Reaction to Obama climate speech varies by interest group

President Obama climate change speech CO2 emissions control AEP ANGA Georgia EMC coal greenhouse gas

By Wayne Barber, Chief News Analyst, GenerationHub

The wide array of power industry interest groups and analysts wasted little time in giving their assessment on President Obama’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power generation.

One major coal-burning utility stressed that the devil will be in the details, while a Wall Street analyst said there really wasn’t much new or unexpected when the president outlined his plan June 25 at Georgetown University.

Here is some of the feedback:

  • American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) President and CEO Nick Akins told Fox Business News that the “timing” of CO2 reductions worry him. If you add CO2 rules too quickly to the billions already being spent retrofitting coal units, it could prove the “nail in the coffin for coal,” Akins said.
  • In a more detailed statement issued by AEP, Akins said the president was taking a “balanced” approach. “As with any plan, the devil is in the details,” Akins said. Any effective EPA program should work with stakeholders and preserve “maximum flexibility within the confines of the Clean Air Act” while relying on proven technology, added the AEP CEO.
  • America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) President and CEO Marty Durbin said he was pleased the president again recognized domestic gas as key to cutting the nation’s CO2 output to 20-year lows. At the same time, ANGA doesn’t like to see oil and natural gas targeted for “punitive tax treatment,” Durbin said.
  • Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn said the power sector has already had some success. In 2012, U.S. power sector CO2 emissions were 15% below 2005 levels and were at their lowest levels since 1996, said the EEI official.
  • Georgia’s Electric Membership Cooperatives envision higher power costs and tougher economic times in rural areas. "The President's plan will hit co-op served families and businesses in Georgia awfully hard," said Paul Wood, president and CEO of Georgia EMC, the statewide trade association for electric co-ops.
  • “National Grid has long supported federal legislation as a comprehensive means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said National Grid (NYSE:NGG) President Tom King. “However, in the absence of federal legislation, we support EPA moving forward with greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act,” King added.
  • National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn said “policies that shut off coal energy damage the nation's job and economic engine, while also raising costs to American consumers.”
  • Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and CEO Marvin Fertel said atomic power is critical to any domestic climate plan. "There is no debating this fact: Nuclear energy produces nearly two-thirds of America's carbon-free electricity,” Fertel said.
  • UBS Investment Research Analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith said there really wasn’t much new in the Obama speech. “The administration’s Climate Action plan calls for a 17% reduction off 2005 levels by 2020. The plan is consistent with our previous expectations for the EPA to issue a final new-source rule and proposed existing-source rule in the next year (new source standards are already delayed vs. statutory requirement),” the UBS analyst said.

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