EPA’s New ACE Rule: A Win for Common Sense

EPA’s New ACE Rule: A Win for Common Sense
AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants.  The ACE rule is replacing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The new rule is legal and sensible, adjectives that do not describe the Clean Power Plan.  Many people might have forgotten that the Clean Power Plan was so bad that 27 states opposed it, and the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the rule (the stay is still in effect). The Clean Power Plan would have been expensive and would have given EPA too much control over each state’s electricity supply.

The reaction from opponents of the ACE rule has been predictable.  Among other things, they say the new rule will not reduce carbon dioxide emissions as much as the old rule.  That might seem like an important point, but it deliberately fails to tell the full story.

According to EPA’s analysis, the Clean Power Plan would have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million tons in 2025, and the ACE rule will achieve reductions of as much as 30 million tons.  However, it’s really not much of a difference at all.  Global anthropogenic GHG emissions total about 49 billion metric tons, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Therefore, the two rules would reduce global GHG emissions by either 0.10 percent (Clean Power Plan) or  0.06 percent (ACE rule).  The difference between these two is indistinguishable from a climate change standpoint.   

In addition, the rest of the world continues to use coal to support economic growth.  Last year, coal demand in China was six times greater than U.S. coal demand, according to the International Energy Agency. Even “green” Europe used more coal than the U.S.  As a result, from 2017 to 2018, worldwide GHG emissions increased by 560 million tons, an amount ten times greater than the reductions that would have been achieved under the Clean Power Plan. 

Our point is that arguing about the insignificant differences between the new rule and the old rule are not going to lead to a workable solution to climate change.  Neither are campaigns to eliminate the U.S. coal fleet.

Michelle Bloodworth serves as the president and CEO of America's Power. 

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