Obama’s Plan to Cut Greenhouse Gases by 30% in 15 Years…10 States just did it in 7

Monday, June 09, 2014
(photo: EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a plan last week that would cut carbon emissions from electricity production by 30% over the next 15 years. The proposal drew howls of protest from those who said it would raise electric rates and kill jobs. However, 10 states have already cut their plant emissions by that much and there have been few economic consequences.


For example, Maine, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire all cut power-plant emissions by more than 40% between 2005 and 2012 while average electrical bills dropped by 7%, according to The New York Times. Maryland was close behind with a 39% cut. Washington state, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia have also cut their use at least 30% over that period.


“I predict this will be far easier and far faster and far cheaper than most people realize,” Hal Harvey, chief executive of Energy Innovation, a research group, told the Times.


Much of the reduction has been accomplished by switching from coal-fired plants to those that run on natural gas. But alternative electricity sources and conservation have also helped.

Massachusetts commissioner of environmental protection David W. Cash told the Times he sees a direct correlation between his state’s lower energy bills for consumers and businesses and its above-average economic performance. “Every dollar they’re not spending on coal that comes from Colombia or natural gas that comes from Pennsylvania is a dollar that stays here in Massachusetts,” Cash said.


Some say that the 30% goal isn’t aggressive enough. “I think it’s properly ambitious—for the first term of the Bill Clinton administration,” Bill McKibben, the president and co-founder of 350.org, a group pushing for climate action, told the Times. “Given the melting Antarctic, we obviously should be doing far, far more, but at least we’re finally started, and that’s to Obama’s credit.” 


However some states that have already been cutting carbon emissions say much of the burden for fulfilling the Obama administration goal is falling on them. “Just because we’ve led in this effort doesn’t mean we should have to do as much or even more than states that haven’t even started,” said Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.


One downside of the proposal is that since the proposed carbon cuts rely heavily on increased use of natural gas, there is likely to be an increase in fracking and the environmental dangers it can bring.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

In Some States, Emissions Cuts Defy Skeptics (By Justin Gillis and Michael Wines, New York Times)

EPA’s Carbon Emission Plan Goes Easy on States that Pollute the Most (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

CO2 Emissions Level Drops to 18-Year Low (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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