EPA power plant CO2 standards

Potentially big news: “Proposed new [EPA] emissions standards would limit carbon dioxide produced by new power plants, which would probably prohibit construction of any coal-fired facilities

3 thoughts on “EPA power plant CO2 standards

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    “The proposed rules would require new plants to emit a maximum of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. The newest natural-gas-fired power plants emit about 800 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour. New coal plants emit between 1,600 and 1,900 pounds per megawatt hour.”

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    In my post on the new EPA carbon pollution rule, I drew attention to an important distinction: The rule issued today governs new power plants only; carbon pollution from existing power plants has not yet been regulated.

    This matters a great deal. Today’s rule effectively means there will be no more coal plants built in the U.S., but that was more or less a fait accompli due to market forces. What to do about existing plants is in many ways a more fraught and important question. It could have much larger effects on near-term pollution from the power sector.

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    Regulating carbon emissions
    A blow to coal
    New rules look set to speed the move from coal to natural gas

    BARACK OBAMA likes to say that he has an “all of the above” energy policy. But it is hard to see how one fuel, at least, has much of a future under the restrictions on emissions of greenhouse gases from new power plants set out by his administration this week. The proposed limit, of 1000lb (454kg) of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity generated, would in practice bar the construction of any new facilities powered by coal.

    In theory, the rules make an effort to accommodate future coal-fired plants, by allowing them to exceed the emissions cap for the next ten years, provided that they subsequently make up the difference by installing especially effective pollution controls. That is a bureaucratic way of admitting that the technology needed to limit emissions, by extracting carbon dioxide from power plants’ smokestacks and storing it underground, is not yet commercially viable.

    The problem is that carbon capture and storage (CCS), as the technology is known, is not likely to be commercially viable in ten years’ time either. Thanks to new techniques that have made it possible to extract natural gas relatively cheaply from shale beds in recent years, America’s domestic gas supply has increased dramatically and prices have slumped. Gas is also a less climate-threatening fuel than coal: efficient new gas plants can easily meet the proposed carbon-emissions standard. That makes the already questionable economics of CCS seem downright implausible.

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