THE BLOG
05/29/2014 02:29 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2014

The Broad Stroke of the EPA: Futuristic-Not Fatalistic

We are only a few days away from President Obama's new EPA rules on extant coal-fired power plants and I can't help but be struck by a scary irony. The importance of how well this is implemented is being touted as more far reaching than Obama Care in the legacy of this president's bill of achievements -- yet, climate change is at the bottom of the bucket list of priorities by the majority of Americans.

For years, Obama has been criticized by environmentalists who have accused him of not paying attention to global warming. His new restrictions on the coal industry will no doubt reduce carbon pollution and enable maneuvering to fruition -- his agenda to accelerate green-energy permitting, and increase fuel-economy standards.

It's frightening to think what might happen to environmental regulations if republicans reclaim both chambers of Congress this fall, as some pollsters predict will happen. It's worth noting that it's not the coal or oil industries, but individual billionaire backers, fueling these GOP victories.

However, hope for change is here -- with April's Supreme Court decision in the EPA's favor, saying the agency was right to regulate mercury, arsenic, and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants. It was a rare and big win. This offers some favor for Obama and can only help to bolster his resolve that he can still take decisive action, broadening the agency's powers in common sense ways.

It's not about shutting coal plants down -- period, as if that's the only discussion to be had. It's about encouraging utilities to pay us to weatherize our homes, or for others -- switch some of their generators over to cleaner fuels. The NRDC calculates its plan would reduce our reliance on coal by about a quarter and national carbon emissions by 10 percent.

So, it's never as black and white, gloom and doom as many leading us would have us think. Take for instance -- reducing green house emissions, which can be accomplished without harming economic growth.

These are solutions for that benefit us now and in the future and will grow the economy. We rarely hear it put in these simple terms. Conversations quickly dissipate into, "The sky is falling." Fear keeps us from adapting these changes.

More hope is to be had in the form of the numerous recent executive actions. Good news on public and private sector commitments to more solar installations and energy efficiency improvements, strengthening energy efficiency standards, and increasing the solar industry workforce.

The actions and pledges recently outlined by Obama will provide enough solar energy to power nearly 130,000 homes, eliminate carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 80 million cars off the road and save businesses $26 billion on their energy bills,

When we say we've "mortgaged our future," economically, well, that's only money -- and it can be made back, but to mortgage our environment, well -- we can't build a new planet -- we can only sustain and protect it.

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