The Obama administration has introduced a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a third of 2005 levels by 2030. It could reshape the US electricity sector, and potentially cancel the emissions equivalent to about 70 percent of all the cars in the US.
The reduction is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the US for one year. It is aimed “to avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days, providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits,” says the statement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the regulatory body that drew up the plan.
The move is expected to benefit alternative energy sources, as well as gas, renewables and nuclear power.
Besides having the positive effect on the environment, the “Clean Power Plan” is hoped to create tens of thousands of new jobs and lead to a cut in household electricity bills by roughly 8 percent as energy efficiency will be improved, the EPA said.
It would hurt the country’s coal industry, as the plan could reduce the demand for coal by up to 27 percent as well as cut prices by 17 percent, the EPA said.
The US authorities and businesses divided over the move.
For President Barack Obama the new rules come as a serious step towards meeting his promise to reduce pollution volumes by 2020, which the president made in his first year in office.
“These new standards are going to help us leave our children a safer and more stable world,” the Financial Times quotes President Obama as saying.
The “Clean Power Plan” is seen as Obama’s last chance to substantially shape domestic policy and define his legacy. The initiative is also supported by European leaders and others who see it as a motivator for other countries in the deadlocked international climate change negotiations.
However, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) warned the initiative would have a dramatic effect on the US economy.
ACCCE president Mike Duncan said the move will create “America’s next energy crisis” as some states will be unable to meet the EPA standards.
Under the new environmental initiative, each US state will get its own emissions limit.
US business groups involved in the coal industry warned that instead of benefiting the economy the plan would raise bills, cause job losses, and increase the risk of blackouts.