA.
“In reality, this proposed regulation would have a negligible effect on global climate but a profoundly negative impact on countless American families already struggling,” McConnell wrote. “The regulation is unfair. It's probably illegal. And state officials can do something about it; in fact, many are already fighting back.
In some way, the majority leader’s tactics are reminiscent of the Republicans’ political and legal crusade to challenge Obama’s Affordable Care Act and discourage states from expanding their Medicaid coverage.
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