CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Declaring that the nation can both cut carbon pollution and create more jobs, President Obama on Tuesday announced plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants as part of a broad effort to curb global climate change.
The president rolled out a long list of initiatives ranging from efficiency programs and ramped up renewable energy production to extreme weather preparedness planning and more aggressive diplomatic moves to speed international climate change action.
"We have to look out for our future. We have to look out for our children. We have to create jobs and grow the economy," Obama said during a speech today at Georgetown University. "We can do all of that if we don't fear the future and instead we seize it."
In West Virginia, though, the proposals predictably drew swift and harsh criticism from political and business leaders who have for years opposed actions to tackle climate change.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said the president's plan was "misguided, misinformed and untenable," while Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., called it "another move in the president's tyrannical game of picking winners and losers in the energy industry."
Some other observers -- including at least one major player in the coal industry -- offered more measured responses, especially to a power plant regulatory proposal of which details won't be unveiled for at least a year.
"The president appears to be taking a balanced approach to addressing the issue, and that's positive," said a prepared statement from American Electric Power.
AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said more details are needed, but that the utility industry can achieve "meaningful reductions and minimize economic pain" if Obama's plan "includes maximum flexibility within the confines of the Clean Air Act."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he understands Obama's desire to move forward given the "deep partisan gridlock" in Congress but is concerned the White House's current plan doesn't focus enough on "the people who are backbone of our economy and the fabric of our nation."
"We need more from the president to assure our miners and working families they're part of this plan," Rockefeller said in a statement. "To begin with, we need a timeline, a cost estimate and to understand how communities that have relied on coal are going to be supported once these proposals take effect."
Obama's announcement is the most significant climate effort by the administration since a cap-and-trade emissions bill failed in Congress during the president's first term. But the new plan also follows some major and less-publicized efforts by the administration to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and help fund renewable energy through the economic stimulus bill in 2009.
The administration has been moving toward regulating greenhouse gases under a July 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mandated action if the agency's scientists concluded those emissions were endangering public health and welfare. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already has missed the deadline of a legal settlement that required it to issue a final power plant emissions-reduction rule by May 2012.
Last March, the EPA proposed a rule to generally require new power plants to limit their carbon dioxide emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. Coal-fired power plants could meet that limit -- less than half of their average current emissions -- only by using carbon capture and storage, or CCS, that isn't currently available on a commercial scale.
Many scientists recommend that the nation -- and the world -- needs to swiftly cut carbon dioxide emissions, reducing them dramatically to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.