The Obama administration takes a stand on carbon pollution, and calls for a 30% cut in power plant emissions by 2030. For environmentalists, this is heartening news, but what does it mean politically?
That more complex approach makes the new rules somewhat similar to another major Obama policy initiative—reforming health insurance—that was marked by give-and-take, [Stanford scientist Ken] Caldeira says. “If a simple price on CO2 emissions is the single-payer plan of climate policy, what we are getting is closer to Obamacare,” he says. “Better than nothing, and maybe the best we can achieve, but far less than what we need.”
To the New Republic, the plan is not at all like Obamacare — not a bit:
These proposed regulations are nothing like that. They will outrage powerful stakeholders, and thus provide Republicans a potent campaign trail talking point, particularly in coal states. But Democrats in those states will be free to oppose them, too. And crucially, though the actual rule won't be finalized for at least another year, the tussle over particulars will play out on a much smaller stage than the U.S. Congress. In that sense, it'll be more like the dread fluorescent light bulb "controversy," which drives right wingers, and only right wingers, insane, than like Obamacare, which drew widespread public dissatisfaction. As a general matter, the public supports reducing emissions.
This reporter can't help but note how muted the reaction from the GOP and conservatives has been to date. The NYTimes has an explanation for that:
In the new analysis section, The Upshot, Nate Cohn writes:
The war on coal hasn’t hurt the Democrats very much in presidential elections. Since 2000, when coal country and Appalachia helped cost Mr. Gore the presidency, Democrats have built an alternative path to victory with large margins in diverse, well-educated metropolitan areas, like Northern Virginia, Denver and Columbus, Ohio. Additional losses in coal country haven’t changed this because the areas don’t have enough voters to make a difference in battleground states.
And coal country has clear boundaries that limit harm to Democrats. In 2012, Mr. Obama suffered significant losses in the coal country of southwestern Virginia, losing as much as a net 30 points in traditionally Democratic Dickenson and Buchanan counties. Yet just a few miles to the east, in counties where there are no coal mines, Mr. Obama retained nearly all of his support. The same was true in southeastern Ohio.
At this point, Democrats don’t have much more to lose by trying to win the war.
So the country could actually act on carbon pollution? Holy cow. This is news!