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Al Hartmann | Tribune file p hoto A coal truck leaves the coal-fired Hunter Power Plant just south of Castle Dale after making a delivery in 2009. The plant is a key economic driver for rural central Utah. It is also a major source of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the target of restrictions proposed Monday by the Obama administration.
Editorial: A chance to lead the way on climate change

Utah should embrace CO2 rules.

First Published Jun 02 2014 04:16 pm • Last Updated Jun 03 2014 10:27 am

Utah has been presented with an opportunity to lead, truly lead, on a matter of global importance for generations to come. All we have to do is seize the moment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Monday announced a new set of standards aimed at significantly reducing the amount of carbon dioxide American power plants pour into the atmosphere every year. It is a step that is necessary in order to head off a future where we see the planet heat up and the quality of life driven down, here and around the world.

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It is a plan that is much less ambitious than one Republicans proposed six years ago. And it is one that allows each state to make its own decisions on exactly how it will reach the individual goals that have been set for it.

Like President Obama’s health care reforms, the EPA rules are being described — falsely — as a government overreach that will damage the economy and cost jobs. In fact, like the Affordable Care Act, the proposed rules are very free-market friendly in that they allow interested parties to choose any of a number of means to reduce carbon emissions. Not only that, the rules create an opportunity for those states and industries that are clever enough to grab it to not merely survive, but to prosper.

Utah will be expected to lower its per-kilowatt/hour carbon emissions by some 27 percent, slightly less than the national average of 30 percent, from its 2005 levels by the year 2030. And it has many ways, including some low-hanging fruit, to accomplish that goal.

It can adopt the most recent energy-efficiency standards in its uniform building codes. It can push its existing power plants to be more efficient.

Most important, Utah could fully embrace its potential for renewable energy sources, solar and wind, which could save money, create jobs and make the Beehive State a globally recognized example of how forward-thinking communities finally give up their addiction to dirty and doomed fossil fuels and move to the energy sources of the future.

Such moves will also go as far as anyone so far has to head off the decades of drought, crop failure and damage to our ski industry that Utah will face if the very real threat of global climate change is not addressed head-on.

It will now fall to Utah’s political and business leaders, from Gov. Gary Herbert on down, to resist the temptation to cling to old habits, to actually show some faith in the ability of American industry to rise to any challenge, and lead our state into a prosperous and sustainable future.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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