The plan, which targets coal-fired power, was fiercely rejected by the fuel’s producers and consumers, who say that it will threaten thousands of jobs, damage the economy and raise electricity prices without having a noticeable impact on carbonedioxide levels.
However, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club have applauded Obama’s “inspiring call to action.”
"This is the change we have been waiting for on climate,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said Tuesday.
“The Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters issued a collective cheer as they heard the president declare that the most effective defense against climate disruption will be by tackling the biggest single source of carbon pollution: coal plants.
“The president’s plan does just that, implementing strong safeguards to slash deadly emissions from new and existing plants,” Brune added.
“The president’s climate commitment and his speech today gives us great hope that he will finally address some of the remaining, worst abuses of the fossil fuel industry, including dirty and dangerous fracking, ending the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, halting destructive oil drilling in the Arctic, and overhauling the sweetheart deal on public lands that pads the bottom line of coal companies at public expense.”
The three-pronged strategy, presented as a 21-page blueprint, focuses on slicing domestic carbon emissions – which may likely result in staggering changes to US coal production and electricity generation – as well as upping investments in climate-resilience measures and stepping up to a lead role in international climate change issues.
The National Resources Defense Council joined the praise, congratulating the president for directing his administration to set the first federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
“The country is facing a threat; the president is facing facts,” said Dan Lashof, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“This plan takes aim at the heart of the problem: the dangerous carbon pollution from our power plants. Reducing that pollution is the most important step we can take, as a nation, to stand up to climate change.”
Obama has set a carbon pollution reduction goal of 3 billion metric tons, cumulatively, by 2030 – more than half of the nation’s carbon pollution level annually from energy – via new efficiency standards.
While coal is by far his biggest target, it is not his only one. Obama’s plan also includes fuel economy standards for heavy vehicles and trucks, beginning with the 2018 model year, and measures to reduce pollution from hydro-fluorocarbons.