Climate change conundrum

Climate change conundrum

CLIMATE change has been a major platform for President Barack Obama during his entire presidency, but with the lack of congressional action to advance his agenda, he's now trying to take significant steps to curb emissions through regulatory action.

On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its Clean Power Plan proposal to cut carbon pollution from the nation's existing coal-fired power plants 30% by 2030.

EPA said the plan will be implemented through a state/federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program.

There's no question that farmers have had to cope with more extreme weather events in recent years, from floods to droughts to early-season blizzards.

Johnathan Hladik, senior advocate for energy policy at the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs, said from 2011 to 2013 alone, damages from extreme weather events have exceeded a cost of $200 billion.

The question is whether actions can make a difference. Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) isn't convinced of it, so he co-sponsored S. 163 and S. 1324 to prevent EPA from moving forward with the Clean Power Plan.

"We can all agree that clean air is worth fighting for, but the President seems to imagine a bubble over the U.S., as if pollution from other countries that generate more and regulate less don't reach our environment," Johanns said. "This reckless and ineffective rule will have little or no impact on our environment yet will take a devastating toll on our economy."

With global carbon emissions expected to rise 31% between 2011 and 2030, a new Energy Institute analysis found that EPA regulations would reduce this emission level by just 1.8 percentage points.

The same analysis also predicts that the rule would cost as much as $50 billion and nearly 225,000 jobs annually.

The American Farm Bureau Federation said under the plan, farmers would face higher prices not just for electricity due to the higher concentration of coal facilities in the Midwest but for any energy-related input such as fertilizer. Rural electric cooperatives that rely on old coal plants for cheap electricity would be especially hard hit.

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson said rural electric cooperatives provide power to 42 million Americans and account for 12% of total U.S. electricity sales.

"Any regulatory action must consider the impact on rural electrics and the communities they serve," he said.

Illinois Corn Growers Assn. president Gary Hudson said EPA's plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions while still looking to reduce the renewable fuel standard is "double-talk."

Hladik said switching to low-carbon technologies has the potential to create thousands of new jobs in the small towns and rural areas that are home to the nation's most abundant supplies of renewable resources.

If the Administration is going to force stricter emissions standards, agriculture can hopefully find some ways to offset the estimated increased costs.

Johnson called on Congress and the Administration to "engage the agricultural community in reducing carbon pollution by creating voluntary incentives for sequestering carbon and implementing conservation strategies that preserve our limited soil and water resources."

Volume:86 Issue:23

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