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Power Plant Carbon Standards: A Climate Game Changer

A historic opportunity to reduce carbon pollution from the single largest source of U.S. global warming emissions

Power plants account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. That's more than every car, truck, and plane in the U.S. combined.

Today power plants are allowed to dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere — there are no rules in effect that limit their emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary driver of global warming.

Now, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing new rules, or standards, that will reduce carbon emissions from power plants. These standards are being developed under the Clean Air Act, an act of Congress that requires the EPA to take steps to reduce air pollution that harms the public's health.

These historic standards are a centerpiece of the president's Climate Action Plan and represent the most significant opportunity in years to help curb the growing consequences of climate change

Learn more about our new analysis, Climate Game Changer: How a carbon standard can cut power plant emissions in half by 2030

A powerful tool to dramatically reduce the carbon emissions that are driving global warming

The draft carbon standard for existing power plants establish a limit for carbon emissions and provide guidance for states to develop specific plans for implementing it. This guidance includes renewable energy and energy efficiency as options to help meet the standard.

States will lead the way in devising and implementing plans to meet the EPA's guidelines, which provides an opportunity for states to ramp up renewable energy and energy efficiency resources to make cost-effective emissions reductions.

UCS analysis shows that by prioritizing renewable energy and energy efficiency as solutions, states could collectively reduce carbon emissions from power plants by more than 50 percent by 2030.

The release of the draft standard is followed by a public comment period until October 16, 2014, and a series of public hearings in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. The standards are scheduled to be finalized by June 1, 2015.

Act Now! Urge the EPA to take stronger action against global warming.

Tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to finalize a stronger carbon rule that strengthens global warming emissions reduction targets and accelerates the transition to a clean energy economy. Take action now!

An unprecedented opportunity to accelerate the growth of renewable energy

Most states are already experiencing the economic and health benefits of renewable energy. Accelerating the growth of zero-emissions energy resources like wind and solar energy and energy efficiency will both amplify these benefits as well as help avoid the climate risks associated with a large-scale shift toward natural gas.

As part of this effort, states can also join together in multi-state or regional compacts to find the lowest cost options for reducing their carbon emissions.

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An affordable solution with substantial benefits for our economy, our health, and our children's future

Coal-fired power plants produce the vast majority of carbon emissions from the electricity sector, along with significant and harmful levels of pollutants that adversely impact our health.

Many coal plants are already economically uncompetitive with more affordable energy sources, such as natural gas and wind and solar energy. What's more, 37 states are net importers of coal, sending billions of dollars to other states and nations for coal — money that could have instead been used to support local economies and jobs.

According to UCS analysis, a strong carbon standard, combined with strengthened renewable energy and energy efficiency policies, can cut power sector carbon emissions in half by 2030; help shift the U.S. away from costly coal-fired power to cleaner, reliable, and increasingly cost-competitive energy sources; and do so with minimal impact on electricity bills.

The carbon standards provide a historic opportunity to map out a cleaner, safer energy future — and help move America toward successful climate solutions that protect our planet for future generations. 

More on our analysis, Climate Game Changer: How a carbon standard can cut power plant emissions in half by 2030

This new UCS analysis examines opportunities in the U.S. electricity sector for reducing carbon emissions. The analysis is not an assessment of the draft EPA standards but rather examines the potential for deep emissions reductions that the standard provides.

A scenario that combines a carbon standard with strengthened renewable energy and energy efficiency policies indicates that the U.S. can cut electricity sector emissions by 40 percent from current levels by 2020 and 54 percent from current levels by 2030 while affordably meeting U.S. electricity demand using a diversified generation mix that includes currently available renewable energy technologies in combination with energy efficiency.

The analysis shows that the overall benefits of making this transition to cleaner energy far outweight the costs (by a factor of more than 3:1 in 2020 and 17:1 in 2030), and that the impact on electricity bills will be modest.

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