President Barack Obama, in a speech broadcast to the nation on Tuesday, outlined executive action to reduce carbon pollution and combat climate change.
Here, in part, is how the White House outlines the plan:
In 2009, President Obama made a commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The President remains firmly committed to achieving that goal. While there is more work to do, the Obama Administration has already made significant progress by doubling generation of electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal, and by establishing historic new fuel economy standards. Building on these achievements, this document outlines additional steps the Administration will take – in partnership with states, local communities, and the private sector – to continue on a path to meeting the President’s 2020 goal.
I. Deploying Clean Energy
Cutting Carbon Pollution from Power Plants: Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. We have already set limits for arsenic, mercury, and lead, but there is no federal rule to prevent power plants from releasing as much carbon pollution as they want. Many states, local governments, and companies have taken steps to move to cleaner electricity sources. More than 35 states have renewable energy targets in place, and more than 25 have set energy efficiency targets.
Despite this progress at the state level, there are no federal standards in place to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. In April 2012, as part of a continued effort to modernize our electric power sector, the Obama Administration proposed a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal reflects and reinforces the ongoing
trend towards cleaner technologies, with natural gas increasing its share of electricity generation in recent years, principally through market forces and renewables deployment growing rapidly to account for roughly half of new generation capacity installed in 2012.
With abundant clean energy solutions available, and building on the leadership of states and local governments, we can make continued progress in reducing power plant pollution to improve public health and the environment while supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth. By doing so, we will continue to drive American leadership in clean energy technologies, such as efficient natural gas, nuclear, renewables, and clean coal technology.
To accomplish these goals, President Obama is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. This work will build on the successful first-term effort to develop greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. In developing the standards, the President has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to build on state leadership, provide flexibility, and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies including many actions in this plan.Promoting American Leadership in Renewable Energy: During the President’s first term, the United States more than doubled generation of electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources. To ensure America’s continued leadership position in clean energy, President Obama has set a goal to double renewable electricity generation once again by 2020. In order to meet this ambitious target, the Administration is announcing a number of new efforts in the following key areas:
• Accelerating Clean Energy Permitting: In 2012 the President set a goal to issue permits for 10 gigawatts of renewables on public lands by the end of the year. The Department of the Interior achieved this goal ahead of schedule and the President has directed it to permit an additional 10 gigawatts by 2020. Since 2009, the Department of Interior has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms, and 11 geothermal plants, which will provide enough electricity to power 4.4 million homes and support an estimated 17,000 jobs. The Administration is also taking steps to encourage the development of hydroelectric power at existing dams. To develop and demonstrate improved permitting procedures for such projects, the Administration will designate the Red Rock Hydroelectric Plant on the Des Moines River in Iowa to participate in its Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard for high-priority projects. Also, the Department of Defense – the single largest consumer of energy in the United States – is committed to deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, by 2025. In addition, federal agencies are setting a new goal of reaching 100 megawatts of installed renewable capacity across the federally subsidized housing stock by 2020. This effort will include conducting a survey of current projects in order to track progress and facilitate the sharing of best practices.
• Expanding and Modernizing the Electric Grid: Upgrading the country’s electric grid is critical to our efforts to make electricity more reliable, save consumers money on their energy bills, and promote clean energy sources. To advance these important goals, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum this month that directs federal agencies to streamline the siting, permitting and review process for transmission projects across federal, state, and tribal governments.
Unlocking Long-Term Investment in Clean Energy Innovation: The Fiscal Year 2014 Budget continues the President’s commitment to keeping the United States at the forefront of clean energy research, development, and deployment by increasing funding for clean energy technology across all agencies by 30 percent, to approximately $7.9 billion. This includes investment in a range of energy technologies, from advanced biofuels and emerging nuclear technologies – including small modular reactors – to clean coal. To continue America’s leadership in clean energy innovation, the Administration will also take the following steps:
• Spurring Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects: In the coming weeks, the Department of Energy will issue a Federal Register Notice announcing a draft of a solicitation that would make up to $8 billion in (self-pay) loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy projects under its Section 1703 loan guarantee program. This solicitation is designed to support investments in innovative technologies that can cost-effectively meet financial and policy goals, including the avoidance, reduction, or sequestration of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The proposed solicitation will cover a broad range of advanced fossil energy projects. Reflecting the Department’s commitment to continuous improvement in program management, it will take comment on the draft solicitation, with a plan to issue a final solicitation by the fall of 2013.
