This past week the Obama administration announced sweeping new regulations that will reduce carbon emissions from our nation’s power plants by 32 percent by 2030. “With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago,” President Obama said when he announced the new plan. “The nerdier way to say that is that we’ll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere. The simpler, layman’s way of saying that is it’s like cutting every ounce of emission due to electricity from 108 million American homes. Or it’s the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road.”
Under this plan, by 2030 we will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent and there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year. But we have to act now because, as President Obama said bluntly, “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”
President Obama predicted a backlash from Republicans and corporatists across the country:
There will be critics of what we’re trying to do. There will be cynics that say it cannot be done. Long before the details of this Clean Power Plan were even decided, the special interests and their allies in Congress were already mobilizing to oppose it with everything they’ve got. They will claim that this plan will cost you money — even though this plan, the analysis shows, will ultimately save the average American nearly $85 a year on their energy bills.
They’ll claim we need to slash our investments in clean energy, it’s a waste of money — even though they’re happy to spend billions of dollars a year in subsidizing oil companies. They’ll claim this plan will kill jobs — even though our transition to a cleaner energy economy has the solar industry, to just name one example, creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.
They’ll claim this plan is a “war on coal,” to scare up votes — even as they ignore my plan to actually invest in revitalizing coal country, and supporting health care and retirement for coal miners and their families, and retraining those workers for better-paying jobs and healthier jobs. Communities across America have been losing coal jobs for decades. I want to work with Congress to help them, not to use them as a political football. Partisan press releases aren’t going to help those families.
Even more cynical, we’ve got critics of this plan who are actually claiming that this will harm minority and low-income communities — even though climate change hurts those Americans the most, who are the most vulnerable. Today, an African-American child is more than twice as likely to be hospitalized from asthma; a Latino child is 40 percent more likely to die from asthma. So if you care about low-income, minority communities, start protecting the air that they breathe, and stop trying to rob them of their health care. You could also expand Medicaid in your states, by the way.
Here’s the thing. We’ve heard these same stale arguments before. Every time America has made progress, it’s been despite these kind of claims. Whenever America has set clear rules and smarter standards for our air, our water, our children’s health, we get the same scary stories about killing jobs and businesses and freedom.
Of course he was right. The same group of conservatives that will talk endlessly about American exceptionalism will also tell you Americans aren’t up to the challenge. While our counterparts in Europe and elsewhere have embraced reducing carbon emissions and have adopted clean energy, Americans, they tell us, cannot do it.
A coalition of corporations – the National Mining Association, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Association of American Railroads, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, and the Consumer Energy Alliance – all groups that benefit from the status quo, paid for a study that studied the impact of regulating carbon emissions. Unsurprisingly, they found that it would cost more despite similar studies done by more independent groups showing the opposite – that the average American will save nearly $85 a year on their energy bills. The corporate-funded report is now being used by corporatists across the country to convince Americans we are too impotent to provide leadership on climate change.
Few issues prove just how crassly profit-driven Republicans are in the United States. They are so fearful of seeing profits decline even a small amount that they are willing to convince Americans they are not up to the challenge of solving our planet’s most vexing problem. They exclusively promote the “findings” of a tiny minority of corporate-funded climate change denialists while refusing to believe the mega-majority of climate scientists who are begging us to understand that our carbon pollution is harming our planet and our health.
Thankfully we have a president who understands just how critical this is and is willing to take bold action even as Republicans want you to believe our country isn’t strong enough to meet the challenge. Remember that the next time one of them talks about “American exceptionalism”.