Obama's Clean Power and the GOP Response

Aug 5, 2015

President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan this week. The plan sets the first-ever EPA standards on power plant emissions and requires a 32% reduction in those emissions over the next 15 years. It also seeks to boost renewable energy sources.

2016 Republican presidential hopefuls reacted negatively to the plan. Florida Senator Marco Rubio called it "catastrophic," while former Florida Governor Jeb Bush described it as "irresponsible and over-reaching." New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called it an example of "overregulation" that would "kill American businesses and jobs."

Jim McCormick, Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, says the plan shouldn't come as a surprise, since climate change is an issue that President Obama has been talking about since 2007.

"It's really a function of, he's kind of freed up now to take on some of these issues that he probably could not be as successful on, especially if he wanted to win re-election," McCormick says.

The Clean Power Plan is being announced in the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of the year. The goal of that event is to get an enforceable agreement on climate change from all the nations of the world.

"It's significant, in the sense that, given that the U.S. is the second leading polluter in the world, that the President would make this rather bold stand," McCormick says.

Tim Hagle, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa, says many in the 2016 GOP presidential field are upset with the President's use of executive power, and while some are pledging to undo the President's action, that may not be practical.

"The problem is once they've [standards] been in place for a year or two, it becomes more difficult. Especially if nothing terrible has immediately happened, then people are maybe a little more reluctant to have a president reverse field in that way," Hagle says.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with McCormick and Hagle about the Clean Power Plan, and other issues in this edition of Politics Day on River to River.