10 Things to Know about the CPP, Part 1

There has been a bit of teeth gnashing from the chambers of commerce and the Arizona Republic editorial board about the new Clean Power Plan.

The refrain goes as it has for many decades: “this will take our jobs, destroy our economy or lead to mass starvation.”

Okay, the last one is a little bit of an exaggeration on my part. But we’ve heard the first two claims again and again for decades.

As far back the 1960s, when the Los Angeles area could not see its horizon due to the smog, the citizens there took aggressive action to clean it up. This resulted in better clean air rules for them and the entire country.

Naysayers stood up and claimed that the economy would shut down as a result of cleaner air. They ignored the health benefits and only focused on their short-term profits.

Sound familiar?

When rules were put in place in the 1970s for higher fuel efficiency standards, these same naysayers cried foul. Again, the economy was going to tank along with the auto industry.

We heard the same when we brought in seat belt standards, required strict rules for polluters to clean up their messes and sought targets to install renewable energy.

Guess what? Our economy never tanked, as predicted. On the contrary, we developed new industries and technologies to deal with these important public health issues. Oh, and our cars are safer and cleaner.

But, here we are again with these tired-out arguments being thrown around as if none of us have any grasp of history.

Enter the Clean Power Plan. This is the plan created by the Obama Administration to finally implement reasonable targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power generation. This plan requires a 32% reduction of carbon emissions (below 2005 levels) from Arizona’s power production by 2030.

The final Clean Power Plan provides the first ever carbon pollution limits on power plants, which are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. 

So, naturally, big carbon generators (using coal) get a little itchy about this. They are more concerned about their short-term company profits than the good of our country or world.

But, establishing carbon pollution protections, our nation is finally beginning the essential work of cleaning up and modernizing the way we power our country – and here in Arizona we can help lead the way.

Let’s look at the top five myths that we continue to hear and another five great reasons to get behind this.

1) “The goals in this plan are too difficult to reach.” FALSE.
Under plans already in place, without doing anything new, Arizona is already more than half-way toward meeting its 2022 CPP benchmarks, according to a new Union of Concerned Scientists report. There are 30 other states that are in this same, admirable position.

Further, the final iteration of the plan actually gave utilities more flexibility to reach their 2020 and 2030 targets for carbon reductions –this is something they asked for and they got.

Yet the ink was not dry on the plan before Attorney General Brnovich asked for a stay, indicating that he really did not care what is in the plan and demonstrating once again that some of state’s top elected officials are unwilling to let the facts get in the way of their agenda to do the bidding of the big utilities.

2) “This plan is going to cost utilities and their customers too much.” FALSE.
bill_savings_for_ee_participants_0.jpgThe EPA wrote in to the plan subsidies for new clean power projects in Arizona. That means dollars for our state, and the jobs that come with it. Further, estimates by independent (non-coal subsidized) analysts indicate that the average customer will save money as we progress. 

3) “This plan is going to hurt low-income customers.” FALSE.
Again, the plan includes federal subsidies for new renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, many directed at low-income consumers. I, personally, always get a kick out of this argument. In my experience on this topic over the last decade, I’ve seen utility companies resist the kinds of energy efficiency programs that benefit low-income families. So, the complaints are met with a wee bit of skepticism on my part, thank you very much.

4) “This will cost jobs.” MOSTLY FALSE
State_Jobs_Sector_Graphic_2014.jpgThe naysayers seldom consider new jobs in renewable energy fields, only lost jobs in high-carbon polluting sectors. Fact: investing in clean energy such as solar has enormous benefits, including helping to create jobs and save our families money on our electricity bills. Arizona created more than 600 new jobs in the state’s growing solar industry last year, according to a report released earlier this year by The Solar Foundation. Despite industry attempts to stifle the state’s solar industry and access to energy choice, Arizona saw 7.2 percent job growth in solar from 2013 to 2014 and ranks third nationally in the total number of solar jobs.

5) “Solar energy is costly and inefficient.” FALSE.
In an attempt to save their ailing, 19th century monopoly business model, utilities and their political allies push the message that distributed energy is costly and inefficient. We know that not to be true. According to SEIA, the average cost of a PV system has fallen over 40% since 2010. We know that distributed solar means less water pumped from aquifers to cool massive power plants. We know that charges of grid instability are exaggerated by utilities. 

6) “This is a conspiracy between Al Gore, George Soros, our Kenyan-born president to force big government into our lives through the installation of solar panels on our homes.” FALSE.
Okay, so I’ve not really heard anybody say that, specifically. But its not far off of what I have heard around the legislature. There is such a deep misunderstanding about the basic economics behind renewable energy that I have come to believe that most of the naysayers are more dependent on coal industry talking points than the type of rational decisions that will balance strong business growth with protecting our citizens and our climate future.

Stay tuned for the next post: Benefits you can expect from the CPP.