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November 14, 2008

Coal Takes One For the Team
I hadn't blogged about this yet probably because I'm in the middle of writing an article on coal already and so many folks jumped on it immediately. But still, it's worth a mention.

In a nutshell, we appear to be in an unexpected year-long moratorium on the building of coal-fired power plants. Coal plants account for about 45% of US carbon emissions and most everyone agrees that if that number doesn't soon start on a path to zero, the planet is doomed. But almost out of nowhere, an EPA appeals board has single-handedly stopped new construction. Green, Inc. has more:

The decision — which responded to a Sierra Club petition to review an E.P.A. permit granted to a coal plant in Utah — does not require the E.P.A. to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, something which environmentalists have long sought.

Rather, it requires the agency's regional office to at least consider whether to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, before the agency gives a green light to build the Utah plant. On a broader scale, it will delay the building of coal-fired power plants across the country, long enough for the Obama administration to determine its policy on coal, according to David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel for the Sierra Club.

Among other things, it appears at best to require the EPA to come up with so-called BACT (Best Available Control Technologies) standards for carbon and at worst it allows the Obama administration to come up with a coal strategy. Now if you want details on what all that might look like, see It's Getting Hot in Here or Joe Romm at Climate Progress. I can tell you that it will NOT involve carbon capture and sequestration, which at $1 billion per plant and essentially unproved, is still on the drawing board. But it's a first step.

In fact, as far as I'm concerned, this is the starter gun going off. How Obama, Congress, the government and industry react to this ruling - what they really DO about this - will tell us whether or not this country can begin to address global warming. Remember, we've got 42 years to cut 14 gigatons of carbon emissions or we're, quite literally, toast.

The race is on.

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