WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's plans to curb the gases blamed for global warming are facing their first test: a hearing in Congress where administration officials make their case to skeptical lawmakers.
The energy panel meeting Wednesday comes days before a deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to release a revised proposal setting the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide from newly built power plants. The rule will ultimately force the EPA to tackle emissions from existing power plants as well.
It is a key component of Obama's strategy to tackle climate change. It is also one of the most controversial, since addressing the largest uncontrolled source of carbon pollution will affect the power sector and everyone who turns on a light switch.
The coal industry and its allies in Congress have been quick to criticize the regulation, saying it will raise electricity prices and the cost of producing power. Coal, which supplies nearly 40 percent of U.S. electricity, has been struggling to compete with natural gas, which has seen historically low prices in recent years.
The proposal will make it very difficult for energy companies to build new coal-fired plants in the U.S. New natural gas power plants will also be covered, but they will be able to meet the emissions standard more easily.
"Like the president has said, we have a moral obligation to act on climate change, and we are using the tools at our disposal to get it done," Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
For coal-fired power plants, the new proposal will eventually require the installation of technology to capture carbon and bury it underground. Not a single power plant in the U.S. has done that, largely because it has not been available commercially and, if it were, it would be expensive.
The administration has $8 billion to give out in loans to mitigate the cost of developing the technology. But even Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has said "it's not going to happen tomorrow" but sometime in this decade.
Associated Presss writer Dina Cappiello, Josh Lederman and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
Follow Dina Cappiello on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dinacappiello
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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