Clean Power Plan Success Hinges on Winning the “Race to Define”
by Mike Casey
In case you have been away on a really long vacation this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final Clean Power Plan (CPP) today. Its aim is to cut pollution from old, dirty coal plants that have dumped a huge amount of pollution of many different types into the environment. They include the carbon pollution that is driving the global climate disruption crisis.
If made a reality, the CPP will make a big – a really big – contribution to moving the U.S. economy onto clean energy footing. These standards represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance goals that Americans overwhelmingly want: clean energy, job creation, savings and pollution cuts.
The well-documented realities of the CPP standards is that they:
- Will create jobs.
- Cut electricity bills. (yes, the AP got that point very wrong).
- Are overwhelmingly supported by Americans and small business owners.
- On Friday, 365 companies with $350 billion in annual revenue announced their support for the CPP, in large part because they understand the economic benefits a switch to clean energy will bring. The letter, addressed to the National Governors Association, included major companies such as General Mills, Calvert Investments and Staples.
- Begin the process of kicking the fossil fuel sectors off the decades of preferential treatment that politicians have showered on them despite being mature, highly profitable businesses. The kind of corporate welfare that makes for the “picking winners and losers” that the fossil lobby loves to rail against.
- Cut the pollution we have to reduce in order to stave off the worst of global climate disruption.
- Reduce the dirty-air that makes people sick with illnesses such as Black Lung and Asthma (the leading cause for children missing school days).
The fossil fuel lobby, however, lives mostly in a fact-free world. It’s “post-truth politics,” as David Roberts, now Vox.com’s climate and energy writer, talked about when he was at Grist. In fact, the fossil fuel lobby helped create an entire doubt “industry” designed to slow pollution reduction progress, among other things.
From that machinery, you will hear today and in the months ahead these fictions:
- The Clean Power Plan will “wreck the economy.”
- Its standards will kill jobs.
- They will raise electricity bills.
- They are a government overreach.
- They pick winners and losers (that one again).
This is the predictable pablum we have heard from the fossil fuel lobby about every significant attempt made for the last 40 years to cut the pollution they produce. And they have been wrong every time. But that doesn’t change the big takeaway task for clean energy advocates and companies when it comes to the Clean Power Plan: This is a race to define the business plan of the CPP standards… and facts alone won’t win that race.
Only disciplined messaging that connects with Americans and business owners will. That’s because the fossil fuel lobby has an easier job (introduce sufficient doubt) and has more resources to do that job with. Clean energy has a harder job, to sell a new paradigm: that clean energy isn’t just a desirable future; it’s a growing, a here-and-now reality that should be boosted in every way possible.
That means we’ll have to not only cite credible studies and use credible experts, but we’ll have to get our hands dirty with the necessary task of calling out fossil fuel rhetoric and questioning the funding sources of the mouthpieces the fossil fuel lobby. And we have to have tight disciplined messaging that sells our paradigm to a country that wants us to succeed.
When it comes to pollution, clean energy and what’s good for America, the facts don’t speak for themselves. They need people to speak on behalf of those facts in clear, compelling ways that make it more difficult for the rhetoric peddlers to gain traction.