Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Writer examines the impact proposed rules to cut CO2 emissions by 30% will have on Nebraska

In a good example of localizing a national story, Fred Knapp, a reporter with Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, takes a look at how the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rules to cut CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030 from existing power plants based on emission levels from 2005 will impact Nebraska. Only Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky had higher rates of carbon dioxide emissions than Nebraska in 2012. Nebraska will be required to cut emissions by 26.4 percent—from 2,009 pounds per megawatt hour in 2012 to the proposed figure of 1,479 lb/MWh in 2030. The rules vary by state. Here's a state-by-state list.

"EPA wants Nebraska to cut its rate of carbon emissions by more than a quarter over the next decade and a half. That’s raising questions about the future of plants like Gerald Gentleman," which EPA says releases more than 9 million tons of greenhouse gas every year, Knapp writes. (Knapp photo: Gerald Gentleman Station)

"EPA has suggested several things states could do to reach the targeted reductions," Knapp writes. "They could improve the plant’s efficiency—but (CEO Pat) Pope says Gerald Gentleman’s already operating efficiently. They could switch coal plants to natural gas—but (Nebraska Public Power District) says there aren’t enough pipelines in central Nebraska right now to do that. Or they could use more non-fossil sources, including renewables, like wind. But there are tradeoffs to that as well."

"NPPD spokesman Mark Becker says wind is less reliable than coal," Knapp writes. "Becker points to a computer showing that one of the district’s wind farms is generating about half of its maximum capacity, compared to 95 to 100 percent for the coal plant. It’s also still cheaper to generate electricity with coal—about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 5 cents for wind, even after wind’s 2 cent per kilowatt hour tax subsidy. But developments like the EPA’s proposed carbon reductions could make burning coal more expensive."

"One other strategy suggested by the EPA would be for consumers to use less energy," Knapp writes. "Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality, working with the utilities and other state agencies, is supposed to come up with a plan which could also include other strategies, subject to EPA approval. But as NPPD’s environmental manager Joe Citta told Pope, his boss, the process is just getting started." Citta told Knapp, “We’re starting into a big coordination and unification process to see how we can make this work in Nebraska." (Read more)

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