Energy – Phasing out Coal

In an surprisingly bright move, US President Obama set ambitious emission targets (1,000lbs of carbon dioxide for each megawatt hour) for new power plants, which will basically prevent the construction of new coal power plants. The only fossil energy source that may be able (depending on how gas leaks are factored in) to comply with the new regulation is natural gas, which is booming thanks to the fracking technology.

Brightnews! Mr. Obama is basically heading into the right direction, acting against greenhouse gas emissions without favouring a particular energy source. Still, this approach has a few shortcomings.

First: natural gas production receives a preferential treatment and it will be very hard to limit the use of fracking technology. While some may welcome the arrival of US energy independence, there are many reasons to doubt the environmental and economic sustainability of fracking. The technology firms still hold back information on used chemicals and there are numerous reports of poisoned freshwater sources in fracking areas.

Second: CO2-emissions are regulated but still lack a proper price tag. Natural gas may be better but it still contributes to Climate Change and the regulation does not help the development of the green industry. It would have been preferable to make utilities (and car owners by the way) pay for CO2 emissions. The effect for coal based power plants would have been the same, but renewables would have been given the edge over natural gas and energy consumers would have invested in efficiency measures, creating millions of jobs in the green economy. Moreover, billions of Dollars raised could have been given back to consumers or used to tackle the federal deficit.

Conclusion. One, but half-hearted step towards a low-carbon economy. Others have to follow.

Source: The Guardian

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