The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the final version of its Clean Power Plan. Designed to reduce this country’s carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector over the course of the next 15 years by 32 percent of 2005 levels, the biggest carbon emission reduction measure in U.S. history.
Does it do it all? Hardly. Tar sands exploitation, fracking, Arctic oil exploration, and deep-water drilling, for instance, are not affected by the Clean Power Plan,at least not directly. But is the plan a big deal? Absolutely. Among its beneficial effects:
Coal-fired power plants become utterly unsustainable; electricity from the sun and wind is thoughtfully incentivized (versus prejudicially ignored in favor of a rush to natural gas); clean energy job creation and cleaner air, so public health both increase; climate change enters the debate in the 2016 elections; U.S. moral authority for meaningful advocacy is strengthened.
The Clean Energy Plan is just a first step. But as anybody who has ever been to a gym or set out for a jog well knows, the first steps are invariably the hardest. Once the body gets moving, momentum sets in.
So here’s a shout out to President Obama, Gina McCarthy, and all those who labored to make this first step in the body politic a reality. All of us in Maine, especially Maine’s children, who have the most at stake, will owe U.S. Sen. Susan Collins a profound debt of gratitude if she can withstand the pressures of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and give the Clean Power Plan her wholehearted support.