Two Enlistees in the Climate Wars
In 2009, President Obama pledged to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Thanks to several factors, the country is halfway there. On Monday, Mr. Obama announced the appointment of two seasoned officials who could fulfill that pledge — but only if the president himself helps them navigate the formidable political obstacles ahead.
Mr. Obama nominated Gina McCarthy, an experienced clean air regulator, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ernest Moniz, an M.I.T. physicist and strong advocate of natural gas and nuclear power, to run the Energy Department. Both believe global warming is one of humanity’s most pressing challenges. Both have deep experience — Ms. McCarthy as an assistant administrator at the E.P.A. and an adviser to Republican governors in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Mr. Moniz as an under secretary of energy in the Clinton administration.
Both will be required to use their regulatory authority creatively and aggressively. There is zero chance that Congress will enact the “bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change” that Mr. Obama called for in his State of the Union address. This means that his second-term agenda on climate change will run through Ms. McCarthy’s and Mr. Moniz’s agencies, and will depend almost entirely on executive actions that do not require Congressional approval. Here are three strategies that could make a big dent in carbon emissions.
¶Invoke the E.P.A.’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit pollution from stationary sources, chiefly fossil-fuel power plants that account for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. The agency has already proposed strict standards requiring new power plants to capture their emissions, an untested technology. The bigger problem is what to do with existing plants, which provide a big chunk of the nation’s electricity and which cannot be shut down quickly or by fiat. Devising a gradual phaseout will require ingenuity and persistence in the face of what are sure to be strong legal and political challenges from industry.
¶Make natural gas safer. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, the country is now awash in natural gas. One major reason for the unexpected decline in national carbon emissions is that many power plants have switched from coal to natural gas, which emits only half as much carbon dioxide. But there is a downside: drilling for and transporting natural gas can produce methane leaks, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas that can cancel out whatever carbon advantage gas has over coal. Much tougher restrictions must be imposed throughout the system, including on thousands of miles of pipelines.
¶Improve energy efficiency across the board. One of the success stories of the last 30 years has been the increase in energy efficiency in appliances, new commercial buildings, and cars and light trucks. But there is plenty of room for improvement. The task of designing ever-stricter standards will fall largely to Mr. Moniz.
There is obviously more: finding new refrigerants to replace climate-warming hydro fluorocarbons, investing not only in familiar renewable energy sources like wind and solar power but also in basic research, next-generation nuclear plants and experimental technologies that could smooth the path to a low-carbon economy.
Little of this will happen without a good deal of push-back from industry and its Congressional allies. From start to finish line, Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Moniz will need the president at their back.
What does the author intent to convey ?
1. The challenges for the America’s greenhouse gas emissions programs and way-ahead ?
2. America’s greenhouse gas emissions programs' details and recent changes in the program
3. The appointment of Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Moniz as greenhouse gas emissions programs seasoned officials and their challenges
4. The effects of America's greenhouse gas emission post 2009 and challenges to be faced by Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Moniz
5. The politicization of greenhouse gas emissions programs in America and its challenges ?
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