carbon

Governor Matt Mead joined his counterparts in eight other states Monday in asking the Environmental Protection Agency to scrap its new carbon pollution rules. The rules call for a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants by 2030.

In a letter to the agency, the governors say that effectively bans coal-fired power. The EPA disagrees, projecting that coal will still provide 30 percent of the nation’s electricity after the rules are implemented, down from almost 40 percent today.

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It didn't take long after the Obama administration unveiled new rules this week regulating carbon emissions from power plants for people to start naming winners and losers. Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, and a huge coal consumer, was immediately billed as a loser.

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The predicted effects of continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at current rates range from dramatic sea level rise to extreme weather to famine and drought. Power plants are among the largest carbon dioxide emitters, and on June 2, the Obama administration is scheduled to release new rules regulating those emissions. Utilities and trade groups are already warning those rules will have some dire consequences of their own.

Stephanie Joyce

The Obama administration wants states to cutback on carbon emissions, but doing that has always been a thorny problem. While carbon is a byproduct of almost everything we do, capturing and storing it is expensive. For years, the goal has been to figure out how to make that process cheaper, but more recent efforts take a different approach, with the focus shifting from storing carbon to using it.

On a recent spring morning, Karen Wawrousek led a tour of her lab at the Western Research Institute, on the outskirts of Laramie.

Governor Matt Mead is proposing that Wyoming set aside $15 million to open a research center focused on new uses of carbon captured from coal-fired power plants.

The state already has an institute which looks at the use of captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery, but Mead’s policy director, Shawn Reese, says this facility would be used to develop additional uses of carbon like fertilizers, building materials, biochemical products, and synthetic gases.

This week, the Obama administration announced new regulations  for carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

When the Environmental Protection Agency determined that carbon dioxide emissions were endangering the public in 2009, Ron Surdam, Director of the Carbon Management Institute at the University of Wyoming, says he saw the writing on the wall: there would be a cap on new power plant emissions, which is exactly what the EPA announced this week.