After years of foot-dragging by his predecessors and Congress, President Obama is taking on the biggest culprit behind global warming: pollution from outdated power plants.
It’s no surprise that Obama’s opponents are fighting him every step of the way—just as they have done with Obamacare and everything else he has proposed.
But what is surprising is the way they are trying to use communities of color – through lies and trickery – as their weapon against him.
The big polluters desperately want Black and Hispanic voters to believe that the president’s clean air protections will raise our power bills and cost us jobs.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Let’s just get this out of the way: The president’s Clean Power Plan will not raise our energy costs. In fact, it’s projected to save families an average of $8 a month on their residential electricity bills.
More importantly, the plan will save lives. It will prevent thousands of premature deaths from pollution-related illnesses, and roughly 150,000 asthma attacks in children each year. This is significant, because one out of every six African American children in this country suffers from asthma.
Our kids literally can’t breathe. And one big reason is because of unchecked pollution from dirty energy plants. Coal-fired power plants kill nearly 13,000 people a year, according to the American Lung Association. These plants tend to be located next to communities of color, so our families are hit hardest.
Obama’s Clean Power Plan will mean fewer hospital trips and fewer missed school days for African American kids, plain and simple. In fact, the health benefits of keeping power plant pollution out of our air and lungs could save our country as much as $93 billion per year.
But the plan will do more than protect our health. It could also increase our wealth. By driving innovation and the growth of clean energy, it will create jobs—about 360,000 net jobs, according to the latest data. We still have work to do to ensure that people of color have access to the best careers in the clean energy economy—but that’s a good problem to have.
States could even decide to do what California has done. The golden state recently put a price on carbon emissions – making the polluters pay for the damage they are causing. Then the state took 25 percent of the dollars raised and invested that sum into transit, affordable housing, clean energy, and green jobs in hard-hit neighborhoods. Tackling carbon pollution has been one of the smartest things California’s ever done. In the first year alone, the state’s policy has generated nearly $300 million for disadvantaged communities.
These are the kind of solutions that Obama’s Clean Power Plan can help drive in states from coast-to-coast – reducing pollution and poverty, while increasing jobs and investments.
The polluters know this. That’s why they are desperately trying to confuse leaders of color and trick them into opposing Obama’s plan. Just last week, the National Black Chamber of Commerce (an organization heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry) released a bogus report claiming that the Clean Power Plan will hurt Black and Hispanic communities.
These dirty energy companies—and groups that buy into and amplify their misinformation —are jeopardizing the health of tens of thousands of Black kids across the country. They should be ashamed.
Fortunately, most smart people aren’t going to buy the lies they’re selling. Polls show that African Americans lead the country in support for solutions to climate change; a whopping 85 percent have said they want to see an international climate agreement.
But we can’t stay quiet about it or keep our good judgment to ourselves. It’s time to stand up to the lies and stand behind the president. We can start by letting our governors know that we want to see the Clean Power Plan put into action.
We need to raise our voices—now—to ensure that our kids and grandkids live in a green economy with more work, more wealth, and better health than they enjoy today. Then we can all breathe easy.