John Young
Special to the Daily

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June 6, 2014
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Young: Obama shows leadership on climate change challenge

To those on the left who say Barack Obama hasn’t done anything about climate change: Time to eat those words.

To those who cup their ears and hum loudly when climate scientists say something has to be done: Time to keep cupping.

Obama has done more than any person on the planet to reduce the gases that endanger it by altering its climate.

With economic stimulus initiatives on energy conservation and alternative energy, that statement already was true. Now comes his directive to dramatically reduce carbon emissions in electric generation.

No doubt, at times Obama has disappointed some of us. Sometimes it was for an apparent lack of fire. Most often it was because of entrenched right-wingers in Congress. But on two bigger-than-big issues — health care and climate change — Obama has stepped up in historic fashion.

“No president has ever proposed a climate pollution cleanup this big,” Daniel Weiss of the Center for American Progress told USA Today.

U.S. power plants account for 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse emissions. Cutting those emissions by a third by 2030 is bigger than huge.

Now, of course, we wait for the industry-driven hysterics about how this can’t be done.

“Now special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy,” said the president. “Let’s face it. That’s what they always say.”

Always and forever. Whenever the quest is cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner anything, we hear it. We heard it when the directive for power plants was to reduce sulfur dioxide, and mercury, and particulates. It’ll crush the economy, industry said. It’ll crush us all.

The coal industry understandably is interested in making you believe this to be true. It has purchased advertisements in key states saying that Obama’s directive will result in electric bills 80 percent higher than they are today. Really?

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog gave that claim “Four Pinocchios,” but Big Coal continues to make its specious pitch.

In fact, the mandated reductions in carbon shouldn’t be that dramatic for states that already have been investing in alternatives. And in those states, electric costs haven’t been jumping through the roof.

One such state is Colorado, which is heavily investing in solar and wind, and where natural gas has replaced coal when fossil fuels are employed.

Does this mean coal gets eliminated as a fuel source? Not in the slightest. Utilities that use coal are going to have to invest in technology to use it more cleanly.

This is the way it should be. One of these days natural gas won’t be so plentiful. Coal will remain a source of power in absence of alternatives. What’s best for this nation, and for the planet, is using it in the cleanest possible way.

By the way, those alternatives stretch further into the future whatever supplies we might have of natural gas, petroleum and, yes, coal.

But, you see, opponents of these initiatives aren’t interested in the future, especially the cleaner future Obama’s policy portends. They are interested in how their books look in the next quarter. And candidates in coal states are interested in the next election. We know the drill.

The “sky is falling” response to Obama’s carbon directive reminds me of what Republicans said in the mid-’90s when a tax hike for the wealthy was engineered by Bill Clinton and the Democrats. It would blow up the economy, the GOP said.

As we recall, that economy was furiously churning when Clinton left office and turned it over to George W. Bush.

Back to climate change: Among those applauding the president is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A May 29 letter to the president calls climate change, “the Church’s No. 1 pro-life issue.”

Hey, didn’t I advise some of you to keep your ears cupped?

Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


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The Summit Daily Updated Jun 6, 2014 09:34PM Published Jun 6, 2014 09:34PM Copyright 2014 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.