In its pitch for a federal clean energy standard (CES), The Washington Post’s editorial board asks, “Will America do anything significant to slow climate change?”
Assuming America actually needs to do something to slow climate change, even if the Post’s editorial board got its wish for a CES, America still wouldn’t be doing anything to slow climate change.
Senator Jeff Bingaman’s (D–NM) Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 would require at least 24 percent of U.S. electricity generation to come from politically defined “clean energy” sources by 2015. The mandate increases dramatically, rising to 84 percent by 2035. New natural gas plants, as well as already-built hydroelectric and nuclear plants, would receive partial credit to help meet the standard.
But a clean energy standard wouldn’t drastically reduce emissions, nor would it significantly impact climate change. The Energy Information Administration estimated that mandating that 25 percent of energy comes from renewable energy would reduce emissions by only 4.9 percent by 2030.
The cap-and-trade target was to reduce carbon 80 percent below 2005 levels of emissions by 2050. To put that number in perspective, climatologist Paul C. Knappenberger says that an 80 percent reduction would moderate temperatures by only hundredths of a degree in 2050—and no more than two-tenths of a degree by the end of the century.