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New Limits on Carbon Pollution Will Help Usher in a Clean, Healthier Future

Frances Beinecke

Posted March 27, 2012

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The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever national standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from new power plants. These historic safeguards are critical to ensuring a cleaner future for American communities: no longer will new electric plants be able to endanger our health with unchecked carbon pollution and the climate change it causes.

Instead, our nation can start creating a 21st century power fleet—one that uses the latest clean technologies and reduces the threat of climate change.

If you know one of the 25 million Americans living with asthma, then you know someone whose health is already threatened by carbon pollution. Carbon pollution causes climate change, and rising temperatures make smog worse. Every day that smog hangs over our cities is a day many asthma sufferers struggle harder to breathe.

Doctors, nurses, and public health experts say carbon pollution is especially dangerous for children, because smog triggers asthma attacks and can permanently damage children’s lungs. 

A child with an inhaler is one human face of unchecked carbon pollution, but the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by some of last year’s extreme weather are also dealing with its effects. Climate change fueled by carbon pollution contribute to weather events like the floods and droughts that have damaged homes, devastated businesses, and strained municipal budgets across the country in the past year.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set limits on air pollutants that threaten public health and welfare. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 and 2011 that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that the EPA must act if it determined that carbon endangers Americans. The standards announced today honor that ruling and follow precedents established over four decades of Clean Air Act programs.

And those 40 years of progress show us that new standards unleash innovation. The EPA’s recent limits on carbon pollution from cars and trucks, for instance, have inspired U.S. automakers to design pioneering technologies that save drivers money and reduce oil dependence by increasing gas mileage—and have put Americans to work and helped bring Detroit back from the brink in the process. The new power plant standards will stimulate similar breakthroughs and help create a fully modernized electricity system for our country.

Today’s standards relate to new plants—guaranteeing that any coal-fired power plant built in America will use state-of-the-art technologies to capture and store carbon emissions. NRDC is eagerly awaiting the next round of standards that will clean up aging coal-fired power plants as well, since they represent the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.

In the meantime, the American people can weigh in on the standards before they become final, and we expect to see a record number of comments in support of these safeguards. 

Poll after poll confirms that Americans count on the EPA to protect them from dangerous pollution. One survey conducted for the American Lung Association found that three out of four respondents support the EPA setting tougher standards on specific air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, and a bipartisan 69 percent majority believe that EPA scientists, rather than Congress, should set pollution standards.

Americans know government safeguards drive dirty polluters to clean up their act. With these new carbon limits in place, we can count on a new generation of power plants that will create jobs, help stabilize the climate, and allow us all to breathe a little easier.  

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BSMar 27 2012 12:49 PM

Out of curiosity, could you please explain what "carbon pollution" is? Because you seem to bounce back and forth between more than one definition.

First, it's causing global warming, so I assume you mean CO2, the primary "greenhouse gas".

Smog, on the other hand, has nothing to do with CO2 emissions.

Also, I'm still waiting on the NRDC to explain to me why global temperatures (as measured by NASA and UAB) have not risen for the past 12 years even as "carbon pollution" has reached record levels thanks mostly to China and India?

While you're at it, will you explain why the IPCC's predictions from 1990 on the rate of temperature increase were far higher than the actual increase even though emissions were presumably higher than predicted thanks to China and India?

And out of curiosity, if it were proven that human beings are not causing global warming, would you continue your campaign against carbon? Or would you celebrate the news and move on?

Your campaign, totally ignorant of actual facts, reminds me of the campaign to stop giving kids vaccinations because they supposedly caused autism. Instead of helping kids, they set back autism research and caused a lot of kids to get preventable diseases.

BSMar 27 2012 12:57 PM

Oh, and you might want to update your fact sheet found at:

Something tells me that what might have been true in 2005 is no longer true. For example, China is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases by far.

You also might want to update the part where you say the earth is still getting hotter. It's not, and it hasn't been for about 12 years.

Oh, and you might want to remove the comments critical of the auto industry. Since they produce the cars that people demand, and since people are now demanding better fuel efficiency, the free markets-which you so love to criticize--have resulted in drastic increases in vehicle fuel efficiency, which is driving down oil consumption. All without gov't interference.

BSMar 27 2012 04:41 PM

Sounds great. Do you have any links to information showing that this is a commercially viable option today? Not just theoretical or working in a lab?

What is the cost to build? What is the cost to produce?

Just VisitingApr 5 2012 09:48 AM

BS--I see you chose to ignore the focus of the article...that CO2 AND smog accumulation are detrimental to human health...

You're against cleaner burning coal plants why?

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