How to Fight the Climate Crisis Without Dealing with Idiot Congressional Republicans

Matt Yglesias detailed what the EPA is capable of doing following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA — a ruling that allowed the federal regulation of carbon emissions.

The EPA dipped its toes in the water of actually regulating CO2 emissions with a “new source” rule last year. The terms of the rule are nuanced, but essentially make it unrealistic to build any new coal-fired power plants in the United States. That’s been a source of anger to the coal industry, but realistically it doesn’t make much difference. Ultra-cheap natural gas has made new coal uneconomical one way or another. What the new source rule does is offer a backstop—even if for some reason gas prices spike, new coal is still dead. But what about existing coal-fired power plants? That’s a tough one. The EPA could promulgate a strict rule and start shutting them down, but it’d be a very hard lift politically that would risk having congress partially repeal the Clean Air Act and strip the agency of its regulatory authority.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is out with a new proposal to do existing source regulation in a more viable way, namely by regulating states’ average power plant fleet emissions rather than regulating on a plant-by-plant basis. Grist’s David Roberts has a great explanation of how this works that those interested in the details should check out. One salient point is that much like a carbon tax this creates a big short-term incentive for utilities to invest in energy efficiency, which is generally the lowest hanging fruit for de-carbonization. The other is that (unlike with a pure carbon pricing system) regulation would take states’ existing emissions levels as the baseline meaning, in Roberts’ words, “No state will be unfairly penalized for having a carbon-intensive fleet today.”

Of course we’re racing headlong towards what Yglesias cleverly called “the climate cliff” — the 2 degree Celsius temperature increase that’s the zero barrier between terrible and apocalyptic global warming — and very little can be done to stop it. But slowing down the inevitable could help in terms of preparedness, I suppose.

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  • JD Adam

    This crisis not only proves the remarkable reckless stupidity of unlimited transnational corporate destruction for profit (yes, Profit is their only LAW), the global reaction by the USA and other developing nations make it clear that the politicians Fascists support are sumptuously more stupid than their owners!

    • D_C_Wilson

      Those politicians do what they are told. They’re not paid to think. That’s what Rush is for.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Since 2010, the scientific community has said that we are unlikely to hold the rise to under 4 degrees Celsius. In fact, that could occur by 2060.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      That sounds disastrous….sometimes I don’t want to know the details..sometimes.

  • muselet

    It’s a logical way to reduce carbon emissions, but Matthew Yglesias is being a cockeyed optimist. If the EPA seriously suggested anything like the NRDC’s proposal, that too would “be a very hard lift politically that would risk having congress partially repeal the Clean Air Act and strip the agency of its regulatory authority.” Coal-state Ds would be lining up for the chance to denounce the EPA.

    And yes, right now the best we can hope for is a holding action until the public, our glorious news media and the Very Serious People decide to take global warming seriously.

    –alopecia

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      The Very Serious People won’t take it serious until the entire Northeast is underwater including their penthouse apts in NYC or their Georgetown brownstones.

  • i_am_allwrite

    I used to blog for a couple of green energy/renovation sites, so I shouldn’t have been stunned that the U.S. was one of 2 countries to lower CO2 emissions, but I was. It feels like there’s something important and unreported going on.

    • D_C_Wilson

      Probably because much of the reductions have been achieved on the state and local levels, despite the foot-dragging on the federal level.

      • i_am_allwrite

        Programs like Cash for Clunkers and high gas prices in a depressed economy also no doubt played a role, and it’s not enough, but it indicates momentum in the right direction. There’s so much progressive self-flagellation that goes on every time the U.N. climate council (or whatever) gets together, not to mention open disdain from European countries when the U.S. doesn’t end up as a signatory on whatever statement the enviro-conference comes up with, yet we’re reducing emissions and they’re not.

  • Victor_the_Crab

    You want to deal with Idiot Congressional Republicans who want to do nothing about climate change? Lock ‘em in a big van, then lock that into a small garage and keep the motor running until they eventualy croak from carbon monoxide poisioning. Sure, it’s not enviromentaly friendly, but isn’t that the perfect metaphor for these asswipes?

    • muselet

      You’d have to use an old van: vehicles built in the past twenty or twenty-five years don’t produce enough CO to kill.

      –alopecia

      • Victor_the_Crab

        Damn, you’re right! I’m thinking old.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Good to know! (totally, absolutely, positively kidding)