This was originally posted on May 29. Given today's announcement, we're re-upping it.
This post has been corrected. Early next week, the Obama administration is expected to unveil new rules limiting the amount of carbon dioxide that existing coal-burning power plants can emit. The move follows a 2007 Supreme Court decision allowing the Environmental Protection Agency regulate greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change (like carbon dioxide) as pollutants. The proposal will unquestionably provoke a huge political fight. In preparation, here are a number of the relevant numbers worth keeping in mind.
97 percent of peer-reviewed papers link global warming to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, as NASA points out.
38 percent of America's carbon dioxide emissions stemmed from the production of electricity in 2012, according to the EPA.
Over a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions are from coal burning, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration:
There were 557 coal plants in the United States in 2012, down from 633 in 2002. (A little more than half of those were owned by electrical utilities.) Renewable energy production facilities have increased dramatically.
Up to 25 percent of states' carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and natural gas-burning plants will need to be reduced under the EPA proposal, according to early reports. It's expected that states will comply by, among other things, implementing marketplaces allowing electricity providers to buy and sell allowances for the amount of carbon dioxide they emit. (Other options include switching from coal to cleaner-burning fuels and trying to reduce overall electricity consumption.)
219 members of the House voted for a proposal to create a national marketplace for carbon in 2009, passing it by seven votes.
Zero senators voted for that bill in 2010, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn't bring it up for a vote due to the expectation that it would be filibustered.
About 41 percent of states' electricity production was from coal last March, although that varies by state. The darker the blue on the map below, the higher the percentage.
That ratio has dropped over 26 percent on average since 2004. The darker the red, the bigger the drop in the percent of the state's electricity generated from coal.
States with existing carbon regulation marketplaces saw 18 percent bigger drops in the percent of coal used for electricity production since 2004. A collection of Northeastern states are members of RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market aimed at reducing carbon emissions that began in 2008. California has a newer system.
The EPA proposal could cost $50 billion a year, according to a report from the Chamber of Commerce. It also estimates that the proposed rule could cost 224,000 jobs annually through 2030. That estimate has been strongly challenged by the EPA (which calls it "irresponsible speculation," since it is based on an unannounced rule) and environmental groups. The Natural Resources Defense Council announced that it will release a report showing that an EPA rule would likely save money.
The United States is second in global carbon dioxide emissions, behind China. Critics of regulating emissions note that we are only one contributor to global emissions. The top carbon dioxide producers, over time, via the Department of Energy:
Over 89,000 people worked in the coal industry across the U.S. in 2012, per the EIA.
Between 2011 and 2012, the number of coal industry jobs dropped 1.9 percent nationally. As we noted last week, that drop has been uneven in different states.
The odds that the EPA rule will be challenged in court when it's finalized next year is near 100 percent, although the administration is confident that it will survive legal challenges. The likelihood that the proposal will come up on the campaign trail this November, incidentally, is the same.
Unless otherwise stated, data is from the Energy Information Administration.
Correction: The post originally stated that the Supreme Court mandated regulation of greenhouse gases in the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision.