President Barack Obama wipes sweat from his head during a speech on climate change on Tuesday. (Evan Vucci, The Associated Press)
President Obama's latest and most serious effort to tackle climate change, announced this week, has the potential to shape energy policy in positive ways for years to come.
Though it may rankle critics, circumventing Congress is the only practical way for the administration to set limits on carbon emissions from power plants, which account for 40 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.
It's also a tactic buttressed by a 2007 Supreme Court decision saying the administration was empowered to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
In pursuing the carbon reductions, however, the administration must be careful not to hobble the nation's economy by creating rules that are too costly.
The president's plan has a long way to go before the finer points are known, yet rules that nudge the nation further away from coal as a cheap source of power plant fuel will undoubtedly result in energy price increases. And so will installing more pollution controls on existing coal-fired power plants.
That's not a reason to reject the idea. Is is, however, reason to insist the Environmental Protection Agency make a clear-eyed assessment of the costs and benefits of the regulations it eventually proposes.
It's important to keep in mind that the U.S. enjoys a relative advantage over, say, Europe, when it comes to energy prices, which is a plus in the competitive global economy.
However, the plan comes with many potential positives, especially for Colorado.
Along with smokestack regulation, the president's plan directs the Department of Interior to permit more renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar, on public land.
That could lead to increased clean energy generation in Colorado, which has millions of acres of federal land and favorable conditions for wind and solar power. Decreasing coal demand, however, could negatively impact the state's coal industry.
Obama also seeks to raise funding and loan guarantees for clean energy projects. Colorado's universities and private businesses do significant work in clean energy arenas and may benefit from the emphasis.
In addition, an element of the plan that intends to prepare the nation for the effects of climate change mentions wildfire preparedness.
It's a brief mention in a wide-ranging plan, but given the devastating fires in our state during the last two years, we hope the administration provides adequate funds for forest-thinning efforts and firefighting.
On the whole, Obama's plan to reposition the nation to deal with global warming is thoughtfully constructed and goes in the right direction.
The key will be in whether his administration has the skill to devise strategies and rules that effectively balance environmental priorities with economic considerations.
The Denver Post, June 29