Catalyst Fall 2014

[FIRST PRINCIPLES]

A Historic Opportunity

Wind turbine farm

Photo: iStock/stanfair

UCS President Ken KimmellAs I mentioned in the fall issue of Earthwise, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are making history by requiring states to lower heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. However, if we want to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the rule can and must be strengthened. The EPA proposes to cut power plant emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030—but we’ve already reduced emissions 15 percent since 2005, so another 15 percent is too modest.

UCS is working hard to build a groundswell of grassroots support for a tougher standard that, unlike the current proposal, assumes strong growth in renewable energy. This growth is exemplified in our cover story, and provides a strong foundation upon which a more ambitious EPA rule could build. Indeed, UCS analysis has shown that we can cost-effectively cut emissions by 50 percent if we unleash the full potential of renewable energy, as well as benefit from greater electric reliability and lower stress on water supplies. At press time, nearly 10,000 UCS members had already submitted comments to the EPA calling for a more aggressive target, and more are expected to respond before the comment period ends December 1.

Once the rule is finalized next June, the action will shift to the states. UCS will work with state officials across the country, encouraging them to embrace renewable energy, energy efficiency, and regional plans as the best pathway to lower carbon emissions. With your help, enough states will heed our call that this enlightened path becomes the “new normal,” creating a tipping point for national policy.

Ken Kimmell is president of UCS.