What the Clean Power Plan means for you

The U.S. Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the federal carbon plan in the coming weeks.


This article originally appeared at Inside Energy.

The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan is a federal rule aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of our electric power grid. It is our country’s most ambitious attempt yet to fight climate change, and it’s causing quite the stir: 27 states are suing the federal government over the plan, claiming that it’s unconstitutional; and 18 states are entering the legal fray in support of the rule.

As legal arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia commence, let’s pause and ask: How big of a deal is the Clean Power Plan, and what will it actually change for you?

Here are some things we can expect under the Clean Power Plan:

  • A projected 30 percent reduction in carbon from the electric power sector, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030
  • More new natural gas-fired power plants
  • More coal power plant retirements
  • More wind and solar additions
  • A slight electricity price increase for a few years
  • The loss of coal-related jobs
  • New jobs in the renewables sector

Economists are quick to point out that many of changes we’ll see under the Clean Power Plan in the coming decades – the addition of natural gas power plants, wind and solar; the retirement of coal power plants – are already underway due to market forces.

In fact, carbon emissions from the electric power sector have already dropped 21 percent from their peak in 2007, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Why? For new power generation, natural gas, wind and solar are already cheaper than coal.

Nonetheless, the Clean Power Plan has symbolic value. If it stands, it means the federal government does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and sets a precedent for future action on climate change.

Want to know how Inside Energy made this video? Read the backstory on how Saturn V rockets become coal become lightning bolts.

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