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Myths and Facts: Cutting Carbon Pollution

Summary: 
The EPA unveiled the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, which will have huge benefits for hard-working Americans. Here's a look at some of the myths that opponents they will try to spread, and the facts that dispel them.

Today, as part of the President’s plan to cut carbon pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single-largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The steady, responsible steps EPA is taking today will help prevent up to 6,500 premature deaths and spare American children as many as 150,000 asthma attacks a year. It will also eliminate waste, save Americans money on their electric bills, and spark innovation and job creation.

But just because this common-sense proposal will have huge benefits for hard-working Americans across the country, that doesn’t mean some people won’t spread misinformation and launch false attacks.

Throughout our history, when America has taken steps to cut pollution and protect public health, opponents have made dire predictions about destroying jobs and harming the economy – and throughout our history they’ve been wrong. This time will be no different. So let’s look at some of the myths they will try to spread and the facts that dispel them.


Myth: Carbon pollution standards will destroy jobs and hurt the economy.

Fact: Americans know we can cut pollution and protect the health of our kids while creating jobs.

Over the years, this has been the polluters’ favorite myth. When we passed the Clean Air Act to combat smog, they said new pollution standards would decimate the auto industry. In 1990, when we took steps to stop acid rain, they claimed the lights would go out and businesses around the country would suffer.

The facts tell a different story.

EPA has been protecting air quality for more than 40 years, and in that time we've cut pollution by 70 percent while the economy has more than tripled.

So Americans know we don't have to choose between cutting carbon pollution to protect the health of our kids and creating jobs.

In fact – they go hand in hand. Cutting carbon pollution from power plants will spark innovation and drive investment in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency that will create jobs and save families money. It will also result in significant health benefits, which will yield medical savings.

EPA’s detailed economic analysis shows that this proposal will create tens of thousands of jobs all over the country.


Myth: Carbon pollution standards will cause Americans’ utility bills to spike.

Fact: Cutting carbon pollution will help eliminate waste and save families money on their electric bills.

Another old industry favorite. Some of America’s biggest polluters have already started spreading the myth that EPA’s common-sense proposal will cause Americans’ electric bills to “nearly double.” But an independent fact check found their claim is based on “bogus, hyped” information and “does not pass the laugh test.”

In reality, EPA’s plan will cut carbon pollution so we can protect the health of our kids without impacting the energy bills of ordinary Americans. In fact, these standards will actually shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.


Myth: This administration is waging a war on coal.

Fact:  For years, the President’s political opponents have been blaming him for market trends that started well before the President took office.

Independent energy market analysts have been frequently cited noting that the shift away from coal is mostly about competition from cheaper natural gas and that the decline in coal jobs started well before President Obama took office. As the National Journal reported last year, “In fact, coal mining jobs in Appalachia fared far worse under the Reagan, Clinton, and George H.W. Bush administrations than they have under Obama.”

But even with those market trends and these common-sense steps to cut pollution, there’s no question that coal will play a significant role in our energy mix for the foreseeable future. That’s exactly what EPA’s analysis of this rule shows, and it’s why the Obama administration has made significant investments in clean coal technology.


Myth: This rule threatens the reliability of Americans’ electricity.

Fact: This flexible proposal allows states to implement the standards without impacting reliability.

EPA’s proposal lays out responsible, steady steps to cut carbon pollution and protect public health while giving states the flexibility they need to ensure Americans have reliable, affordable power. EPA’s extensive analysis shows that the standards can be implemented without impacting reliability.

But it’s not just EPA who has said that the dire predictions about reliability are badly overblown.

Here are some key findings from a recent independent study by a respected energy expert:

  • “To date, implementation of new environmental rules has not produced reliability problems...”
  • Utilities and energy companies have “taken a wide variety of steps to ensure reliability.”
  • “Regarding the upcoming EPA regulations of GHG emissions from existing power plants, reliability concerns are misplaced.”

This isn’t the first time that special interests have claimed that common-sense regulations will turn out the lights – or the first time they’ve been wrong.


Myth: Climate change isn’t real.

Fact: Climate change is real, it’s happening now, and it’s affecting every region of the country.

Last month, a team of more than 300 climate scientists produced the most comprehensive scientific assessment ever generated of climate change and its impacts across every region of America and major sectors of the U.S. economy. They warned that “Climate change is already affecting the American people in far-reaching ways,” and that it is “disrupting people’s lives and damaging some sectors of our economy.”

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. We already set limits for arsenic, mercury, and lead, but we let power plants release as much carbon pollution as they want.

Denying climate change might be good for the bottom line of big oil companies and polluters who fund bogus studies, but the rest of us are already dealing with the effects of carbon pollution that causes climate change. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and the consequences of climate change – smog, ozone, etc. – are putting more and more Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. And extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the west to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves – are hitting communities across the country. Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion.

Now is the time to act.

Find out more about how climate change is affecting your part of the country.


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