• Instituting a Federal Quadrennial Energy Review: Innovation and new sources of domestic energy supply are transforming the nation’s energy marketplace, creating economic opportunities at the same time they raise environmental challenges. To ensure that federal energy policy meets our economic, environmental, and security goals in this changing landscape, the Administration will conduct a Quadrennial Energy Review which will be led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy, supported by a Secretariat established at the Department of Energy, and involving the robust engagement of federal agencies and outside stakeholders. This first-ever review will focus on infrastructure challenges, and will identify the threats, risks, and opportunities for U.S. energy and climate security, enabling the federal government to translate policy goals into a set of analytically based, clearly articulated, sequenced and integrated actions, and proposed investments over a four-year planning horizon.
II. Building a 21st-Century Transportation Sector
Increasing Fuel Economy Standards: Heavy-duty vehicles are currently the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector. In 2011, the Obama Administration finalized the first-ever fuel economy standards for Model Year 2014-2018 for heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. These standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons and save 530 million barrels of oil. During the President’s second term, the Administration will once again partner with industry leaders and other key stakeholders to develop post-2018 fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to further reduce fuel consumption through the application of advanced cost-effective technologies and continue efforts to improve the efficiency of moving goods across the United States.
The Obama Administration has already established the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history. These standards require an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, which will save the average driver more than $8,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicle and eliminate six billion metric tons of carbon pollution – more than the United States emits in an entire year.
Developing and Deploying Advanced Transportation Technologies: Biofuels have an important role to play in increasing our energy security, fostering rural economic development, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. That is why the Administration supports the Renewable Fuels Standard, and is investing in research and development to help bring next-generation biofuels on line. For example, the United States Navy and Departments of Energy and Agriculture are working with the private sector to accelerate the development of cost-competitive advanced biofuels for use by the military and commercial sectors. More broadly, the Administration will continue to leverage partnerships between the private and public sectors to deploy cleaner fuels, including advanced batteries and fuel cell technologies, in every transportation mode. The Department of Energy’s eGallon informs drivers about electric car operating costs in their state – the national average is only $1.14 per gallon of gasoline equivalent, showing the promise for consumer pocketbooks of electric-powered vehicles. In addition, in the coming months, the Department of Transportation will work with other agencies to further explore strategies for integrating alternative fuel vessels into the U.S. flag fleet. Further, the Administration will continue to work with states, cities and towns through the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency to improve transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.
III. Cutting Energy Waste in Homes, Businesses, and Factories
Reducing Energy Bills for American Families and Businesses: Energy efficiency is one of the clearest and most cost-effective opportunities to save families money, make our businesses more competitive, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the President’s first term, the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development completed efficiency upgrades in more than one million homes, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone. The Administration will take a range of new steps geared towards achieving President Obama’s goal of doubling energy productivity by 2030 relative to 2010 levels:
• Establishing a New Goal for Energy Efficiency Standards: In President Obama’s first term, the Department of Energy established new minimum efficiency standards for dishwashers, refrigerators, and many other products. Through 2030, these standards will cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars and save enough electricity to power more than 85 million homes for two years. To build on this success, the Administration is setting a new goal: Efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings set in the first and second terms combined will reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – equivalent to nearly one-half of the carbon pollution from the entire U.S. energy sector for one year – while continuing to cut families’ energy bills.
• Reducing Barriers to Investment in Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency upgrades bring significant cost savings, but upfront costs act as a barrier to more widespread investment. In response, the Administration is committing to a number of new executive actions. As soon as this fall, the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service will finalize a proposed update to its Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program to provide up to $250 million for rural utilities to finance efficiency investments by businesses and homeowners across rural America. The Department is also streamlining its Rural Energy for America program to provide grants and loan guarantees directly to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy systems.
In addition, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s efforts include a $23 million Multifamily Energy Innovation Fund designed to enable affordable housing providers, technology firms, academic institutions, and philanthropic organizations to test new approaches to deliver cost-effective residential energy. In order to advance ongoing efforts and bring stakeholders together, the Federal Housing Administration will convene representatives of the lending community and other key stakeholders for a mortgage roundtable in July to identify options for factoring energy efficiency into the mortgage underwriting and appraisal process upon sale or refinancing of new or existing homes.
• Expanding the President’s Better Buildings Challenge: The Better Buildings Challenge, focused on helping American commercial and industrial buildings become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020, is already showing results. More than 120 diverse organizations, representing over 2 billion square feet are on track to meet the 2020 goal: cutting energy use by an average 2.5 percent annually, equivalent to about $58 million in energy savings per year. To continue this success, the Administration will expand the program to multifamily housing – partnering both with private and affordable building owners and public housing agencies to cut energy waste. In addition, the Administration is launching the Better Buildings Accelerators, a new track that will support and encourage adoption of State and local policies to cut energy waste, building on the momentum of ongoing efforts at that level.
