How Obama’s Clean Power Plan actually works — a step-by-step guide
It’s easy enough to describe the basics of the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s sweeping new policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from America’s power plants. Heck, we can do it in a single paragraph.
The EPA is giving each state an individual goal for cutting power plant emissions. States can then decide for themselves how to get there. They can switch from coal to natural gas, expand renewables or nuclear, boost energy efficiency, enact carbon pricing … it’s up to them. States just have to submit their plans by 2016-2018, start cutting by 2022 at the latest, and then keep cutting through 2030. Oh, and if states refuse to submit a plan, the EPA will impose its own federal plan, which could involve some sort of cap-and-trade program. Done.
When the dust settles, EPA expects US power plant emissions will be 32 percent lower in 2030 than they were in 2005. A significant cut, though still just a tiny piece of what’s needed to halt global warming.
So then why does the rule need to be 1,560 pages long? Because that synopsis above still leaves tons of questions unanswered. How did the EPA actually come up with each state’s emissions target? Why does every state have a different target? What, exactly, can states do to cut emissions? What if they want to work together? If states refuse, what sort of federal plan gets handed down from on high?