What others say: Changing coal rules a great leap backward for environment

  • Saturday, August 25, 2018 11:43pm
  • Opinion

The Trump administration is committed to saving coal, when what it really needs to do is save the planet.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency took another great leap backward, proposing new rules that are supposed to control heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution but are really aimed at furthering the production and burning of coal.

Power plants generate more than a quarter of the 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide America pumps into the atmosphere each year. And this summer, scorching California wildfires from tinder-dry conditions, along with record-breaking heat waves and flooding around the world, have been vivid testament to the extreme weather that global warming makes more likely.

With the new rules proposed Tuesday, EPA would junk the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut power sector emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030, giving states flexibility to meet mandatory goals.

A better idea would be a market-based carbon tax, with revenue rebated to consumers. But the Clean Power Plan was a next-best alternative.

The Trump plan would allow each state to choose how, or even whether, to set standards for coal-fired power plants. Pollution control upgrades would be reduced.

Efficient coal burning would be encouraged, a move that could boost coal consumption, generating even more pollution. In addition to more carbon dioxide emissions, increases in microscopic airborne particulates could cause as many as 1,400 premature deaths each year.

The Trump administration claims its plan would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 33 to 34 percent below 2005 levels. But critics say that assumption merely piggybacks onto reductions — of as much as 28% — already attained by a power sector racing to embrace cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The true benefit of Trump’s plan? A mere couple of percentage points of reduction, if that.

All this is to save a fuel source already in decline. Meanwhile, America’s fight to prevent the globe from overheating catastrophically is turning into a capitulation.

Besides trashing the Clean Power Plan, the president is pulling the United States out of a Paris climate accord that nearly 200 other nations signed, and he intends to roll back vehicle-efficiency standards aimed at reducing tailpipe emissions, the greatest domestic source of greenhouse gases.

The new power plant rules and vehicle-efficiency rollbacks will likely be tied up in court challenges for years. That might stall Trump’s great leap backward in the fight against climate change. But the nation needs to move forward, aggressively, in what is becoming an existential struggle.

—USA Today, Aug. 21, 2018

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