Power Plant Regulation

Roger Colton says:

Will–Thanks for your long-term, considerable support for clean energy and work to respond to climate change. In your capacity as a State Senator, are there steps that you can take –and that you plan (or hope) to take– in support of the EPA’s recent proposed rule to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act? The EPA’s rule seems to kick a lot of responsibility to the States. Of anyone In MA, it would be GREAT to see you out-front in support of the EPA’s efforts. Thanks.

I’ve cosponsored legislation to eliminate coal plants and the natural gas market is helping us get to that goal. There may be more we can do under this rubric. I definitely need your help on this Roger — you are much more expert than I in energy regulation! Let’s talk and develop some ideas.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

2 replies on “Power Plant Regulation”

  1. Will,

    A thought about an important leadership role: Help others understand that gas is NOT the future we need to solve climate change for our grandchildren.

    You’re reply to Roger mentioned the ‘gas market’. I agree that the current ‘cheap’ (if you leave out environmental externalities) gas prices are helping reduce carbon emissions today. That is a good thing. The problem comes when we get to the “what’s next?” part of the plan. To keep future temperature increases low (e.g., stay below 2degC), a good next step would be to turn off all the newly built gas turbines. Why? Because even if they are cleaner than coal, they emit carbon dioxide. Our grandchildren need an 80% reduction in emissions (economy-wide), not a 50% reduction that we get from switching from coal to gas (electricity-only).

    Every dollar that we spend on building a new gas plant is one that will ultimately be wasted if society is serious about helping future generations.

    Instead leaders in government and society need to be promote zero-carbon sources, and direct capital investment into deploying those technologies. Opponents will say there are pitfalls, but without more direct, large-scale investment there won’t be the resources to adequately overcome them. And those investment in zero-carbon sources of energy won’t need to be turned off — they will solid investments that can be fully depreciated.

    Cheap gas is doing two things today: 1. reducing near-term emissions a bit, and 2) killing investment in real, important, zero-carbon generation capacity on the grid. When it comes to long-term climate change, this second point is more important than the small gain from the first.

    I too am very proud of your leadership on climate and energy issues in MA. Thank you for your efforts to-date.

  2. Thanks, Travis. You’ve hit the nail on the head about the gas choices.

    For me, the priority is always conservation — better insulation would allow a great many homeowners to cut their heating and cooling energy demand dramatically. We’ve done it in our home, but it wasn’t easy.

    Until we help people make those investments — and they are substantial, time-consuming and beyond many people’s means — we can’t humanely deny people access to fossil energy. Right or wrong, it’s politically impossible. We do need to refurbish fossil fuel infrastructure as we go. Hopefully, we can strand it soon, but when you take phone calls in mid-winter cold snaps from people who aren’t getting enouugh pressure in their gas line, you understand quickly how important maintaining capacity is.

    It’s a very tough set of issues.

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