Expect to hear a lot about carbon dioxide in the next week. It's the main gas that's collecting in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Next Monday, for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose rules limiting the carbon dioxide emitted by the power plants that produce most of our electricity. If the U.S. is going to play a role in the global reduction of greenhouse gases, the regulations the EPA is preparing are the most likely way that will happen any time soon.
Previous EPA rules have hit existing coal-burning plants by focusing on pollutants, like mercury and sulphur dioxide, that older coal plants produce. Pending rules would limit carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants and factories.
“The rule the EPA will introduce next week is the first step that’s specifically aimed at the power sector— reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from the power sector,” says Jonas Monast, director of climate and energy programs at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
The administration will create carbon-reduction targets for states and allow each state to make a plan for hitting its target. One of the most efficient ways to hit a target: Shut down older, heavily-polluting coal-burning plants.
This isn’t exactly war on coal. “The real war on coal is not being waged by the Obama administration. It’s being waged by cheap natural gas,” says Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and environmental think tank.
Coal’s biggest advantage as a power source has been that it’s cheap. Low natural gas prices have eaten away much of that advantage. Utilities have been shutting down older coal plants and opening up new gas plants that also pollute less.
Regulations can lock in that shift and extend it, says Kevin Book, with ClearView Energy Partners. Adding next week’s proposals to what’s already been proposed could mean the U.S. ends up getting about a third less energy from coal than it did a few years ago. How much carbon emissions get reduced will depend on the targets EPA sets.
“This is the crown jewel of the Obama’s administration’s climate policy,” says Book. The rules could enable U.S. policy to have a global impact. In effect, they could put a price on carbon emissions.
From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Wednesday, May 28:
President Obama is scheduled to be in West Point to deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy's class of 2014.
Shoe company DSW releases quarterly earnings.
The Senate is on break this week.
The "Empress of Soul," Gladys Knight, turns 70.
And author Ian Fleming was born on May 28, 1908. You're probably familiar with one of his very charismatic characters: James Bond.
As part of the zoo's animal enrichment program, otters and orangutans take up musical instruments.
Health officials praised the bill, which passed the California Assembly on Tuesday. The porn industry warned it could force them to move their multibillion-dollar business out of state.
Chicken-producer Pilgrim's Pride has made a bid for sausage supremo, Hillshire Brands, and is offering $45 per share, or, what it says is a transaction valued at $6.4 billion.
Would you like the chicken, or, the pork? That’s the question Pilgrim’s Pride wants to ask.
“When you call on a retail client, you want to give them as broad a choice of products as possible,” says John Stanton, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University. Stanton says for Pilgrim Pride’s, mainly a poultry producer, the plan to buy a company that sells pork, Hillshire farms, makes sense.
“You want to say, 'You don’t need to talk to sausage people, you don’t need to talk to pork people,' because when you talk to me I can sell you all your poultry and all your pork products you want,” he says.
But Rob Campagnino, director of consumer research for Sector and Sovereign, notes that chicken and pork are both commodities, which means their prices are not very flexible.
“So the price of chicken goes up and down, but that’s solely determined by the cost to produce it,” he says.
So, Campagnino notes Pilgrim Pride’s bid isn’t just about gaining the ability to sell more kinds of protein. Instead it’s about moving beyond commodities, and getting into brands like Jimmy Dean sausages which is owned by Hillshire Farms.
"What you can do with something like Jimmy Dean is you can innovate," he says, You can raise prices, and when you raise these prices they’re price increases that aren’t necessarily driven solely by changes in what it costs you to make it.”
Consolidating the two companies, would also offer some savings, but says Campagnino, that’s not the meat of the deal.
By Shea Huffman/Marketplace
Climate change in the West is luring rainbow trout to higher elevations, where the fish are mating with native cutthroats, genetic evidence shows. Biologists and anglers worry cutthroats could vanish.
After his son was killed, Richard Martinez made national news with a stunning, emotional indictment of the NRA in front of cameras. Now, he's asking politicians to "do something."
Michelle Obama's fight to help kids eat more healthfully and fight obesity is about to get real. She's launching a campaign Tuesday to fight congressional efforts to delay new school food rules.
Egypt has added a third day of voting in its presidential election. With Abdel Fattah al-Sisi relying on voter turnout to legitimize his election, the government-allied media is exhorting Egyptians to vote or be considered traitors.
Poland's last Communist leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, has died, leaving Poles a difficult question: What honor befits a man with such a complicated legacy? Konstanty Gebert, a Warsaw journalist, explains.