EDITORIAL: Energetic carbon rules would hurt Hoosiers

2014-06-08T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Energetic carbon rules would hurt Hoosiers nwitimes.com
June 08, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally revealed plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that could be devastating for Indiana.

The Obama administration plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent would hit Indiana hard.

Indiana has traditionally relied on coal to generate the lion's share of its electricity, so these strict new standards would clobber consumers with higher electric bills. Some empathy is needed here.

More than 80 percent of Indiana's electricity comes from burning coal, a plentiful energy source mined in southern Indiana. The national average is 45 percent.

Germany is often lifted up as an example of how a commitment to alternative energy sources can grow the green energy industry. But look at more than the vast arrays of solar panels to determine the effectiveness of Germany's policy.

U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., is a former ambassador to Germany. On the Senate floor Wednesday, he spoke about his perspective on the EPA regulations, shaped by his service in Germany.

When EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy embarked on a national listening tour to gather feedback on potential regulations, she skipped Indiana and other coal-producing states, Coats said.

Coats noted the billions of dollars utilities have spent already to reduce carbon emission. NIPSCO, in particular, has invested heavily and continues to do so. But this new regulation will squeeze NIPSCO and other utilities that rely on coal even harder than before.

"As the U.S. ambassador to Germany in 2001 to 2005, I had a front-row seat for the beginnings of a similar transition away from fossil fuels that most Germans now regret," Coats said.

Germany gave solar and wind producers preferred treatment for 20 years to reduce carbon emissions. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, Germany also decided to phase out nuclear power plants, despite the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050.

Some Germans have become "energy poor" as a result and need government assistance to pay their high utility bills, Coats said.

The same must not happen in Indiana, nor elsewhere in the United States.

That's not to say we shouldn't develop other energy sources. We should, both for our own health and for the health of the planet.

But if the federal government wants to wean us off coal, develop other technologies to the extent that they are economically competitive with coal.

Valparaiso University's solar furnace, for example, is doing groundbreaking research with federal funding. Continue to pour money into developing that technology, as well as others, to bring down the cost and inconvenience of switching to alternative energy sources like wind and solar.

It is unfortunate that Indiana ended the Energizing Indiana program, which aims to improve energy efficiency, but don’t let that short-sighted decision clobber ordinary Hoosiers. This is where federal leadership, mixed with compassion, is needed.

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