New Obama climate initiative comes under quick fire

25 June 2013 21:43  [Source: ICIS news]

New Obama climate initiative comes under quick fireWASHINGTON (ICIS)--President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced broad new policies designed to reduce US emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), but his plans came under immediate fire from the energy sector, environmentalists and members of Congress.

In a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, Obama said he was directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to craft new rules to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by existing US electric power plants, especially those using coal as fuel.

The Obama administration already has proposed rules that restrict carbon emissions by new power plants.

He also said he was directing the Interior Department to accelerate permits for renewable energy projects on federal lands, and he also set goals for greater energy efficiency standards for industrial, commercial and multi-family residential structures.

Obama said that he will again seek elimination of federal tax credits available to US oil and gas energy producers.

In addition, he said that final approval for the Keystone XL pipeline will depend on whether the project will add to greenhouse gas emissions.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) warned that the planned regulations, restrictions and higher taxes on conventional energy production “would be an economic disaster that could actually threaten America’s progress in lowering emissions”.

API president Jack Gerard said that “ironically, the president’s plan to raise taxes by eliminating cost recovery for US oil and natural gas companies would jeopardise his own climate goals by making some of those investments uneconomic”.

“After a handful of years, we would see less domestic energy production - particularly of natural gas - more imports, fewer new jobs and eventually depressed tax, royalty and other revenues to governments at all levels,” Gerard said.

Many environmentalists expressed their approval of the president’s new climate initiative.

"We applaud him for taking a giant step forward toward meeting that goal" of reduced emissions, said Scheleen Walker, director of the Sierra Club's Texas-based Lone Star Chapter. "As the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country, Texas has a special responsibility to rapidly tackle carbon pollution."

But not all environmentalists were happy. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said that Obama’s plan represented only modest steps toward reducing carbon pollution.

“But the strategy announced today will not cut emissions enough to prevent catastrophic warming and extreme weather dangers,” the center said.

CBD senior counsel Bill Snape warned that the president’s proposal “isn’t big enough and doesn’t move fast enough to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis”.

Senator Mitch McConnell, of coal-state Kentucky and the Republican leader in the Senate, said that Obama’s previous efforts to impose energy taxes failed to gain traction in Congress, even when Obama’s Democratic Party held solid majorities in both the House and Senate in 2009-2010.

“And because of concerns about job losses, higher utility bills and reduced competitiveness, Congress today is even less inclined to vote for an energy tax than when the president commanded such massive majorities in his first term,” McConnell said.

“But the president still wants to push ahead and ignore the will of the legislative branch,” he said, adding: “Whether the American people want it or not, he says he’ll do it by presidential fiat.”

Congressman Bill Cassidy, a Republican representing the energy-producing state of Louisiana, said that “the president’s announcement that he will issue executive orders to advance his climate change agenda will have the effect of raising the cost of energy and destroying blue-collar jobs in manufacturing, mining and construction”.

Cassidy urged his colleagues in Congress to support his bill, HR-1582, which would bar Obama administration energy or climate rules “that do little to help the environment but have adverse effects on the economy”.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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