President Obama told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman he wanted to “price the cost of carbon emissions” in order to fight global warming.
Obama compared pricing carbon dioxide emissions to mandating pollution control technology that lowered pollution emissions that caused acid rain. His interview with Friedman comes after his administration put limits on carbon dioxide emissions on existing power plants.
One of the policy options for states to comply with Obama’s new emissions limits is to impose a cap-and-trade program within their state or as part of a regional agreement with other states. In essence, this is putting a price on carbon emissions.
“So if there’s one thing I would like to see, it’d be for us to be able to price the cost of carbon emissions,” Obama told Friedman.
“We’ve obviously seen resistance from the Republican side of the aisle on that. And out of fairness, there’s some Democrats who’ve been concerned about it as well, because regionally they’re very reliant on heavy industry and old-power plants,” Obama said.
“I still believe, though, that the more we can show the price of inaction — that billions and potentially trillions of dollars are going to be lost because we do not do something about it — ultimately leads us to be able to say, ‘Let’s go ahead and help the marketplace discourage this kind of activity,’” Obama added.
Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has received stiff resistance from Republicans, states, some Democrats and the energy industry because the new emissions limits would force utilities to shut down more coal-fired power plants — which several analyses show will raise electricity prices.
“The EPA based its regulations upon what it admits is a clerical error, which does not even appear in the Clean Air Act,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican.
Morrisey sent the EPA a letter last week, urging them to withdraw their proposed emissions limits on power plants. The new power plants rules show the administration’s “disregard for the rule of law,” said Morrisey.
“If the issue of climate change is to be addressed, it should be addressed by Congress,” Morrisey said. “Yet, in its zeal to achieve what the President considers to be a ‘legacy issue,’ the EPA has ignored this most basic principle and has clearly violated the Clean Air Act.”
Despite the massive political pushback, Obama seems determined to push climate policies and convince the public global warming is an imminent threat.
“Look, it’s frustrating when the science is in front of us,” Obama said in his interview. “We can argue about how. But let’s not argue about what’s going on. The science is compelling.”
“The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny,” he continued. “And if you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history, then you’ve got to recognize this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces.”
“The good news is that the public may get out ahead of some of their politicians” — as people start to see the cost of cleaning up for hurricanes like Sandy or the drought in California — and when “those start multiplying, then people start thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to reward politicians who talk to us honestly and seriously about this problem,’” Obama said.
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