Bill Ritter: EPA’s Rules for New Coal Plants make sense
June 12, 2012
Colorado’s natural beauty draws visitors from around the world. Every day, we see the clear connection between the health of our citizens, the health of our environment, and the health of our economy. Unfortunately, national public debate is often dominated by the claim that we must choose between a clean environment and economic prosperity – the idea being that protecting our environment will jeopardize U.S. businesses and job creation. Well, this simply isn’t true.
The EPA’s recently proposed carbon pollution standard shows how the correct balance can be struck. The new rule won’t just limit dangerous industrial carbon pollution from new power plants, it will encourage a market-based transition to a clean-energy economy, one that boosts investment and creates jobs nationwide.
The new EPA standard requires any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. The typical U.S. natural gas-fired power plant emits 800 pounds to 850 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, which meets the standard. For any new coal plant, the EPA rule sets a time frame for achieving compliance with this new standard. The EPA’s approach will be an effective driver to develop and deploy cost-competitive carbon capture and storage. Without this emissions standard for carbon emissions, carbon capture and storage technology would remain cost-prohibitive.
Coal-burning power plants are the largest source of air pollution in our country. So, it’s welcome news indeed to see our nation moving forward with clean-air standards that limit harmful carbon pollution from new coal plants. The proposed emission standards for carbon pollution will unleash smart investments in cleaner, homegrown energy that will limit dangerous pollution and build a modern clean-energy economy for the 21st century. This means the U.S. can take its place as a legitimate player in the global clean-energy market, estimated to be $2.3 trillion in the next decade. Finally, strengthening our domestically produced clean-energy supply also will provide us greater energy independence and security. And many jobs created by clean energy are guaranteed to stay domestic, in that they involve construction, installation, operation and maintenance of power plants located on our shores.
Business support for carbon rules and other clean-air standards is strong. According to a national poll, 76 percent of small-business employers support the EPA regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, refineries and other major emitters. Businesses understand that regulatory certainty creates market signals that drive investment. Investing in cleaner technologies and more efficient resources can be a pathway to profit and prosperity, boosting economic growth and creating jobs while providing competitive returns to investors.
Some have incorrectly claimed this proposal will jeopardize electricity reliability and raise electricity prices. Not so. Recent projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and current market dynamics show the proposed carbon standard for new power plants will neither affect the reliability of the electric system nor lead to price increases. In fact, companies haven’t broken ground on a new conventional coal plant in the U.S. since 2008, and the EPA projects that except for plants already in the pipeline, no new coal plants will be built until about 2020. At the moment, new investment in coal plants are cost-prohibitive because of low wholesale electricity prices, reduced demand for electricity, historically low natural-gas prices and rising coal prices. Industry analysts forecast that America’s needs for new electricity supplies during the coming decade will be met by a combination of energy efficiency, natural-gas plants and renewable energy such as wind and solar. The bottom line is that companies can provide all the electricity we need while meeting this common-sense emissions standard.
Americans know that clean air and clean energy aren’t red-state or blue-state issues. Instead, they’re bipartisan, a solution that produces healthier communities and stronger economy.
In Colorado, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to deliver a steady flow of cost-effective clean energy that protects public health and creates jobs. The same can be achieved in other states, too.
The EPA’s proposed Carbon Pollution Standard was published April 13 in the Federal Register, which started the clock for a 60-day comment period – a chance for businesses and consumers to express their support for the EPA’s effort to limit industrial carbon pollution. The EPA needs to hear from business leaders to understand that this rule will spur innovation in clean-energy technology, create jobs and produce cleaner air.
Ritter is a former governor of Colorado and director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. He is also an advisory board member of the American Sustainable Business Council.
This article previously appeared in The Hill.