Carnegie Mellon University international engineering and environmental policy expert M. Granger Morgan is challenging U.S. federal and state officials to take the lead in eliminating dangerous carbon dioxide emissions that fuel global warming.
In today's Science magazine, Morgan argues that legislators should impose regulations that will prevent power companies from rushing to build large numbers of long-lived conventional coal plants before regulations on carbon dioxide emissions come into effect. Building such plants today, without making provisions for future control of carbon dioxide emissions, could make such future regulations far more expensive than they need to be, according to Morgan, head of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Engineering and Public Policy.
The U.S. electricity industry plans to build 154 new plants in the next 24 years. Fifty of those plants are slated for construction in the next five years, according to data compiled by the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory.
"We're talking about technology such as amine scrubbers, integrated gasification combined- cycles or oxyfuel plants that can capture and sequester CO2 in deep geological formations," Morgan said.
Morgan said that most utility experts anticipate that CO2 emission constraints will be imposed within the next 10 years. "So imposing a law that would provide incentives to encourage builders of new coal plants could begin to help us intensify efforts to combat global warming," he said.
In a recent report to the Pew Center For Climate Change, Morgan and Carnegie Mellon colleagues Jay Apt and Lester Lave showed that the nation needs to cut carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by more than 80 percent during the next 50 years to slow the impact of global warming.
"This could be done at an overall long-term cost increase in price of electricity of only about 20 percent -- a small price to pay to save arctic seals, polar bears, coral reefs and other valuable ecosystems," Morgan said.
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