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Bill Ritter: Pollution rules help environment, economy

  • Published Friday, June 15, 2012, at 4:52 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, June 16, 2012, at 6:57 a.m.

Colorado’s natural beauty draws visitors from around the world. Every day we see the clear connection between the health of our citizens, the health of our environment and the health of our economy. Unfortunately, national public debate is often dominated by the claim that we must choose between a clean environment and economic prosperity – the idea being that protecting our environment will jeopardize U.S. businesses and job creation.

This simply isn’t true.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed carbon pollution standard shows how the correct balance can be struck. The new rule won’t just limit dangerous industrial carbon pollution from new power plants. It will encourage a market-based transition to a clean-energy economy, one that boosts investment and creates jobs nationwide.

The new EPA standard requires any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. The typical U.S. natural gas-fired power plant emits 800 to 850 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, which meets the standard.

For any new coal plant, the EPA rule sets a time frame for achieving compliance with this new standard. The EPA’s approach will be an effective driver to develop and deploy cost-competitive carbon capture and storage. Without this emissions standard for carbon emissions, carbon capture and storage technology would remain cost-prohibitive.

Coal-burning power plants are the largest source of air pollution in our country. So it’s welcome news indeed to see our nation moving forward with clean-air standards that limit harmful carbon pollution from new coal plants.

The proposed emission standards for carbon pollution will unleash smart investments in cleaner, homegrown energy that will limit dangerous pollution and build a modern clean-energy economy for the 21st century. This means that the U.S. can take its place as a legitimate player in the global clean-energy market, estimated to be $2.3 trillion in the next decade.

Recent projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and current market dynamics show that the proposed carbon standard for new power plants will neither affect the reliability of the electric system nor lead to price increases.

At the moment, new investment in coal plants is cost-prohibitive because of low wholesale electricity prices, reduced demand for electricity, historically low natural-gas prices and rising coal prices. Industry analysts forecast that America’s needs for new electricity supplies during the coming decade will be met by a combination of energy efficiency, natural-gas plants and renewable energy such as wind and solar.

In Colorado, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to deliver a steady flow of cost-effective clean energy that protects public health and creates jobs. The same can be achieved in other states.

The EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standard was published April 13 in the Federal Register. Written comments will be accepted until June 25 (http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/actions.html). It’s a chance for businesses and consumers to express their support for the EPA’s effort to limit industrial carbon pollution. The EPA needs to hear from business leaders to understand that this rule will spur innovation in clean-energy technology, create jobs and produce cleaner air.

Bill Ritter is a former governor of Colorado and director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

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