Biden’s climate plan: new standards for planes, trucks, and cars

The White House is mulling new climate policies in response to an ambitious climate change plan released Monday by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden’s plan, formally titled the Climate Security Plan, is the most…

Biden’s climate plan: new standards for planes, trucks, and cars

The White House is mulling new climate policies in response to an ambitious climate change plan released Monday by Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden’s plan, formally titled the Climate Security Plan, is the most detailed explanation so far from the Obama administration of its strategy to deal with climate change. It calls for a number of steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and consider new ways to pay for projects that help the environment and the economy, while honoring the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

But in the areas of land use and transportation, the administration plans to rely on new standards from the Federal Aviation Administration and the State Department to be the primary vehicle for reaching its goals. “We want to find ways to leverage the good work of the FAA and State, and also to talk to governors and mayors about how to use those aviation and transportation programs to help the country achieve climate security goals,” Dan Utech, Vice President Biden’s deputy national security adviser, said Thursday during a conference call with reporters.

“We think that there are significant ways to accomplish these objectives” by including the FAA and State Department standards in EPA regulation, Utech said. “We believe we will find new ways, not just take the authority away from EPA but with the cooperation of other agencies, to get there.”

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which relied on existing EPA authority, did not formally rely on any aviation and transport standards.

Biden laid out a series of steps, which the White House acknowledges are not a near-term solution, that aim to limit greenhouse gas emissions in line with the principle of “no harm, no foul,” the idea that any emissions reductions achieved by the marketplace are a net benefit to the environment.

The plan would set caps on power plants and oil refineries. It would direct the EPA to look at the possible use of carbon capture and storage. It would promote renewable energy sources. And it calls for creation of a partnership with the Pentagon to study how the military can use carbon savings from aviation and the military’s fuel supply to protect air and water quality.

“We all know that we are going to face the consequences of global climate change, and that if left unchecked, the problems and threats associated with climate change are going to get worse,” Obama said in a statement accompanying the report. “The best way to address these issues is through innovative, rapid action, not by using the excuse of economic uncertainty to defer action. But we will be prepared to help the American people meet the challenges of climate change by supporting states and localities in meeting their long-term goals, and we will provide the necessary incentives for the private sector to reduce their carbon emissions.”

Utech cited the transportation as a “particularly big area” where the administration would embrace new regulations. “We have to look at the transportation sector more broadly — at everything from our fleet of vehicles to the buildings in which our vehicles are housed to — as Vice President Biden said today — our land use,” he said.

Environmental groups praised the release of the Climate Security Plan, and many of them said they would push for improvements. The focus on transportation could provide a lever to launch changes at the EPA that could have far-reaching consequences, particularly if climate scientists were to agree that global warming is a greater threat than previously thought.

“This was great that the administration is clearly and unequivocally going to engage with people on this issue but we have a long way to go,” said Andy Revkin, deputy director of the Dot Earth blog. “Transportation is really where the play is here. If we can figure out how to use the regulations we have, we can dramatically affect the situation for the environment and the economy.”

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