Less Carbon, More Jobs, Lower Bills

Issue Brief
July 01, 2013

Protecting future generations from climate change, starting with power plants

The president's commitment to set the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants is an important step forward in using the Clean Air Act to protect Americans and future generations from the dangerous pollution fueling climate change. Climate change is already affecting communities, families and businesses around the nation. It is time for action.

For more than 40 years, the Clean Air Act has proved itself an effective, efficient, and flexible tool that has safeguarded public health while fostering economic growth and innovation. A new analysis released by the Natural Resources Defense Council finds that curbing carbon pollution from power plants using the Clean Air Act would have similarly positive results.

NRDC asked Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., to examine the impacts that carbon standards would have on jobs, electric bills, and gross domestic product (GDP), using widely accepted economic modeling techniques. Synapse based this new analysis on an existing NRDC proposal that outlines innovative ways the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could develop carbon standards for power plants.

The new analysis presented here finds that NRDC's proposal to cut carbon pollution would create new jobs nationally and lower the average American's monthly electric bill. Specifically, under our proposal, carbon standards would, in 2020:

  • increase national employment by a net total of 210,000 jobs,
  • lower average residential electricity bills by $0.90 per month, and
  • have essentially no overall impact on GDP.

Just as we used the Clean Air Act to set limits for arsenic, mercury, lead, and other dangerous pollution coming from power plants, we can set limits to efficiently cut the carbon pollution they emit. Power plants are America's largest carbon polluters, yet in most states today, power plants may release unlimited amounts of this heat-trapping gas into the air for free. As President Obama said, "That's not right, that's not safe, and it needs to stop."

The NRDC proposal is not the only way for the Environmental Protection Agency to design carbon standards. But it does demonstrate that we can cut carbon pollution from the power sector 26 percent by 2020, avoid 25 billion to $60 billion in health impacts and other climate-related costs, and drive investments in energy efficiency upgrades. This new analysis shows that we can achieve these vital health protections for Americans while creating new jobs and lowering electric bills.