WASHINGTON -- Declaring that U.S. power plants can no longer be allowed to dump "unlimited" amounts of carbon pollution into the air, President Barack Obama has unveiled a plan to cut carbon pollution, conserve energy, and prepare for the effects of climate change.
In a speech at Georgetown University, Obama announced that he is ordering the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish the first-ever federal limits on the amount of heat-trapping emissions released by new and existing power plants.
"Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants. But here’s the thing: right now there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air -- none. Zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, and sulfur, and arsenic in our air or water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop," Obama explained.
Obama said he asked Congress to pass legislation on climate change but nothing has happened.
"As a president, as a father, and as an American, I'm here to say we need to act," he said.
Under Obama's plan, a presidential memorandum will be issued to federal agencies to initiate actions aimed at increasing renewable energy production on government land, increasing energy efficiency standards, and prepare U.S. communities to deal with more frequent severe weather.
The government will also move to improve fuel efficiency standards for buses and heavy-duty trucks and reduce carbon pollution from appliances and buildings by three billion metric tons by 2030.
The blueprint is the first comprehensive plan put forward by the Obama administration to combat greenhouse gases -- something the U.S. president pledged to do in his first term and made a priority at the start of his second term.
Obama also said up to $8 billion in federal loan guarantees will be made available to encourage investment in technologies that will capture and store carbon dioxide produced by power plants from being released into the atmosphere.
And he called on world leaders to follow Washington's lead and take big steps to combat emissions in their own countries, saying, "No nation can solve this challenge alone. Not even one as powerful as ours."
Most Republicans in Congress have long opposed attempts to curb emissions on existing power plants, arguing that the expense of retrofitting plants will cost jobs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the White House's plan is "tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today's economy."
But environmental groups by and large praised the plan. The president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Frances Beinecke, said, "The president nailed this, this can't wait."