Clean Power Plan: Pushing the States for Renewable Energy

On August 3, 2015, President Barack Obama announced a Clean Power Plan in the U.S. to reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by 32% from what they were in 2005 by the year 2030. How? Well, the main way is for each state to devise a plan that will implement more renewable energy sources for electricity production. This means weaning off our usage of coal-powered plants, and adapting to more renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has listed CO2 credit incentives in its Clean Power Plan, which will allow for a more inexpensive transition from shutting down coal plants to initiating solar and wind projects. Failure to provide a plan that will effectively cut carbon emissions will result in a plan imposed by the government, which will go into effect by 2022.


CO2 and Global Warming

The whole controversy around eliminating energy sources that emit high levels of greenhouse gases stems from its pollution and the effect on global warming. Greenhouse gases get emitted into the air, and trap heat close to Earth’s surface. The main greenhouse gas that impacts man-made global warming is CO2. In 2013, it was reported that 82% of CO2 emissions were a result from human activity, with 37% due to the production of electricity through the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. Transportation came in second, with 31% of CO2 emissions stemming from the combustion of gasoline and diesel. This goes to show that the most effective way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce fossil fuel consumption by using alternative uses of energy: wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and nuclear, to name a few.


Pennsylvania and the Clean Power Plan

There will be many legalities and political debates over the Clean Power Plan, and it will be the hottest topic until its full implementation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2013, Pennsylvania was the fourth largest coal-producer in the U.S., which produces more than one third of Pennsylvania’s electricity. It’s also said that the state emits the third-highest amount of CO2 from its power plants.


There are mixed reactions from Pennsylvanians about the Clean Power Plan. Those against the plan fear of higher electricity costs for consumers, and the loss of jobs due to the shutdown of coal plants. John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance believes that instead of mandating carbon emission cuts, the EPA should make incentives for new, efficient coal-producing plants to be built. Others praise Obama’s Clean Power Plan, like Governor Tom Wolf. Wolf stated, “Clean coal is a part of our energy portfolio, as is natural gas, solar, wind, and other sources of power, and all of this has to be part of a comprehensive strategy.”


Coal-producing power plants will have the opportunity to switch their energy source from coal to a lower carbon fuel, like natural gas or biomass. Another alternative for coal-producing plants is the implementation of a plan to improve plant efficiency, but I doubt all of the coal-procuding plants in Pennsylvania will have this opportunity. The likely shutdown or conversion of some from coal to natural gas will most likely take place to meet the Clean Power Plan’s standards, but I don’t believe Pennsylvania’s coal industry will be completely diminished.