Monday, June 2, 2014

True Cost of Carbon

The True Cost of Carbon
A Statement on the release of the EPA’s new power plant regulation
By the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God
Romans 8:19

I am delighted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved forward in the process to regulate carbon pollution from power plants today. Indeed, having offered testimony in support of this rule during the public listening sessions, it is with great interest that I follow the EPA’s progress. We know that in the coming days and weeks there will be time to analyze and delve into the details of this proposed rule, but today is a day to rejoice that the United States is taking a step toward limiting our detrimental contributions to global climate change.

In 2008, the General Assembly, the highest governing body in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said “as citizens of the United States, which has historically produced more greenhouse gases than any other country, and which is currently responsible for over a fifth of the world’s annual emissions, we implore our nation to accept its moral responsibility to address global warming.” The same Assembly went on to urge public policy that “internalize[s] the social and environmental costs related to greenhouse gas emissions into the prices of fossil fuels.”*

For too long we have been paying an artificially low price for the luxury of burning fossil fuels and for the privilege of polluting God’s earth and poisoning its atmosphere. The true cost of burning fossil fuel is not reflected in the price we pay at the pump or the electric meter. The true cost of carbon pollution is nothing less than human, social, and environmental degradation of the Creation with which God has gifted us. In the PC(USA), we will continue to advocate and organize for a day when the U.S. takes full responsibility for our reckless thirst for oil and gas and begins to curb our emissions through increased energy efficiency, renewable energy, and yes, economy-wide measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

In the meantime, I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for taking necessary steps toward regulating an industry that contributes 32 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions. This is the beginning of an important movement at the U.S. government level to “stand with the ‘least of these’ (Matt. 25-40)… for the poor and oppressed in present and future generations who are often the victims of environmental injustice and who are least able to mitigate the impact of global warming that [is falling] disproportionately on them.” *

The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, is the Director for Public Witness at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC.

* The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming; approved by the 218th General Assembly (2008) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The full document may be downloaded at