Think tank: US bid to cut CO2 from power plants likely to fail

04 October 2013 09:40  [Source: ICB]

The renewed US effort to force sharp reductions in carbon emissions by coal-fired power plants likely will fail because the regulatory mandate depends on carbon capture technologies that even the White House admits are not viable.

But that won’t stop the administration from trying. Amid a broad and vociferous chorus of industry objections and criticism, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its revised proposed rule establishing limits on carbon emissions by new power plants.


 No new coal-fired power plants will be built in the US

Copyright: Rex Features

The proposed rule sets a limit of 1,000lb (454kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per gigawatt hour (GWh) for planned electric utilities powered by natural gas. And any future coal-fired facility would face a cap of 1,100lb/GWh.

Carbon emissions of even the most modern coal-fired power plants are nearly twice that level.

Comments and opposition voiced by a wide variety of industries and multiple state governments contend that the only way that new coal-fired power plants can meet the EPA’s proposed limits would be to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, which have yet to be proved on a commercial or economical scale.

The consequence, they argue, is that the EPA has effectively banned any future coal-fired power generation.

US petrochemical producers, downstream chemical makers and a broad array of other manufacturers and industries have slammed the new proposed rule, charging that it will raise electricity costs, impede manufacturing and drive up the cost of natural gas.

Electric utility officials also charge that the new EPA rule – to be made final perhaps by early next year – will have no impact on the global climate, will almost certainly not survive judicial review and relies on carbon capture technology that simply is not available.

By proposing to essentially bar any new coal-fired power generating facilities, the EPA is moving to force a shift to carbon capture technologies no matter what.

Myron Ebell, a senior energy analyst at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), argues that even if EPA’s CO2 limits on coal-fired power plants eventually are overturned in federal court, the damage will have been done.

“During the several years it will take to finalise the rule and then to overturn it in federal court, no electric utility will invest in planning or building a new coal-fired power plant,” he said. “American consumers and manufacturers will be denied the benefits of the low-cost electricity produced by coal.”

By: Joe Kamalick
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