Experts at the New York-based environmental advocacy group the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) have issued what it claims is a groundbreaking proposal to sharply cut carbon pollution from America's power plants.
The NRDC has called on the US Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to set standards for existing power plants—America's largest source of carbon emissions that fuel climate change—that it said could cut millions of tonnes of carbon emissions and create thousands of clean energy jobs.
The proposal, outlined at the National Press Club in Washington, would enable states and electricity plant owners to use a wide range of existing technologies, including renewable energy sources, to meet carbon pollution standards in the most cost-effective way.
States would also have broad flexibility to design their own plans to meet the standards.
Under the NRDC's proposal, the EPA would use Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to set state-specific carbon emission rates that reflect the diversity of the nation's electricity sector and fuel mix. Broad compliance flexibility would enable power plant owners and states to reduce emissions through cost-effective means that could be accomplished by:
-Reducing an individual plant's carbon emissions by improving combustion efficiency, burning cleaner fuels or installing carbon capture and storage;
-Shifting generation from high-emitting to lower- or zero-emitting plants. Lower emitting sources such as gas, wind and solar would earn credits that other plants could use, to reduce average emissions rates;
-Expanding energy efficiency. State energy-efficiency programmes could earn credits for avoiding power generation and its pollution. Generators could purchase those credits to use toward their emissions targets.
Peter Lehner, NRDC's Executive Director, said: “The President put climate change on the national agenda, and NRDC's plan shows how the United States can make big reductions in carbon pollution that drive climate change, with a flexible approach that promotes clean energy investments and delivers big benefits for Americans' health.”
Lehner added: “This year's ravaging heat waves, drought, wildfires and Superstorm Sandy underscore why the nation must tackle head-on the biggest source of dangerous carbon pollution now.”
NRDC said its proposal clearly demonstrates how the United States can dramatically reduce pollution from power plants that are responsible for 40 percent of the nation's carbon pollution.
“We are overturning the conventional wisdom that reducing carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act would be ineffective and expensive,” said Dan Lashof, NRDC's Director of Climate and Clean Air programs, and a principal author of the plan.
“We show that the EPA can work with states and power companies to make large pollution reductions, by setting system-wide standards, rather than smokestack-by-smokestack ones, and by giving power companies and states the freedom to choose the most cost-saving means of compliance.
“The impact is huge: our proposal would eliminate hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution, save thousands of lives and stimulate a surge in clean energy and energy efficiency investments,” Lashof said, “all at a lower cost than many would expect.”