Obama urged to announce bold environmental plan

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What will the president say tonight about climate change?

The Center for Biological Diversity is urging President Barack Obama to announce five bold steps to curb greenhouse gas pollution.

The president will deliver his State of the Union address tonight (Jan. 28). Environmentalists expect to hear some promises from the administration and calls to Congress for action.

CBD, a national environmental group, said the president, who last January promised to tackle the climate crisis, has not done enough to curb pollution.

“Climate change is a defining issue of our age, and President Obama’s window for action is starting to close,” Bill Snape, the center’s senior counsel, said in a news release. “What we do now, as a country and as a society, will determine whether future generations will have planet that’s livable. History will remember whether President Obama boldly met this crisis head-on or left us on a path where polluters rake in profits while the rest of the world pays a very steep and terrible price.”

Earlier this month, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the planet suffered its fourth-hottest year on record last year in 2013. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1998, and a recent federal report predicted that the average global temperature could rise as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

CBD proposed five actions for the president in 2014:

• Create a national cap on carbon pollution. The president should order the EPA to set a national pollution cap for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The agency already has caps for six other pollutants, including carbon monoxide and lead. Between 1980 and 2010, emissions of these six pollutants fell by 63 percent while the gross domestic product grew by 128 percent. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions, which were unregulated, went up by 21 percent.

• Strengthen power plant pollution rules. The administration should strengthen regulations aimed at cutting the billions of metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution emitted every year by fossil fuel-powered power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency’s recently published proposed rule for new plants would not achieve actual pollution reductions from gas-fired plants, even though existing technology would allow the industry to cut emissions. The president should also order the EPA to immediately regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.

• Push for an end subsidies for oil companies. Petroleum companies rake in up to $175,000 a minute in profits, yet the U.S. government hands out more than $4 billion per year in tax credits and subsidies to the oil industry.

• Reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The climate crisis would be deepened by the construction of the pipeline, which would transport up to 35 million gallons of oil a day from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Extracting and refining tar sands oil produces two times more greenhouse gases per barrel than conventional oil, which is why Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, has called the Keystone pipeline “game over” for the climate.

• Ban fracking and end fossil fuel development on public lands. The administration should stop leasing millions of acres of publicly owned lands for fracking and other highly polluting forms of fossil fuel development. Fracking and drilling for oil and gas produce about 50 percent more methane than suggested by federal estimates, according to a recent study. Methane is more than 80 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Yet the administration’s recently released rules for fracking on public lands don’t require well operators to use devices to capture methane.

“2013’s high temperatures and dangerous weather will be just a taste of the chaos ahead unless President Obama steps out of his comfort zone and takes strong steps to cut pollution,” Snape said. “Decisive action isn’t always easy, but half measures will only put our planet on the road to a catastrophic future.”