President Obama may have entered a new term, but his climate change control plans are all first-term goals. As late as Monday, administration energy officials still were touting a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions nationwide by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.
What that 17 percent reduction level means, in layman's terms: Electricity costs will rise, in order that plants can make the necessary technological advances in production processes to comply with the limits. Those plant costs will then be passed along to consumers, with some experts estimating electric bills to rise by as much as 40 percent over the next few years. Further, more stringent fuel economy standards on vehicles will increase costs of manufacturer production — again, as carmakers look for technology and auto materials that meet emission targets without compromising federal safety standards — bringing increases in purchase prices for consumers.
By comparison, the much-contested global Kyoto Protocol would have forced reductions in U.S. energy-related emissions by 30 percent to 40 percent below projected levels for 2008, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that tracks environmental issues.
As late as Monday, White House officials were still driving home the 17 percent reduction goal.
"We are going to achieve the president's goal," said Heather Zichal, a top White House energy and climate aide, at the Monday evening Green's Inaugural Ball at the Newseum, according to a report from The Hill.
Seventeen percent has been Mr. Obama's magic number for years.
"In 2009, President Obama pledged that, by 2020, the United States would achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of 17 percent from 2005 levels," according to an October 2012 report, the U.S. Status on Climate Change Mitigation from Dallas Burtraw and Matt Woerman. "With the failure of Congress to adopt comprehensive climate legislation in 2010, the feasibility of the pledge was put in doubt."
The report also went on to say that the U.S. is "on course to achieve reductions of 16.3 percent from 2005 levels in 2020."
The 17 percent reduction figure is aimed at the private sector around the nation.
For government, Mr. Obama's emission reduction goals were even harsher. In January 2010, he signed an executive order requiring 35 government agencies submit plans to the Office of Management and Budget showing how each would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent of 2008 levels by 2020.
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