Obama to declare CO2 a dangerous pollutant

coal-stacks.jpgBloomberg is reporting:

Barack Obama will classify carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant that can be regulated should he win the presidential election on Nov. 4, opening the way for new rules on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Democratic senator from Illinois will tell the Environmental Protection Agency that it may use the 1990 Clean Air Act to set emissions limits on power plants and manufacturers, his energy adviser, Jason Grumet, said in an interview. President George W. Bush declined to curb CO2 emissions under the law even after the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the government may do so.

Why is this a big deal? It means that Obama can jumpstart serious U.S. action on greenhouse gas emissions without having to wait for complex legislation to wind its way through the House and Senate — and then without waiting even longer for that legislation to actually create a CO2 price high enough to change utility decision-making. It allows him to act quickly to address the single most important first step that developed countries must act upon — new coal plants:

Placing heat-trapping pollutants in the same category as ozone may lead to caps on power-plant emissions and force utilities to use the most expensive systems to curb pollution. The move may halt construction plans on as many as half of the 130 proposed new U.S. coal plants.

Actually it could stop even more than half the plants, once people realize that the president is serious about immediate climate action.

Here are some of the comments Grumet made:

Obama “would initiate those rulemakings,” Grumet said in an Oct. 6 interview in Boston. “He’s not going to insert political judgments to interrupt the recommendations of the scientific efforts….”

“The U.S. has to move quickly domestically so we can get back in the game internationally,” Grumet said. “We cannot have a meaningful impact in the international discussion until we develop a meaningful domestic consensus. So he’ll move quickly….”

Obama adviser Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, said if Congress hasn’t acted in 18 months, about the time it would take to draft rules, the president should.

“The EPA is obligated to move forward in the absence of Congressional action,” Grumet said. “If there’s no action by Congress in those 18 months, I think any responsible president would want to have the regulatory approach.”

I would make an even stronger statement. Even if Congress is able to pass a bill within 18 months, it seems very unlikely that it would start to restrict the emissions for another five years — and like Boxer-Lieberman-Warner it might well contain rip-offsets and other cost control provisions that restrict the price of carbon dioxide from rising too rapidly (see “Boxer-Lieberman-Warner update: Probably no U.S. CO2 emissions cut until after 2025” and “Dingell and Boucher draft climate bill: Likely no CO2 cut until near 2030“).

Using EPA’s authority means that Obama can start taking action against coal plants during his first term.

States where coal-fired plants may be affected include Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia and Florida.

Kudos to Grumet and Obama.

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11 Responses to Obama to declare CO2 a dangerous pollutant

  1. Rick says:

    If the new coal plants are stopped, we greatly increase the likelihood of upcoming power outages as supply fails to keep up with demand and the weaknesses of the grid are manifested. I hope somebody has a plan to deal with that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Rick, there is no plan. We, as a nation, are making it all up as we go along. The captain is nowhere to be found and his lieutenants are cashing in their 401ks and heading out of town.

    Its all up to Sentor Obama to put the wheels back on.

    John McCormick

  3. Joe says:

    The plan has been spelled out on this website, and by many others, including Obama: Energy efficiency, wind, solar PV, and solar baseload. And if you are worried about outages, then you want conservation-driven demand response programs.

  4. paulm says:

    Rick were just going to have to suck it up!

  5. thingsbreak says:

    Wow. That’s HUGE. Way to put the lie to camp McCain.

  6. Rod Adams says:

    Joe – is there any reason why this action would not apply to the existing US coal fired power plants that currently release about 4 billion tons of CO2 each year? I know that you and I are diametrically opposed with regard to our opinion about the utility of new nuclear power plants to contribute to the climate change challenge, but I think we both agree that burning coal is a major problem that needs to be addressed.

    If we do not do anything about internalizing the societal cost of burning coal in the existing plants, then we lock ourselves into a few more decades of excessive emissions that could be reduced.

    (My analysis shows me that nuclear power offers an economic solution already, but this would help the bankers understand more fully the advantages of investing in new plants.)

  7. paulm says:

    Rod is there a link to your analysis? Would like to review. Most other analysis shows that Nuclear is not the answer, even in the short term.

  8. paulm says:

    Great speeches.

    However, Obama showed why people were a little uneasy about him…a bit too much focus on himself.

    Could we be in for an iPresident?

    “Al Smith Dinner: Obama, McCain Trade Jokes During Speeches”

  9. shopa says:

    America will need low cost, fuel efficient cars for the legions of people who will soon be poorer. America also needs to burn less gasoline to fight climate change.

    Kei cars are a special class of cars in Japan. They are limited to an engine size of 660cc and have vehicle size, but not weight, restrictions. They are made by many different Japanese car companies and they are mature designs that are reliable, and get up to 60 mpg. They can cost less than $10,000.
    However, they cannot be driven in the U.S. because they don’t meet collision safety requirements.

    I believe that adding my crumple box invention to a Kei car will allow it to pass U.S. collision safety requirements. See my website
    Please help me get some evaluation of my ideas.

  10. Rod Adams says:

    @paulm – There is a link to my analysis – but I will warn you, it will take a fair amount of reading. The issue is pretty complicated. You can start at There are more than 900 posts there going back over four years. If you want to go back farther, you can visit which has articles and analysis going back to 1995.

    It is impossible to produce a single, comprehensive article that details all of the financial, engineering, and technical reasons why nuclear fission power is superior to all other choices.

    Please understand, however, that I do not limit my understanding of nuclear fission power production methods to standard, light water, central station power plants that take 10-15 years to license and construct. There are other choices and even ways to improve upon the performance of LWRs.

  11. Man caused global warming is a myth and a method for the Obama adminstration to make a grab for more power over the public. Thousands of scientists have said it is phoney science based on bad models and phoney data.

    This myth is the far left’s key to Socialism in the US!

    None dare call it treason.