McCarthy: Climate Change Is “Opportunity of a Lifetime”

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University
The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

In her first public speech, newly minted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy vowed to curb climate-altering pollution, an effort that she said would spark business innovation, grow jobs and strengthen the economy. McCarthy, who was confirmed to lead the EPA in July after pushbacks from Republicans, spoke before an audience in her native Boston.

“Let’s talk about this as an opportunity of a lifetime, because there are too many lifetimes at stake,” McCarthy said of regulating emissions, noting the EPA will work to develop a “new mindset about how climate change and environmental protection fits within our national and global economic agenda.”

Although the EPA has met some opposition from industry groups and Republicans who say environmental regulation hurts the economy, McCarthy said she planned to continue issuing new rules and felt President Barack Obama’s new Climate Action Plan could “fuel the complementary goals of turning America into a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.”

A key part of Obama’s plan is upcoming regulation of emissions from new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. McCarthy said every dollar spent so far on Clean Air Act rules has produced $30 in benefits, with health benefits outweighing the cost of air regulations 30 to 1.

Role of Coal in Energy Future

Though coal accounts for nearly 45 percent of global energy-related carbon emissions, its use continues to rise. In fact, the Energy Information Administration finds that coal use will grow faster than petroleum and other liquid fuels use until after 2030—partially due to China’s increased consumption.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday told employees of the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown that coal and other fossil fuels “will be a major part of our energy futures for decades.” The speech comes roughly a month after Obama laid out a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase both clean energy production and energy efficiency. Moniz said the administration has spent about $6 billion on clean coal technologies, specifically technologies that capture, store and reuse carbon emissions.

Pace of Some Renewable Energy Efforts Slow

An energy efficiency bill expected for a floor debate this week now won’t be considered until after the Senate’s August recess. The National Journal looks at why passing the bill, which encourages energy conservation by homeowners, manufacturers and the federal government through several measures, is harder than one might think.

In Florida, a biorefinery plant became the world’s first to produce commercial quantities of cellulosic ethanol from wood waste and lawn clippings. Numbers were not released, but shipments from INEOS Bio in Vero Beach will begin in August. The industry has fallen short of the federal renewable fuel targets for ethanol made from cellulose (subscription required).

“Unlocking the potential for the responsible development of all of America’s rich energy resources is a critical part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said Moniz. “Today’s announcement of commercial-scale cellulosic production represents an important benchmark for American leadership in this growing global industry. It also demonstrates the need for early-stage investment in innovative technologies that will help diversify our energy portfolio, reduce carbon pollution and lead to tomorrow’s energy breakthroughs.”

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.