New Technologies Demand Better Policies

Posted by Mike Duncan at 9:15 am, May 08, 2013

Originally posted on National Journal’s Energy Expert Blog :

When it comes to coal, technology is a game-changer. Over the past several decades, emissions from American coal plants are down 90 percent thanks to the more than $100 billion dollars invested in new technologies by America’s coal industry. Unfortunately, the policies coming out of the federal and many state governments do not reflect the transformation occurring in our industry.

The EPA and some state agencies frequently take the bait laid by special interest groups promoting a political agenda that ignores the role that technology has played in making sources such as coal cleaner than ever. They overlook the fact that affordable and reliable electricity impacts not only our nation’s economy, but also the family budget.

So instead of pursuing balanced policies that protect the environment and strengthen the economy, we end up with excessive policies that seek to limit America’s energy options. This is evident with the Nucla Power Plant in Colorado. Thanks to new technologies, this is one of the lowest mercury-emitting coal plants in the country. Yet the EPA’s new rules on mercury could shut it down. This is not an isolated problem. A recent published report found that more than 280 coal-fueled generation units are scheduled to be shutdown due at least in part to EPA regulations.

This is happening at the state level too. In Colorado, some state legislators are seeking to more than double the renewable energy standards for the state’s utilities, which would increase costs for consumers. The city of Los Angeles is proposing to move the city away from coal-based electricity two years before a state-imposed deadline. Last month, the city’s ratepayer advocate reported that such a move could cost more than $600 million dollars.

Responsible policymakers recognize the promise of clean coal technology, and pursue policies that allow American to take advantage of our massive volumes of coal. Much progress has been made in clean coal technology, but the future is even more promising. Last month, GE Power and Water unveiled a new filtration technology for coal plants that is both stronger and more efficient. Earlier this year, researchers at Ohio State University were able to run a scaled-down coal plant while capturing 99 percent of carbon dioxide.

Twenty-first century technologies demand 21st century policies. Instead, we’re getting a stream of policies based on 20th century policies. Coal and clean coal technology must play an important role in meeting our future energy demands. The question is our government pursuing the balanced approach necessary to ensuring that it can?

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