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James Burgess

James Burgess

James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…

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New EPA Rules Seek to Usher in Coal-less Era

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published new regulations that aim in the long-term to shut down old polluting coal plants and prevent the building of new ones.

On 2 January, the Obama administration released the details of the new regulations, published by the EPA in their final version on 3 January, which are intended to make it easier to pursue new technology that would allow for the cleaner operation of new coal-fired plants.

The new EPA rules seek to remove obstacles to the implementation of carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) technology, without which coal plants will not be able to meet new emission standards meant to combat climate change.

“EPA expects that this amendment will substantially reduce the uncertainty associated with identifying these CO2 streams under RCRA subtitle C, and will also facilitate the deployment of (geologic sequestration) by providing additional regulatory certainty,” the 58-page rule states.

The rules have engendered partisan sentiments, with Republicans and allied business groups referring to them as part of the all-out war on coal and criticizing carbon capture technology as embryonic at best, while Democrats and supporters of the measures say they are essential to halting worsening climate change.

CSS technology is the idea of capturing carbon emissions before they are released from plants and injecting them underground for long-term storage through geologic sequestration.

While environmentalists have largely supported the Obama administration’s moves to clean up coal, some note that the eventual shut down of US coal plants in the face of growing US coal exports simply means that the EPA is shifting the global emissions problem to other countries more dependent on coal.

According to Politico, the new rules will result in a sharp drop in the economic viability of coal-fired power, which is already on the decline, dropping from nearly half of the US power market in 2008 to about 37% today, while industry analysts say hundreds of older coal-fired units will shut down for good in the next few years.  

There is significant—again partisan—disagreement about what will happen as a result of the EPA’s efforts to minimize the use of dirty coal on the US energy equation.

Laura Sheehan, a senior vice president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, was quoted as saying that dozens of states will see “dire social, economic and electric reliability consequences of taking coal offline.”

On the other side of the divide, Politico quoted Jennifer Macedonia of the Bipartisan Policy Center as saying that the reverberations—at least for the consumer—will be minimal. “While many coal plants are expected to close, for a variety of reasons we are unlikely to fee it at the light switch,” she said.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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