President Trump has finally released the Affordable Clean Energy rule, his administration’s long-awaited answer to former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The idea in replacing Obama’s never-enacted policy is to create “achievable and realistic” standards for reducing the emissions of what remains of the coal-fired segment of the nation’s electrical generation capacity.
If you believe along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., that humanity has only 12 years left to stave off a world-ending climate disaster, then consider Trump’s new policy your cue to stop contributing to your 401(k). In fact, you might as well cancel your health insurance, too, since we’ll all be dead soon anyway.
On the other hand, if you view climate change through a more realistic lens, you recognize that this new policy is not that big a deal. Its main effect will be to avert another embarrassing defeat for an Obama-era regulation before the Supreme Court. As EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler noted, the new policy will adhere more closely to the wording of the Clean Air Act, and that improves its chances of survival.
In the meantime, the new policy also provides some welcome and justifiable flexibility to states as they develop plans to reduce statewide greenhouse emissions. Coal-fired power plants that would have been shut down by the Obama rule will in some cases be able to upgrade their efficiency without being forced offline. Yet, many will close anyway. There is no bailout here for Big Coal, which is as it should be. Fracking, which has lowered natural gas prices and thus caused a greater reduction in carbon emissions than all the efforts of all environmentalists combined, has already caused coal to fall behind natural gas as the nation’s leading source of electrical power. As new liquefied natural gas terminals come online and new pipelines are built to export gas to Mexico, the future of the U.S. energy industry is clearly one of gas and not of coal.
For all of the Left’s complaints, the Obama plan that Trump has replaced was just a token effort anyway. Try to understand the context here: The U.S. currently leads the world in emissions reductions without Obama’s plan (again, thanks to fracking), and yet, U.S. annual reductions are still insignificant compared to annual Indian and Chinese increases in greenhouse gas emissions. There’s little point in expending valuable economic resources to strain out out the gnat while swallowing the camel anyway.
Gradually, the nations of the world will adopt power sources that involve less and less carbon emission. Developing countries will move from clean natural gas to next-generation nuclear (likely involving thorium), and then in the long run to hydrogen fusion.
Until the new sources of energy come online, the sensible course is to proceed along the lower-carbon path that the market is already dictating. It won’t be too long before the global warming issue becomes obsolete on its own, without subjecting Americans to artificially increased costs or social justice nonsense.
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