The Lincoln Electric System is looking quite savvy now that the Obama administration has unveiled plans to order power plants to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent.

Last year, the LES board negotiated a long-term contract to triple the amount of electricity it gets from wind.

The purchase of 100 megawatts of wind energy from the Arbuckle Mountain Wind Farm in Oklahoma means that about 23 percent of the electricity sold to the utility's retail customers will come from renewable sources.

At the time, LES administrator and CEO Kevin Wailes pointed out that adding more wind energy to the publicly owned utility’s mix of sources would provide a hedge against costly emission controls for coal-fired power plants.

The announcement by Gina McCarthy, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, was hailed by environmental groups as an important move against global warming that fuels drought, heat waves and superstorms.

But there’s reason to wonder if the rules will stick. The new regulations will face legal challenges from the coal industry, for one thing.

And Republicans seem to think they can find political advantage in opposing efforts to slow global warming. The reaction from Nebraska’s congressional delegation showed the political challenges the plan faces. Rep. Adrian Smith said the costs of retrofitting power plants would be “disastrous for manufacturing, agriculture and especially low- and middle-income Americans who can least afford huge increases in their electric bills.”

Since the new rules are being implemented administratively, rather than enacted by Congress, they could be rolled back if a Republican president is elected in 2016.

In a better world, people would take seriously the increasingly dire warnings by an overwhelming percentage of scientists of the ruinous impacts of global warming.

Just in the past few weeks, two separate studies by groups of scientists concluded that the melting of large glaciers in Antarctica is unstoppable, and that a large increase in sea level is inevitable.

With Congress mired in dysfunction, the EPA’s new regulations mark the most significant effort in years by the United States to show leadership in the battle against global warming.

It might not be much. It might not last. But at least it’s something.

In the meantime, work to help the nation adapt to a warmer world should continue at a brisk pace. Even if the EPA regulations go into effect exactly as planned, Americans will still need new tools to cope with climate change.


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