President Obama speaks after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in Boulder City, Nev., on March 21, 2012. / File photo by Julie Jacobson, AP
President Obama said Saturday that his administration's proposal to limit power plant emissions, to be unveiled Monday, will reduce air pollution, improve health and spur a clean energy economy that can be "an engine of growth."
The new rules by the Environmental Protection Agency, a major part of Obama's plan to fight climate change, will require states to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions from thousands of U.S. power plants, especially coal-fired facilities.
Opponents are lining up against the proposal. This week, the Chamber of Commerce released a report saying such regulation could raise consumer prices for electricity, kill jobs and slow economic growth. "Americans deserve to have an accurate picture of the costs and benefits," said Karen Harbert of the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, adding that any reductions in U.S. carbon emissions would be dwarfed by continuing spikes in global emissions.
In the GOP Saturday radio address, Wyoming's Sen. Mike Enzi said the Obama administration has "set out to kill coal and its 800,000 jobs." If it succeeds, he warned, "we'll all be paying a lot more money for electricity - if we can get it."
Obama said the critics are wrong. "They warned that doing something about the smog choking our cities, and acid rain poisoning our lakes, would kill business. It didn't," he said in his weekly radio speech. "Our air got cleaner, acid rain was cut dramatically, and our economy kept growing."
To spotlight the health benefits of his proposal, he spoke from the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after visiting with kids being treated for asthma and other breathing problems. He said such illnesses are aggravated by air pollution from power plants, which his proposal will help to reduce.
A study Tuesday by researchers at Harvard and Syracuse universities agreed. It said tough carbon rules could reduce the risk of heart attacks, lung cancer, asthma and other health problems by reducing co-pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that contribute to acid rain and ozone.
On Monday, Obama plans to discuss the details of his proposal with national health groups including the American Lung Association.
"In America, we don't have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children," he said Saturday, adding that technology is making it possible to improve both the environment and the economy.
Citing the recent boom in carbon-free wind and solar as well as cleaner-burning natural gas, he said the nation is making progress. "A low-carbon, clean-energy economy," he said, "can be an engine of growth for decades to come."
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