New greenhouse gas rules announced last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency elicited howls of protest from the South and Midwest.
Governors and members of Congress from those states labeled the new rules “job-killers” and predicted economic disaster for their regions.
That prediction is contradicted by the facts.
In 2005, nine Northeastern states joined to reduce their carbon emissions.
Using a cap-and-trade system — an idea originally embraced by Republicans in the 1980s — those nine Northeastern states have since reduced carbon pollution by 40 percent while increasing their regional GDP by 7 percent.
Pollution down; economic activity up.
And that 7 percent increase occurred despite the worst recession since the 1930s. Imagine how much easier it will be for Southern and Midwestern states to meet the new standards with an expanding economy and in the middle of a natural gas boom.
The cap-and-trade system favored by the EPA allows states tremendous flexibility in meeting the new pollution standards.
Under the new rules, each state will receive a carbon-reduction target, and each state will decide how to meet its target. They can increase the energy efficiency of their homes, factories and public buildings, as Maine has done.
Or they might adopt policies that encourage alternative forms of energy, such as solar and wind, again, as our state has done.
Or, they can buy pollution credits from other states to bide time as they reduce their carbon output.
It should be noted that each of these alternatives will create rather than kill jobs.
What’s more, the rules will cut toxic pollution, resulting in an estimated $7 in health care savings for each dollar spent.
The announcement last week was quickly followed by two other important bits of information.
First, an analysis by The Associated Press found that climate change has not affected all parts of the country equally.
“The regions that have warmed the most have been New York’s St. Lawrence Valley, northeastern Vermont and northern Maine, New Mexico and western Vermont.
Those regions have warmed by more than 2.5 degrees over the past 30 years.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week found that a bipartisan majority of Americans support federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Most are even willing to accept slightly higher energy bills, if that’s what it takes.
“Fully 70 percent say the federal government should require limits to greenhouse gases from existing power plants ...” according to a Washington Post story.
“Democrats and Republicans are in rare agreement on the issue. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans, 76 percent of independents and 79 percent of Democrats support state-level limits on greenhouse gas emissions.”
Even tea party supporters show tepid support: 50 percent say the federal government should impose caps, while 45 percent say it should not.
Even in states that receive most of their electricity from burning coal, 69 percent say the government should put limits on greenhouse gas emissions. In states that receive less than half of their energy from coal, support is 71 percent.
The results parallel “broad concern” among Americans about global warming, according to a Washington Post story.
“Nearly seven in 10 say global warming, also known as climate change, is a serious problem facing the country, with 57 percent calling it very serious.”
Some members of Congress will attempt to overthrow the new rules.
Maine’s congressional delegates should not only vote against any attempt to weaken or delay the new rules, they should be actively trying to convince members from other states to do the same.
The Northeast has led the way on climate change, and led by example. It’s time for the rest of the country to follow.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.