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NYT : New rules for new power plants

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Editorial

Power plants account for about 40 percent of America's global warming emissions with the bulk of that coming from coal-fired plants. On Tuesday, the Obama administration took another important step for public health and the environment, proposing the first nationwide limits on carbon dioxide from new power plants. If approved, the new limits will accelerate the shift from coal to natural gas and cleaner alternative fuels.

The proposed rule says that any new power plant cannot emit more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. The average coal plant emits about 1,600 pounds, while the average natural gas plant emits about 800 pounds. The rule would seem to doom any new coal-fired power that lacks the costly technology (now in its infancy) to trap carbon dioxide before it leaves the smokestack and bury it. Gas-fired plants now on the drawing boards can easily meet the new standards.

In 2005, forecasters at the Energy Information Administration predicted an inexorable 37 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions by 2025. All they could see was more sport-utility vehicles driven more miles and more electricity produced by more coal. Arresting that trend seemed impossible when Congress threw in the towel on climate legislation in 2010, leaving the task of reducing emissions almost entirely to the states and the E.P.A.'s regulatory apparatus.

Now the Energy Information Administration is predicting that emissions in 2025 will be 6 percent below what they were in 2005. Some of that is obviously because of the economic slowdown. But some is because of market forces that have encouraged the switch to cleaner fuels, and some to smart policy choices. Over the last year, for instance, the Obama administration has proposed fuel economy standards that are intended to reduce carbon dioxide from cars and light trucks by nearly half by 2025. California and a few other states been pushing their utilities to buy more power from alternative sources.

The announcement on new carbon dioxide limits for power plants continues this encouraging trend. But it is only a proposal. The coal and power industries, and the climate-change deniers, will try to derail it, in Congress or the courts. The administration must stand its ground.


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The New York Times   is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any news organization. Its website is the most popular American online newspaper website, receiving more than 30 million unique visitors per month. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.

Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by NYT, on March 28, 2012 . Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.

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Petroleumworld News 03/29/2011

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