Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social Sciences


Political Science

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Pytell


In the early 1990s many scientists claimed that there was a scientific consensus that the anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases was causing global warming. Carbon dioxide is produced in far greater quantities than other greenhouse gases. Over 80 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the United States comes from coal-fired power plants. If global warming is a threat to the welfare and survival of future generations, the United States, as one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases,has an obligation to reduce its production of these gases.

In order to determine the most effective way to reduce the production of greenhouse gases in the United States, this study examines recent efforts by the Clinton and Obama administrations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.The Clinton and Obama administrations were selected for this study because both administrations were Democratic, and both had avowed political agendas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For the first two years each administration enjoyed the support of Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, and they had similar political support for the remainder of their time in office.

This study will show that President Obama’s executive approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants has been more effective than the legislative approach of the Clinton administration. The study will indicate that a scientific consensus about anthropogenic global warming and the political will to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants did not exist during the 1990s. The study also shows that, despite the effectiveness of the Obama administration in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, there are many problems with the executive approach to the problem. The study suggests that the Clean Air Act has ceded to much legislative power to the Executive branch of government, and that success in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants is too dependent on the will of the Executive.