Musings About the Clean Power Plan

I have hope that the federal government actually cares about its people, or at least the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cares. The Clean Power Plan put forth by the EPA aims to cut our emissions by 30% by 2030 by providing guidelines for states (Environmental Protection Agency, et al., 2014b). The plan basically gives four options on how to achieve this: 1. reduce emissions of coal generating facilities 2. switch from coal (which produces carbon dixoide as a byproduct) to natural gas production (which produces methane as a byproduct) 3. increasing generation from renewable sources and using nuclear power 4. growth in end-use energy efficiency to displace emitting generation (Environmental Protection Agency, et al., 2014b).

AC windturbines
Wind Turbines Outside of Atlantic City, NJ. Photo Credit: Heather Kostick.

The third and fourth options appeal to me the most, because option 1 should already be happening. Option 2 is a stickier situation:  there is a valid point to move to a cleaner burning source, but methane contributes more heat to the atmosphere at a higher rate than does carbon dioxide (Environmental Protection Agency, 2014a). Options 3 and 4 are appealing, but still have their cons. Nuclear power is very efficient, but the major issues are where to build new plants; where to store the nuclear waste; and how to handle natural disasters which could damage or destroy nuclear power plants, which would leak harmful materials into the environment. Putting more resources into investing in renewables is one of the best ways to go in terms of avoiding nuclear disasters. We will run out of fossil fuel eventually (Nelder, 2009), but we won’t run out of the sun or the wind any time soon (barring any catastrophic events). Humans have already begun to invest in renewables, and technologies that use renewables have definitely improved than when they were first introduced (Nelder, 2009).  However, imagine if we also divest in coal, natural gas, and oil production. A heavy investment in renewables will lead to a quicker advancement of new or existing renewable-related technology. As a nation, we should be investing more into viable long-term options, such as renewable resources; and require all new construction and development to be more energy efficient and less wasteful. I have seen wind turbines out in Central Pennsylvania – it is possible for a primarily coal-producing state to generate renewable energy. The wind turbines themselves provide jobs – all of the people that are involved in the site selection, construction, and set up of wind turbines, PLUS post-production ongoing monitoring of wind turbine kill rates of bats and birds. There are many issues to consider when dealing with energy and cleaner power plans including social justice, how much control the federal government has over states, job security, environmental health, and more (Environmental Protection Agency, 2014c). Whichever plan has a combination of options and factors that maximize energy efficiency, positive environmental health impacts, and provides the most security for livelihood will be best for not only our planet, but for humans as a species (Defries, et al., 2005). We humans need to recognize the vital services Earth provides, and treat our planet with more respect.

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Cedar Waxwing siblings captured and banded in Willistown, PA. Photo Credit: Heather Kostick. Many species of birds, including Cedar Waxwings, are affected by wind turbines but that doesn’t mean we should totally stop using the technology

 

References

DeFries, R. e. a. (2005). Millennium ecosystem assessment. (Assessment) United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/index.html

Environmental Protection Agency. (2014a). Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved from http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. Health & Environmental Impacts Division. Air Economics Group. (2014b). Regulatory impact analysis for the proposed carbon pollution guidelines for existing power plants and emission standards for modified and reconstructed power plants (plan No. EPA-452/R-14-002). North Carolina, USA: EPA. (Clean Power Plan) Retrieved from http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-06/documents/20140602ria-clean-power-plan.pdf

Environmental Protection Agency. (2014c). Renewable energy. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate/state/topics/renewable.html

Nelder, C. (2009). The end of fossil fuel. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/24/peak-oil-production-business-energy-nelder.html

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