The Washington Post

Boehner thinks new White House climate rules would be “crazy.” But Obama may not have a choice.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 6, 2013. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

In a question-and-answer session with reporters Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ridiculed the idea that President Obama is likely to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

"I think this is absolutely crazy," Bohener said.. "Why would you want to increase the cost of energy and kill more American jobs at a time when the American people are still asking the question, where are the jobs?"

But data released late last month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggests Obama will have little choice if he's serious about curbing the nation's carbon output. While carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants fell 13.1 percent between 2005 and 2012,  it rose 7.1 percent the first quarter of this year. Overall, energy-related carbon emissions in the United States rose 3 percent in the first quarter of 2013, compared to a 4 percent drop in 2012.

What accounts for the change? Paul Bledsoe, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, and a former Clinton White House climate aide, noted that natural gas prices have jumped 70 percent in the last year, prompting some utilities to burn coal again instead of cleaner natural gas.

“The latest data indicate that the decline in U.S. carbon emissions of the last several years will not continue without regulation of both new and existing power plants,” Bledsoe said

Contrary to some published reports, the president hasn't signed off on regulating existing power plants -- he and his aides are still weighing the decision. But there is little doubt that when Obama unveils his climate agenda -- most likely next month, rather than next week -- a proposal to curb carbon emissions from existing utilities will occupy a central place in his plan.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Highlights from Saturday's GOP debate
Except for an eminent domain attack from Bush, Trump largely avoided strikes from other candidates.

Christie went after Rubio for never having been a chief executive and for relying on talking points.

Carson tried to answer a question on Obamacare by lamenting that he hadn't been asked an earlier question about North Korea.
The GOP debate in 3 minutes
Play Video
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 38%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.