In 2016, a coalition of 28 US states sued the Environmental Protection Agency, alleging that a new US federal plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions called the "Clean Power Plan" was illegal, unfairly penalised coal-dependent states and would cause massive layoffs in the energy sector. But according to a new report released Wednesday, the US isn't just meeting the federal requirements, its currently poised to significantly surpass them.
The Clean Power Plan is controversial because it allows the EPA to set CO2 limits for US states and hold them accountable, a major expansion of the EPA's regulatory purview. One of its biggest detractors is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Trump's pick to head the EPA. Pruitt and states like West Virgina and Arkansas have argued in court that the lists would cause everything from massive layoffs to rolling blackouts.
But the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, published Wednesday by and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), found that the US is already well on its way to surpassing the goals. From the report:
Within the power sector, the progress is even more noteworthy: in 2016, greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants dropped 5.3% in just one year. Since 2005, the power sector has shrunk its carbon footprint by 24% — in other words, the US is 75% of the way to the Clean Power Plan's "32% by 2030" headline target, with 14 additional years left to go.
There's a few reasons for the good news.
First, greenhouse gas emissions come disproportionately from coal relative to other energy sources like, say, gas or solar. And coal is quickly fading out. The report found that only 30 per cent of US electricity currently comes from coal — its lowest share in the 70 years since officials began keep track. That's unlikely to change any time soon as fracking lowers the cost of oil and renewable energy sources (solar, hydroelectric, wind) become cheaper and cheaper.
Last year was also an enormous year for solar energy. The solar industry added a staggering 51,000 jobs just last year, amounting to two per cent of all newly created jobs in 2016. With the solar energy tax credit extended from 2016 to 2022, it looks like solar energy will only rise in popularity as corporations receive kickbacks for making the shift.
In short, the CPP was meant to accelerate a market shift in the energy sector that is already happening. Repealing it may slow America's energy transformation, but it won't stop it.