Obama climate plan targets coal, pushes for renewable energy projects

WASHINGTON – New U.S. climate change regulations will cut carbon emissions at power plants and require federal projects to better prepare for the sort of extreme weather that has left much of Calgary underwater.

President Barack Obama will use his executive authority to implement most of the proposals, bypassing congressional lawmakers reluctant to move on climate change.

He will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, to initiate regulations on carbon emissions from existing coal and gas-fired utilities by next June, and to kick-start similar rules on new power plants.

He’ll also direct the Interior Department to issue permits for new wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects on public lands in efforts that could fuel more than six million American homes within seven years.

A blueprint of the plan was released by the White House in advance of a highly anticipated speech by Obama later today.

New energy-efficiency projects are a big part of the plan — proposals that could present major opportunities for Canadian biofuel companies.

The plan also calls for more forceful action in boosting efficiency for appliances such as refrigerators and lamps.

The president will provide more details in a speech later today at D.C.’s Georgetown University. He’ll also outline proposals to seek new international agreements to address climate change worldwide.

“While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations,” the White House said in a statement.

The blueprint, with its major focus on reducing carbon emissions at coal plants, caused coal stocks in the U.S. to drop shortly after the market opened. Coal producers and some electric utilities have warned that Obama’s proposals will mean higher energy costs for consumers.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said Obama’s plan is a “war on coal” that means a “war on jobs.”

“It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy,” he said in a statement.

Environmentalists, meantime, cheered.

“Americans are already dealing with worse droughts, wildfires, and coastal floods, and the practical realities of climate change are forcing political leaders to make this a priority,” Alden Meyer, strategy and policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement.

Indeed, Obama will direct federal agencies to help state and local governments with existing problems caused by climate change, including improved flood protection for roads and other infrastructure, better hospitals to respond to deadly storms, and drought relief.