May 19, 2015

Why EPA’s Alleged ‘War on Coal’ May Actually Be A War On Wasting Energy

Print More

May 18, 2015 | The Washington Post | Chris Mooney

It’s certainly the case that if the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan goes into effect, the United States will burn less coal over time. Yet, Chris Mooney’s article in the Washington Post argues that states have flexibility in complying with the plan and, in fact, may comply less by cutting back on coal-generated electricity and more through implementing energy efficiency programs.

“In other words, wherever electricity comes from under the plan — whether coal, natural gas or renewables — we’ll be giving off less greenhouse gas emissions simply because we’ll be using less of it in total (in some cases, if you will, wasting less). “

From one perspective, energy efficiency is the least controversial method of cutting carbon emissions. Improved efficiency is popular because it  cuts down everyone’s power bill. A new study from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions says energy efficiency will be the least expensive and most used method of complying with the Clean Power Plan.  The study says that increased energy efficiency may actually allow more coal-fired power to survive. Why?  Compliance without energy efficiency will then depend on transitioning more power plants away from coal to natural gas.

Mooney points out energy efficiency is not completely uncontroversial, especially in that the EPA may lack regulatory authority to enforce state energy efficiency programs.

Nevertheless, energy efficiency has garnered bipartisan support in the past. We have reported on the strange path for the energy-efficiency bill known as the Shaheen-Portman act, a stripped-down version of which was recently signed by President Obama.