Powering the South Topic of Report

A study released Tuesday by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) calls for efficiency and clean energy technology such as wind power to reduce air pollution in six southern states by more than 200 million tons during the next 18 years.

WASHINGTON, D.C. 2002-03-07 [SolarAccess.com]   The study, titled “Powering the South,” was presented at a Capital Hill briefing and said the combined output of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen from electric power plants could reach about 650 million tons per year by 2020 under Energy Department growth projections.   Such a “business as usual” trend would represent an increase of more than one-third over power plant emissions estimated at 485 million tons in 2000.   But with increasing energy efficiency and use of wind power, biomass fuels and other clean energy sources, emissions between 2000 and 2020 could actually decrease by about 9 percent to about 441 million tons a year without adversely affecting economic growth, authors of the study said.   How to deal with pollution that pours out of America’s electric power plant smokestacks has become an increasingly contentious issue since Feb. 14, when President George W. Bush proposed his “Clear Skies Initiative” to change the way the Environmental Protection Agency regulates power plants.   Instead of plant-by-plant limits on sulfur and nitrogen pollutants, Bush said the country would pursue a strategy of placing nationwide emission limits on these substances, while allowing market forces to determine how the goal is reached. Individual power plants would be allowed to buy and sell credits for pollution reduction under the “cap and trade” plan, Bush said.      Environmental and health advocacy groups such as the National Lung Association and the Clean Air Trust insist Bush’s plan would cause pollution levels to grow, while allowing the electric power industry to avoid millions of dollars of cleanup costs.   The REPP study does not try to settle differences over the president’s proposal. Based on what one of its authors calls “aggressive but reasonable assumptions,” it attempts to project pollution reductions that could be achieved through policy steps in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.       The project receives funding from the Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a number of foundations.   Among its recommendations are: creation of state energy efficiency funds through utility bill surcharges of 0.2 cent per kilowatt hour. The funds would be used to help finance energy efficiency; energy efficiency education and marketing initiatives and tax incentives; tightened building codes, improved utility planning requirements and increased energy efficiency by governments   Other suggestions include: allowing consumers to opt for “green power,” creating state Renewable Energy funds and establishing environmental standards for “distributed generation” to make sure individual electricity generators use clean power sources like solar power and wind power, rather than high-pollution technologies such as diesel generators; regulating emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief “greenhouse gas,” seen responsible for the bulk of the increased tendency of the atmosphere to trap radiation and heat up the planet, and ending “grandfathering” provisions that exempt scores of old electric power plants in the six states from the federal Clean Air Act.   “Our recommendations are intended as a menu of possible steps states could take,” said Frederic Beck, research director of REPP. “That way, individual states or advocate groups could choose the ones they want to concentrate on.”

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