A top adviser to President Obama said Friday that the administration’s highly controversial restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants not only will improve public health and mitigate the effects of climate change but also carry political benefits for supporters of the proposal.
White House counselor John Podesta defended the new regulations at a Washington breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, and said that while the administration expects serious pushback from the coal industry and some lawmakers, political campaigns centered on bashing the president’s “climate action plan” will fail.
“There’s no doubt there are some states where this is an issue that presents a different sort of political challenges, particularly coal-producing states, and there’s no doubt the polluters will come after this rule and they’ll try to attack it,” Mr. Podesta said. “They’ll try to put it squarely in the context of political campaigns that are ongoing in 2014. But I think anyone who wants to go out and talk about the benefits of this rule … they’ll find the politics is such you can defend taking action here and the public will support that.”
He added that candidates, Republican or Democrat, who deny the carbon restrictions are necessary will find themselves on “the losing side of the argument.”
The highly confident statements from Mr. Podesta indicate the White House believes the public gradually is getting behind its effort to restrict carbon pollution, part of a larger effort to tackle climate change and firmly cement the U.S. as a global leader on the issue.
The EPA rules, announced Monday with much fanfare, call for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. They delegate to states responsibility for figuring out exactly how to meet the targets.
But critics — including plenty of Democrats in red states or coal-producing regions — argue the regulations essentially spell the end of coal as a major power source in the U.S.
Coal, which still provides nearly 40 percent of the country’s electricity, is the worst offender when it comes to carbon emissions from the energy and power-production sector, and the administration admits it wants to see coal’s share of electricity generation drop significantly over the next 15 years.
The plan has opened up a clear line of political attack for opponents.
“President Obama and his administration proved they’re more concerned about appealing to the far left of the president’s party than helping low and middle-income families who are struggling to find jobs and pay their bills,” Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said earlier this week. “I will fight the president and his administration every step of the way to stop this unprecedented power grab and protect Missourians, who rely on coal for 80 percent of our state’s energy.”
Mr. Podesta vehemently denied that coal specifically is in the administration’s cross hairs. He pointed to the fact that the EPA regulations allow for the continued use of coal to generate power, provided plants are made more efficient.
“We’re not taking all the coal out of the system. But the coal that will be burned will have to be done in a more efficient way and a more effective way,” he said.