Followup: Diversity in the Energy Market

In sort of a screwball way, an article in today’s Seattle Times follows up on one of the questions I asked when writing "Diversity in the Energy Market":

[. . .]wouldn’t it be interesting if tomorrow morning, the likes of Shell or BP stood up and said they wanted to eliminate all coal-fired power plants from the face of the earth while preserving the jobs that those plants provide?

The article, which talks about national contribution to the climate change problem and asserts that the biggest culprit in rising carbon emissions is coal-fired power plants, gives an interesting point of view about eliminating coal as a power source:

States that shun coal — Vermont, Idaho, California, Rhode Island — and turn to nuclear, hydroelectric and natural gas, produce the least carbon dioxide but often at higher costs for consumers.

It’s unfair to pin all the blame on the coal-using states, said Washington, D.C., lawyer Jeffrey Holmstead, who as an attorney at Bracewell Giuliani represents coal-intensive utilities and refineries. Holmstead is the former Bush administration air-pollution regulator who ruled that carbon dioxide was not a pollutant, a decision that was overturned recently by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Coal-fired generation is the most economical, least expensive way to produce power almost anywhere in the world," he said. He argued that outlawing such plants would have little overall impact globally; however, the U.S. has long been the leading global source of carbon emissions.

It’s perhaps this last point that is the most important, though my original comment was cast on the international stage. The issue here isn’t really pointing fingers; Washington might be doing better than, say, Idaho, but it’s not about gloating. It’s about realizing that we, as a global community, need to think about the solutions to these problems. If that means that we get to eliminate the top two- or three-worst polluting energy generation sources, great.

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