Cleaner Coal is Cheap, But So Are Renewables

When the U.S. Energy Department under an adminstration like Bush/Cheney tells you cleaning up our energy system is cheap, you know the walls are coming down. This summer Carbon-Nation made the case that Cleaning Up Coal is Cheap thanks to affordable technology for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide. Now the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that the cleanest energy option available — renewable energy such as biofuels and wind power — should also fit nicely in our budgets. Ironically the EIA analysis responds to a request by Republican environment critic James Inhofe, a Senator from Oklahoma.

EIA’s analysis examines how mandating 25% renewable power and fuels by 2025 would change U.S. energy consumption and economic growth (see Energy and Economic Impacts of Implementing Both a 25-Percent Renewable Portfolio Standard and a 25-Percent Renewable Fuel Standard by 2025). They conclude that such a mandate would significantly cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions: In 2030 carbon dioxide emissions would be 14% lower than 2005 levels, with emissions from electricity production specifically dropping 22%.  drop in emissions from the electricity sector and a 14-percent decrease in the transportation sector.

Yet the cost is negligible: a projected GDP hit of one-eighth of one percent and a rise in expense to consumers of one-tenth of a percent. Plus EIA’s analysis assumes that the mandate would spur fairly modest improvements in energy technology, a highly conservative assumption that one can hope Will prove false.

Cause for even greater optimism: the U.S. Senate’s version of the energy bill currently being negotiated in Congress establishes a 25% renewables mandate by 2025 as a national energy goal. Renewable energy is not perfect — as our recent discussion of Wind Energy’s Problem Child in the Bay Area shows — but it sure beats the status quo.

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One thought on “Cleaner Coal is Cheap, But So Are Renewables

  1. Wow. Imagine what could be done if we wanted to burden our pocketbooks a little bit. Looks like we are gagging on a gnat when we talk about the kinds of impacts envisioned in this EIA report.

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