Big win for MCEA, big win for Minnesota today. Today, Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter, after months and months of hearings, briefs, and expert reports, recommended to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that it adopt the federal "social cost of carbon" as the binding external cost of carbon emissions for all electric utility decision making. That means that the PUC (and the utilities who need the PUC to bless their plans) will have to include those negative external costs in their calculations, and it will make carbon-intensive forms of electricity generation much more difficult to justify on economic terms.
Too often, environmentalists get derided as blissed-out flower children who don't understand hard economic realities. Well, not so much. When a power plant puts a ton of carbon in the air, we all pay a real economic price that ought to be borne by the utility. Internalizing negative external costs through public policy is something even free-market conservatives endorse, and today Minnesota took another step toward getting that right, at least for electricity generation.
Next stop for this is the PUC. Next step from a policy perspective should be a more serious discussion about shifting toward a carbon tax, based on this kind of economic analysis.