Jerry Brown Welcomes Obama’s Coal Crackdown

Jerry Brown (Kevork Djansezian / Getty)
Kevork Djansezian / Getty

California Gov. Jerry Brown welcomed President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” a new set of environmental regulations to cut down what the administration calls “carbon pollution.” The goal is to cut national carbon dioxide emissions 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.

“I welcome this bold and absolutely necessary carbon reduction plan. California is fully engaged in tackling climate change, and we look forward to working with other states and the White House as we implement these new mandates,” Brown said in an official statement.

Brown has already committed California to a reduction of emissions of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The hope is that reducing carbon will slow the global warming that is attributed to greenhouse gases.

Already, however, the U.S. has been reducing emissions through shifting to natural gas, and global temperatures have been at a plateau for nearly two decades. The cuts, both statewide and nationwide, will also have a negligible effect on overall global emissions, since China and India plan to continue  burning coal and other fossil fuels at an accelerated rate.

Meanwhile, strict new rules have the effect of shutting down energy production, especially coal, and raising electricity rates. The result will be  higher unemployment in certain areas, lower economic growth, and greater inequality.

These costs are worth bearing, say Obama and Brown, since the new rules will help save the planet and will reduce other forms of pollution. They hope that higher prices for energy derived from fossil fuels will make renewable energy more competitive, and that leading by example will encourage developing nations to follow suit.

Critics have blasted Obama’s Clean Power Plan as illegal, since it exceeds any regulatory authority bestowed by Congress. In 2009, Congress–then controlled by Democrats–failed to pass a cap-and-trade plan that would have used market forces to reduce emissions. Instead of improving that plan–a version of which exists in California–Obama is using the “command-and-control” policy typical of Europe.

Pope Francis, who will address Congress next month, has made climate change a religious imperative, and hosted Brown at the Vatican in July.