Monday, January 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Obama goes it alone on climate change

It was just four years ago this month that a U.S. House controlled by Democrats narrowly passed an ambitious cap-and-trade bill aimed at reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. It might as well have been four decades ago, as the legislation failed to win support in the Senate and now congressional Republicans avoid the issue. That left President Barack Obama with no choice but to tackle the threat of global warming with reasonable initiatives that his administration can take without Congress.

The centerpiece of the president's package uses the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants as well as future ones. The Environmental Protection Agency's work on new emissions standards for future plants already has eliminated any serious talk of traditional coal-fired electric plants. That's one reason why Duke Energy is aiming to bring a natural gas plant online in 2018 in Crystal River. Obama's direction to the EPA to issue similar rules for existing coal plants, depending on the timing, might affect Duke's plans to use a new coal blend to extend the life of two older coal units until the gas plant opens. It also could affect the long-term future of two other Crystal River coal plants that have updated emission control devices commonly referred to as scrubbers.

Obama is not making coal-producing states happy, but he is correct to focus on power plant emissions. About 40 percent of the nation's carbon pollution is traced to coal- and gas-fired power plants. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by about 11 percent since 2005, and the president remains committed to increasing that to 17 percent by 2020. Much of the reduction so far can be attributed to lower demand for electricity because of the economic recession, and to moving from coal to natural gas as gas prices have dropped with new exploration techniques increasing the supply. Failing to address existing coal plants would be shortsighted and jeopardize the progress that has been made.

Other aspects of Obama's proposals are less controversial but important in a comprehensive strategy: increasing the energy efficiency of appliances, encouraging more energy efficient construction, and doubling renewable energy efforts on federal lands. Less clear but particularly important for Florida is the president's commitment to better protect communities from the impact of climate change. He cited the Everglades restoration as an example of efforts to protect drinking water supplies — and reduce flooding. But it also could be harder for Florida to get federal money to build new roads if strict rules are written to avoid flood-prone areas and areas susceptible to storm surges. That covers an awful lot of area in Tampa Bay and elsewhere.

As Obama pointed out, the scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that global warming poses a serious threat even as too many members of Congress refuse to acknowledge the facts. Continuing to reduce carbon emissions is a key part of addressing climate change, and a straightforward carbon tax would be the best approach. But this Congress won't touch that issue. Until that situation changes, the president's only option is to pursue more modest efforts that the executive branch can do alone.

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Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18