New Regs are on the Way

airplane propellerI’m trying not to hold my breath, but I was excited to read that climate change-related regulations may change significantly this summer. Power plants aren’t the only ones being targeted with new emissions standards; the EPA is planning to draft three new rules regulating emissions this summer in a push to advance climate regulation leading up to the December UN climate talks in Paris. Potentially to be regulated are:

  • CO2 emissions from airlines
  • CO2 emissions from large trucks (e.g. the freight industry)
  • CH4 (methane) emissions from oil and natural gas operations

While I’m sure there are those who disagree, here’s why I think new emissions regulations are a good idea:

  1. It puts our eggs in more than one basket. Obama has been pushing regulation of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants for several years now, and his Clean Power Plan (which addresses state-by-state emissions from the fossil fuel-fired power sector) is expected to be promulgated this summer. This regulation could make a hugely positive impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if implemented — electricity from fossil fuel combustion was responsible for 35.22% of total US GHG emissions in 2013, or 2039.8 million metric tonnes of CO2. But, non-compliance by reluctant states (the WSJ reported that “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), is urging governors across the country to defy the EPA by not submitting plans to comply with its rule cutting power-plant emissions.”) could hamper the regulation’s effectiveness. Branching out to address additional sources of emissions takes some pressure off of the Clean Power Plan by spreading the burden of emissions reductions across multiple industries — which makes it that much more likely the U.S. will meet its emissions reduction goals.
  2. They address a huge chunk of U.S emissions. As a percentage of net U.S. GHG emissions, these new regulations would address industries responsible for a collective 11.916% of emissions. Together with the Clean Power Plan, new regulations would address industries responsible for 47.130% of net U.S. GHG emissions. According to the EPA’s “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks” —
    • Commercial aviation was responsible for 114.3 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2013
    • Medium and heavy-duty trucks emitted 393.2 million metric tonnes of CO2 in 2013
    • Oil and natural gas operations emitted 182.6 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent in the form of methane in 2013
  3. They’ll stimulate innovation. Regulating emissions requires leaving the status quo behind. It’s easy to become complacent when we’re not forced to move forward. New regulations will put fire in the bellies of these industries, driving them to create new and improved technologies that 1) lower our emissions, but also 2) represent new economic opportunities for the U.S.

I’m not saying new emission regulations will be a piece of cake to implement or that they won’t place any new costs on regulated industries. Change (and advancement) always brings along with it both costs and challenges; but, I believe these changes will create long-lasting benefits for our society, for our economy, and for our planet that far outweigh the costs.

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