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Cutting carbon from US power plants could deliver $63 billion in benefits

Date
28 March 2014
Cutting carbon from US power plants could deliver $63 billion in benefits

NEW YORK: Carbon pollution could be cut by up to 700 million tons annually from 2020 if the US government follows a new environmental plan proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The NRDC’s plan suggests that between 470 and 700 million tons of carbon emissions - the equivalent output of 95 to 130 million vehicles - could be eliminated from US power plants by adopting measures set out in its new report.

The proposal, which is an updated analysis of its 2012 report, argues that the deployment of such a strategy could result in US$28-63 billion in medical and environmental benefits.

By tackling carbon emissions of power plants today, the NRDC calculated that over 17,000 asthma attacks and thousands of premature deaths could be prevented annually by 2020.

The environmental action group indicate these advantages are considerably greater than the costs associated with putting first-ever limits on carbon pollution.

NRDC’s Executive Director Peter Lehner, emphasized the universal gains which the plan presents: “Today, while we limit sulfur and mercury emissions from power plants, there are no national limits on the vast amounts of carbon pollution these plants emit. That’s driving destructive climate change and putting future generations at grave risk. NRDC’s new analysis demonstrates that there are cheaper, cleaner and more routes to substantially reduce this dangerous pollution. They would eliminate billions of tons of carbon pollution from our air; create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs and deliver benefits of up to $63 billion in 2020—6 times greater than the cost.”

The updated proposal is particularly timely given that by June this year the nation’s 1,000 existing power plants will be subject to standards developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The NRDC believe that their roadmap for power plants could be a useful tool in designing these standards.

Under the conditions laid out in the NRDC 2012 report, each state would be bound to a carbon limit based on its current fuel mix. However, the states and power plant companies would have ‘maximum flexibility’ in deciding how they meet the standards, for instance energy efficiency strategies could be championed, the NRDC elucidates.

Furthermore, the non-profit group asserts that this formula has the capacity to stimulate renewable energy and energy efficiency investments in the region of US$52-121 billion between now and 2020.

Evan Juska, Head of US Policy at The Climate Group, commented. "In order for the US to meet its short-term emission reduction target of 17% by 2020, it needs to significantly cut carbon from the power sector. The NRDC analysis demonstrates that the power plant standards put forward in President Obama's Climate Action Plan can deliver those reductions, along with major health benefits."

"The big questions now are how ambitious the Administration will be in setting the standards; and whether the courts will ultimately uphold them."

Related News:

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Obama State of the Union: "Our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet"

Stanford scientist shows how each US state could run on 100% renewables by 2050

By Alana Ryan

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