EPA's carbon rules may give some states a head start

Solar photovoltaic panels

Solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity at an Exelon solar power facility in Chicago, Illinois.

On Monday, when the White House rolls out President Barack Obama’s biggest climate change initiativeproposed rules to limit the carbon dioxide created by existing power plants — there will be greenhouse-gas reduction goals set for every state.  And in terms of carbon emissions, states are, well, all over the map.

That's one way to count. Here's another: 

 The second one gives a clue as to which states are buring the most carbon-intensive fuel -- coal.

"You’ve got some states such as North Dakota or Wyoming where they’re nearly 100 percent coal, so they have very high emissions intensities," says John Larsen, an analyst at the Rhodium Group, an energy consulting firm.   

Meanwhile, Washington gets much of its power from zero-emissions hydro-electric dams.

Some of the variation depends on, yes,  the lay of the land. "It’s not just natural resources, in terms of rivers or sun or wind," says Ethan Zindler with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "It’s also, 'Do you have an ample supply of fossil fuel nearby?' So, it's not shocking that Kentucky is heavily-reliant on coal for power-generation, since there is a good deal of coal locally available." 

And some places -- like California and some New England states -- already have programs going to carbon emissions.

That could mean a head start when EPA rules go into effect. "Some people will come to the table and say, 'Well, those states are going to be advantaged here,'" says Sara Hayes with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

However: Which states actually get a head start will depend on how the EPA writes its rules.

"There’s 25 states that already have energy efficiency savings plans in place," says Hayes. "People will come to the table and say, 'Those 25 states, they’re ahead of the game.' And others will say, 'Well a state that hasn’t done anything yet...'"  Will the abundance of low-hanging fruit be an advantage?  Until Monday's announcement, nobody knows. 

 

About the author

Dan is a sustainability reporter for Marketplace.

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