Three charts explaining Obama's energy regulations

President Barack Obama on Monday debuted sweeping regulations meant to address the growing threat of climate change. The new rules would significantly reduce climate-changing emissions from U.S. power plants and push the nation's electricity industry to become more environmentally friendly.

"Climate change is not a problem for another generation," Obama said in a Facebook video posted over the weekend. He called the new regulations "the biggest, most important step we've ever taken to combat climate change."

Where it comes from

Although coal has been losing market share to cheaper natural gas in recent years, it still accounts for about 40 percent of the nation's electricity. Obama's plan is expected to reduce that dependence, pushing companies toward greener energy sources.

The president's Clean Power Plan will restrict the amount of pollution that each state's power plants can put into the air, and will encourage energy producers to invest in renewable energy. While the share of the nation's electricity that comes from wind power has grown to 5 percent in the last decade, solar energy still has never breached the 1 percent mark.

The new rules are also expected to expedite the shift from coal to natural gas.

Same energy, fewer emissions

The new regulations, which the president said were two years in the making, would mark the most ambitious step ever taken by the United States to combat climate-changing emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 would be cut by 32 percent from 2005 levels, preventing more than 800 million tons of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere.

"We're the first generation of Americans who can feel the effects of climate change, and the last generation that can do anything about it." said Obama in an address announcing the plan Monday.

Natural gas releases a little more than half as much carbon pollution for each kilowatt-hour produced. For reference, it takes about one kilowatt-hour to run a vacuum for an hour or watch television for 10 hours.

Canary in a coal mine

The new rules add a further complication for the coal industry, which once produced more than half the nation's electricity, but which is suffering through layoffs and bankruptcies.

Alpha Natural Resources, the fourth-largest coal producer in the country, filed for Chapter 11 protection on Monday, just hours before Obama's announcement of the new rules. Since January, at least six other U.S. coal producers have filed for bankruptcy protection, according to The New York Times.

Electricity that's generated from natural gas, which is cheaper to produce and burns cleaner than coal, grew more than 51 percent over a decade to more than a trillion kilowatt-hours in 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration. Renewable sources have also gained ground in recent years.

As of July, the First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Energy Index Fund (QCLN), which tracks green companies like SolarCity and First Solar, is up 26 percent over three years. In contrast, FactSet's U.S. coal industry index fund lost 26 percent over that time period.