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COMMENTARY ARCHVES
   

AUGUST COMMENTARY
by Share Brandt


Saving the Planet—
One Country at a Time

 

President Obama has announced new action steps targeting climate change. The first of three pillars to the plan will impact all Americans directly in how much of the household budget is used to pay for electricity. The first pillar is to further cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The President’s Climate Action Plan lays out a timetable to publish final rules to regulate new and existing Electric Utility Generating Units under the Clean Air Act by June 1, 2015. Once the EPA has finalized the rules, each state will have until June 30, 2016, to establish their State Implementation Plans. The executive order issued by President Obama envisions shutting down existing coal-fired electric generation in just three short years.

Renewables, Transmission, Adapting

In addition, the president will promote renewable energy by doubling renewable electricity generation by 2020. The plan also calls on the Department of the Interior to permit an additional 10 gigawatts* of renewable generation on public lands by 2020.

In order to transport the energy federal agencies are directed to streamline the siting, permitting, and review process for transmission projects across all governmental units. This means that in seven years we could begin to see major investments going to build transmission lines across greater distances through rural areas to reach the population centers. Who benefits? Who pays? Investors will have a revenue stream while electric users will pay the cost in energy bills.

The second pillar deals with preparing communities for the impacts of climate change. Moving forward the federal government will invest in strengthening infrastructure to protect us from severe weather events.

International leadership to reduce carbon emissions is the third pillar. The president pledges to convince China and India to follow our lead. He plans to phase out U.S. fossil fuel tax subsidies in the 2014 budget proposal.

The United States has already radically cut carbon dioxide emissions, more than any country on earth since 2006. According to the International Energy Agency**, U.S. emissions have now fallen by 7.7 percent since 2006. Emissions today are back down to 1992 levels. China, on the other hand, increased carbon emissions by 9.3 percent in 2011 and India’s emissions rose by 8.7 percent.

Disproportionate Duress

Coal has dominated electricity generation in Wisconsin; in 2011 it provided 63 percent of the state’s net electricity generation. Wisconsin electric users will pay a disproportionate share of the cost of the executive order in our electric rates and tax subsidies to renewable developers and investors. Regardless of whether you agree with concerns about global warming or not, the basic fact is that you will pay to save the planet while the other industrialized nations continue to invite our jobs to their shores.

            * Gigawatt is a unit of energy equal to one billion watts
            ** International Energy Agency:
http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/news/2012/may/name,27216,en.html.

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