Obama’s emissions plan will protect the air and Americans’ health

06/02/2014 5:48 PM

06/03/2014 2:23 PM

A strong and detailed plan unveiled by President Barack Obama promises to reduce pollution, protect the health of Americans and promote the use of cleaner energy.

And the cost of electricity will not come close to skyrocketing.

Yet here come the knife-bearing opponents who support dirty air — the coal industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and politicians in their pockets. These skeptics will do seemingly anything to force Americans to remain tethered to old-fashioned coal, an energy source that befouls the air and creates billions of dollars in health care costs.

Look for their lawsuits as well as misleading tales of how much this plan will “cost” Americans. Claims of fiscal woe are always shouted when change threatens entrenched interests. Expect elected officials to preach about “free markets” when extolling coal, conveniently not mentioning the billions of dollars in subsidies it and other fossil fuels have received for decades.

Obama has a better idea. He wants to give states the freedom they often are clamoring for, this time to devise initiatives to help meet the national goal of cutting carbon emissions at power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

States could prod utilities to find the most cost-effective ways to meet the energy needs of their residents. They could emphasize conservation. They could promote the use of renewable energy to create more electricity.

In Kansas and Missouri, utilities already have taken progressive steps to bolster wind farm production and to nudge customers toward reducing their energy use. Tools include programmable thermostats and subsidies for new air-conditioners.

Yet Kansas officials last week also showed just how stuck in the past they can be, endorsing the construction of a large coal-fired power plant in the western part of the state.

Even if Obama’s plan eventually gets put in place, it will not dramatically affect climate change. Worldwide cooperation is needed to tackle that important task.

However, cutting carbon emissions will improve the lives of Americans, which is reason enough to support it.

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