The Obama Administration's "new source" standards for carbon emissions basically bans the construction of any new coal plants unless they have a genuinely working CCS system in place. With the costs and questions so difficult, it is hard to anticipate any such new coal plant being built. But, as the article points out, power companies and taxpayers are spending billions of dollars to develop CCS systems for existing plants.
MCEA has been pretty skeptical about CCS. Our view is that power companies should use the same money to transition away from coal altogether. We should accelerate the retirement of coal plants, not try to keep them open longer.
The big argument on the other side is that experts say we will be dependent on coal for many more decades, and so we need to invest in finding ways to clean up coal plants. Those predictions--and they show up in the Times article--are, however, typically based, on what will happen if we continue the status quo, and, in our view, they seriously understate the economic and technological feasibility of moving away from coal faster.
The poll results can be seen here.
MPR reports on a new study from the University of Minnesota showing how the conversion of grasslands to crop land poses a dramatic threat to our drinking water supplies because of contamination from nitrogen-based fertilizer. The evidence is getting overwhelming; the key now is to convince state government actors to take the necessary steps to change farming practices.
Friday's New York Times has a nice piece summarizing Minnesota's success in reducing carbon emissions in the last decade. Maybe the most important part is the "without much straining" comment in the headline. Minnesota has had, if not a perfect, at least a decent storm of coincidences that have helped get those numbers down--a severe recession, several old, dirty coal plants due to retire, and significant price drops for natural gas and renewables like solar and wind. Now comes the hard part. Minnesota's economic growth level is picking up, natural gas prices can be expected to rise, and the coal plants still on line are newer, involve more sunk costs, and decisions to close rather than retrofit will be harder for the utilities to make. The laws are in good shape; the question is whether regulators will have the political will to keep pushing those carbon numbers down.
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
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St. Paul, MN 55101 | (651) 223 - 5969