The “New Source Review” regulation administered by the U.S. EPA and supported by many environmental groups is a sham.
Some of the more extreme environmentalist, who are working to totally get the U.S. “off” from any use of carbon including coal. These groups are being intellectually dishonest when they insist that renewables can immediately replace coal which accounts for 50% of the electricity produced in the U.S. at prices that help to make our manufacturing sector cost competitive with foreign companies.
Currently renewables minus hydro equal at most, about 4% of our needs and they are not reliable as a base load due to their dependence upon external factors such as wind and sun! To ensure we have electricity when we turn on the light switch or maintain medical equipment, we need a base load that is reliable. At this time, renewables do not afford that reliability. Therefore, to advocate we can do away with coal is dishonest.
Coal fired power plants have the ability to develop more efficient operations but are precluded from doing so because of the “New Source Review” regulation. This requires any non maintenance improvement at a facility to make additional improvements which are prohibitive due to the high costs versus simply investing in the efficiency only upgrade. This needs to be changed because the environment is missing out on some easy low hanging chances to reduce carbon emissions due to the rule which is considered sacrosanct to the “environmental” community.
To gain a perspective of the scale of coal’s opportunity to contribute, consider this: if we were to improve the efficiency of the existing coal power-generation fleet by only one percentage point, that is to increase from 32% to 33% efficiency (which is well within the present technology’s capability to do), we would save more energy than we would gain by expanding existing wind generation capacity twelve fold! This increase in efficiency would also result in a 3% reduction in CO2 released from coal-powered generation for the same amount of power delivered.
Going further, if we aggressively improve efficiency by 4 or 5 percentage points, then emissions could fall by 25 MMmt 0, or about 13% of last year’s CO2 emissions from coal power (n.b. another example of why reducing carbon intensity is a worthwhile goal, but stymied by NSR problems).
Extrememist in the environmental movement don’t want incremental, practical change. Chaos, controversy and excessive pollution helps their cause…and hurts our society and environment. Their “politics” of extremism is bad for America and bad for the world we will leave behind to our children.
So when you hear them pitch their new “Cap & Trade” policies, the devil is in the details and for all practical purposed, Cap & Trade is designed to be one of the biggest tax hikes in America’s history. If they really wanted to see carbon emissions reduced, there are practical alternatives available now!
You can see the whole report on the effects of reducing carbon emissions here: http://www.netl.doe.gov/energy-analyses/pubs/CFPP%20Efficiency-FINAL.pdf