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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.



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