Sunday, April 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: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18