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Coal Industry Should Celebrate New EPA Guidelines

March 27th, 2012 · 1 Comment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced guidelines for new power plants for providing Americans electricity into the future. This move was required by a Supreme Court decision from five years ago. In short, these standards demand that new power plants be a bit less polluting, in carbon dioxide terms, than the average of current U.S. electricity generation. In 2006, the average US megawatt hour of electricity totaled 1363 pounds of CO2 (pdf). In 2010, electricity sources emitted 1,297 lbs CO2 per mWh. The proposed standard would be to set future power plants a bit better than today’s average (which, includes, after all, many over 50-year power plants).

Now, this rule set did not demand that new power plants meet the life-cycle carbon of nuclear power plants, wind turbines, or solar pv on the rooftop but set it within the range of existing fossil fuel (natural gas) power plant emissions.

For decades, the coal industry has been emphasizing “clean coal” and how continued (expanded) use of coal would meet the nation’s economic, energy, and environmental requirements.

The proposed Environmental Protection Agency ruleset has opened the door for the industry to show that their $10s of millions in advertising about clean coal have not just been power-point thin Potemkin Villages but represent reality.

Recommended:  David Roberts’ discussion about five key things to know about the new EPA guidelines and his discussion of implications for existing power plants.

NOTE: Putting in rules that comply with Supreme Court decisions and the law merit applauding, especially since they are being put in place in the face of a loud and determined machine that will falsely claim that these rules will raise electricity prices and cause electricity shortfalls. Not true … However, the question is when we will see rule sets — across the country — to address existing polluting plants.

Update: PSEG’s chairman issued a statement:

“While we would have preferred that Congress enact legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA took an important step today in addressing the significant environmental threat posed by climate change.

“The Agency’s action establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner.   “We understand that the EPA continues to evaluate regulatory options for already existing plants that may be affected by the Clean Air Act and we look forward to working with the Agency to evaluate the best approaches for achieving meaningful greenhouse gas reductions in as flexible and economic manner as possible.”

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 John Egan // Mar 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    The total GHG footprint of unconventional gas may actually be greater than coal – given depth of vertical drilling, horizontal drilling, and fracking pressurization – not to mention residual escaped methane, a far more potent GHG than CO2. But, hey.

    Yes, would be interesting to have a fully-burdened GHG analysis rather than ‘simply’ the co2 per kWh at the plant.

    Plus the use of gas for baseload is more than imprudent – given its potential future need for specialized energy uses.