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There They Go Again: Industry Responds to Proposed Carbon Standards with Same Old Arguments

Peter Lehner

Posted June 4, 2014

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Click here to take actionCatastrophe. Massive difficulties. Nobody knows how to do it.

Those were the protests of auto industry executives, arguing against catalytic converters, seatbelts and fuel efficiency standards.

We will see shutdowns. Adverse effects on the national economy. The science is uncertain.

This is how industry representatives argued against phasing out ozone-killing CFCs, taking poisonous lead out of gasoline and scrubbing acid-rain-causing pollutants out of power plant smokestacks.

Cigarettes do not cause cancer.

We’ve all heard this before. And we’re hearing it again now, as industry groups and their allies trot out the same old tired arguments in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new standards on carbon pollution from power plants, which the agency released on June 2. Many of the distorted claims about job loss and high energy bills are based on a discredited Chamber of Commerce report, which just received the maximum “Four Pinocchio” falsehood rating from the Washington Post. Polluters have been using the same disinformation tactics for 40 years to fight life-saving standards, which end up being some of the most cost-effective and powerfully protective measures on the books.



To those who say new #climate rules will destroy the economy, here's how past claims worked out. (non-snarky vers.)

— Peter Gleick (@PeterGleick) June 3, 2014

Take acid rain, for example. Power companies claimed cutting sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide pollution from power plants would be too costly, consumer prices would increase, and that the science was “ambiguous.” But the Clean Air Act cut acid rain by more than half with scrubbers and other new technology, and with cleaner fuels—at a fraction of the cost industry projected. Instead of costing $1500 per ton, as industry claimed, pollution allowances traded at $100 to $200 per ton for most of the program. Utility customers have benefited not just from cleaner air but also from lower electric bills in most states.

Getting toxic lead out of gasoline, the oil industry claimed, would cost a dollar a gallon. It turned out to cost just a penny a gallon to protect hundreds of thousands of kids from lead-induced brain damage. They said it couldn’t be done, but we did it—and not just in America. Today, thanks to a partnership spearheaded by NRDC, leaded gasoline has been virtually eliminated from the planet. This global threat to the health of millions of children is gone.

Industry also fought the phase-out of ozone-depleting CFCs in the 1990s, claiming it would cause “severe economic and social disruption.” The phase-out was so smooth it actually happened five years ahead of schedule, and at 30 percent of the cost industry predicted. Our ozone layer is healing, preventing nearly 300 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in America alone.

History shows us that standards spark innovation, new and better ways of doing things, better products, and more choices for consumers. Our air is cleaner, our cars go farther on a gallon of gas, our refrigerators cool more stuff using less energy than ever before—without any of the disastrous consequences predicted by industry hold-outs.

AEPad1974.jpgThis American Electric Power ad from 1974 claims that electricity would have to be rationed because of Clean Air Act safeguards. (

The EPA’s power plant proposal may be historic, but, in some ways, it doesn’t break new ground. Carbon pollution standards for power plants are simply the latest in a series of successful measures that have leveraged the power of innovation to cut harmful pollution and protect our health.

Industry groups will fight tooth and nail to protect their interests, armed with egregiously misleading ads and dubious analysis. But the American public has a different agenda—an urgent desire to curb the harmful impacts of climate change. An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found that 70 percent of Americans support limits on carbon pollution from power plants.  The EPA, in issuing its first-ever standards for carbon pollution from power plants, has the facts, history and public opinion on its side.

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JakeJun 4 2014 09:20 PM

There you go again comparing relatively small and gradual process improvements to a radical change and effective outlawing of an entire process.

By the way, rural areas with lower incomes rely most heavily on powe from coal. These are the ones that can least afford it.

Now if you can give me an example of a country that has implemented cap and trade, carbon limits, or massive investments in renewables withou causing power prices to skyrocket, I'd love to know about it. Europe and California are excellent examples of how excessive carbon rules cause prices to skyrocket.

But we all know theta high prices are what you want.

Pat DavisJun 5 2014 09:28 AM

Yes but it is the same thing with waste-to-energy and generating over 1 billion tons of yearly global garbage and hauling it off and hiding it under the soil, buried, covered over at the landfill.

It could dried and consumed, totally eliminated and the heat used to, yep, generate electrical power. Clean Energetics in action without any pollution.

This is garbage-be-gone at its best, and and no carbon pollution, no shortage of fuel.

Talk about moving beyond coal and blowing up mountains and to think this arrived over a hundred years ago.

Clearly something must be done.
America needs to act to address this problem and wasteful practice.

JakeJun 5 2014 10:00 AM


If you can produce power from garbage and do it cleanly and cost effectively, do it. Nothing is standing in your way.

I hear a lot of talk but little action in that arena. My guess is that the process you describe is too expensive.

Pat DavisJun 5 2014 01:39 PM

Jake :

The process is here when Tesla spoke in 1897 in New York.

The advantages are no radiation is produced or released, no off gassing, no smoke stakes either.

No outside oxygen is required since this is done Energetically the dried garbage is
'imploded" into thin air.

Under our feet is geothermal steam enough to power the world thousands of times over such as the Tesla disk turbine to tap into this reserve, patented 1911.
Never happened, but the turbine was tested a few years back by California Energy Commission.

As for fracking , Methanol powered turbines are a clean above ground
option to environmental destruction.

Other scientist have advances that go beyond what is listed here.

The organized opposition's way has been criminal. Where are all the mountains and trees they blew up?

100by50Jun 5 2014 06:35 PM


This is a wonderful graphic. I disagree with an earlier commenter. The clean water act and clean air act were both comparable in scope.

As I understand it, the EPA requiring a 30% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. However emissions are already down by about 15% from 2005 levels. See - - So really we only need to lower coal emissions by 15%.

It is hard to predict the rate at which this will occur but, though up a little, natural gas supply trends suggest that it will remain low attracting increased use of natural gas. Wind power grows in fits and starts depending upon the production tax credit but in 2014 there has been a substantial increase in capacity of about 25% by year end. Further, Texas is building substantial transmission capacity to their best areas which assures continued development there. A number of states have wind RPSs that all but assure continued growth in wind power.

Energy efficiency continues to improve. Examples include continued improvement of LED lights, replacement of computers with tablets and phones, and LED televisions.

And solar has just left the starting gate in the US. While I think this link may be a tad over-optimistic , solar is now at the gigawatt scale in the US and growing rapidly. It clearly will have a growing impact and by 2030 its impact will be enormous.

these EPA rules are going to lead to substantial rate increases or substantial economic attenuation. Most of the reductions are already baked in to the system.

JakeJun 6 2014 06:51 AM


Like I said, if it makes sense, do it. But you Tesla-types are all talk and no action. My guess is you don't have the slightest idea what you are talking about.

Alex BrownJun 6 2014 05:10 PM

Agree with the article. Take a look at US cars. We have improved gas mileage compared to just a decade ago. Did that happen by chance? No. Govt. set rules for the fuel standards. From previous experiences from any number of sectors, we have seen industries will never do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts. It's only when feet are held to fire that results come.

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