IV. Reducing Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Curbing Emissions of Hydrofluorocarbons: Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are primarily used for refrigeration and air conditioning, are potent greenhouse gases. In the United States, emissions of HFCs are expected to nearly triple by 2030, and double from current levels of 1.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions to 3 percent by 2020.
To reduce emissions of HFCs, the United States can and will lead both through international diplomacy as well as domestic actions. In fact, the Administration has already acted by including a flexible and powerful incentive in the fuel economy and carbon pollution standards for cars and trucks to encourage automakers to reduce HFC leakage and transition away from the most potent HFCs in vehicle air conditioning systems. Moving forward, the Environmental Protection Agency will use its authority through the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program to encourage private sector investment in low-emissions technology by identifying and approving climate-friendly chemicals while prohibiting certain uses of the most harmful chemical alternatives. In addition, the President has directed his Administration to purchase cleaner alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and transition over time to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives.
Reducing Methane Emissions: Curbing emissions of methane is critical to our overall effort to address global climate change. Methane currently accounts for roughly 9 percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions and has a global warming potential that is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide. Notably, since 1990, methane emissions in the United States have decreased by 8 percent. This has occurred in part through partnerships with industry, both at home and abroad, in which we have demonstrated that we have the technology to deliver emissions reductions that benefit both our economy and the environment. To achieve additional progress, the Administration will:
• Developing an Interagency Methane Strategy: The Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Labor, and Transportation will develop a comprehensive, interagency methane strategy. The group will focus on assessing current emissions data, addressing data gaps, identifying technologies and best practices for reducing emissions, and identifying existing authorities and incentive-based opportunities to reduce methane emissions.
• Pursuing a Collaborative Approach to Reducing Emissions: Across the economy, there are multiple sectors in which methane emissions can be reduced, from coal mines and landfills to agriculture and oil and gas development. For example, in the agricultural sector, over the last three years, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture have worked with the dairy industry to increase the adoption of methane digesters through loans, incentives, and other assistance. In addition, when it comes to the oil and gas sector, investments to build and upgrade gas pipelines will not only put more Americans to work, but also reduce emissions and enhance economic productivity. For example, as part of the Administration’s effort to improve federal permitting for infrastructure projects, the interagency Bakken Federal Executive Group is working with industry, as well as state and tribal agencies, to advance the production of oil and gas in the Bakken while helping to reduce venting and flaring. Moving forward, as part of the effort to develop an interagency methane strategy, the Obama Administration will work collaboratively with state governments, as well as the private sector, to reduce emissions across multiple sectors, improve air quality, and achieve public health and economic benefits.
Preserving the Role of Forests in Mitigating Climate Change: America’s forests play a critical role in addressing carbon pollution, removing nearly 12 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year. In the face of a changing climate and increased risk of wildfire, drought, and pests, the capacity of our forests to absorb carbon is diminishing. Pressures to develop forest lands for urban or agricultural uses also contribute to the decline of forest carbon sequestration. Conservation and sustainable management can help to ensure our forests continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere while also improving soil and water quality, reducing wildfire risk, and otherwise managing forests to be more resilient in the fact of climate change. The Administration is working to identify new approaches to protect and restore our forests, as well as other critical landscapes including grasslands and wetlands, in the face of a changing climate.
V. Leading at the Federal Level
Leading in Clean Energy: President Obama believes that the federal government must be a leader in clean energy and energy efficiency. Under the Obama Administration, federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent – the equivalent of permanently taking 1.5 million cars off the road. To build on this record, the Administration is establishing a new goal: The federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 – more than double the current goal of 7.5 percent. In addition, the federal government will continue to pursue greater energy efficiency that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves taxpayer dollars.
Federal Government Leadership in Energy Efficiency: On December 2, 2011, President Obama signed a memorandum entitled “Implementation of Energy Savings Projects and Performance-Based Contracting for Energy Savings,” challenging federal agencies, in support of the Better Buildings Challenge, to enter into $2 billion worth of performance-based contracts within two years. Performance contracts drive economic development, utilize private sector innovation, and increase efficiency at minimum costs to the taxpayer, while also providing long- term savings in energy costs. Federal agencies have committed to a pipeline of nearly$2.3 billion from over 300 reported projects. In coming months, the Administration will take a number of actions to strengthen efforts to promote energy efficiency, including through performance contracting. For example, in order to increase access to capital markets for investments in energy efficiency, the Administration will initiate a partnership with the private sector to work towards a standardized contract to finance federal investments in energy efficiency. Going forward, agencies will also work together to synchronize building codes – leveraging those policies to improve the efficiency of federally owned and supported building stock. Finally, the Administration will leverage the “Green Button” standard – which aggregates energy data in a secure, easy to use format – within federal facilities to increase their ability to manage energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and meet sustainability goals.
For the full plan, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/president27sclimateactionplan.pdf