On June 25th, at Georgetown University, President Obama spoke about global climate change and what his administration is doing to address it. He also announced new mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources.
Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants. But here’s the thing: Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air. None. Zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.
So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.
The plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun. Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green light enough private, renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.
The Department of Defense — the biggest energy consumer in America — will install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, generating about the same amount of electricity each year as you’d get from burning 3 million tons of coal.
Some of the other points in President Obama’s plan:
- The EPA is authorized to work with states, industries and other stakeholders to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants
- To negotiate a global free trade agreement for environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology
- Provide up to $250 million for rural utilities to finance efficiency investments by 2014
- Increasing funding for clean energy technology by 30% in 2014
- Increase post-2018 fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles
- Setting a new goal of reaching 100MW of installed renewable capacity in federally-subsidized housing stock by 2020
- Establish increased standards to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons by 2030
Toward the end of his speech, President Obama remarked:
So I know these standards don’t sound all that sexy, but think of it this way: That’s the equivalent of planting 7.6 billion trees and letting them grow for 10 years — all while doing the dishes. It is a great deal and we need to be doing it.
Maybe it’s just the treehugger green geek in me, but I think the idea of a greener, healthier planet is very sexy!
I understand the politics will be tough. The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory. There’s no gathering army to defeat. There’s no peace treaty to sign. When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal. Our progress here will be measured differently — in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.
“It makes you realize,” that astronaut said all those years ago, “just what you have back there on Earth.” And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear — the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity — that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.