New Report from Western Resource Advocates Details Decline in Carbon
Dioxide Emissions for First Time in 20 Years
PHOENIX — A new report just released by Western Resource Advocates (WRA) shows that for the first time in 20 years, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electric power sector have leveled off and have even begun to decline.
“The numbers are exciting because they show that we can reduce the harmful amounts of carbon emissions by making responsible decisions on energy production,” said David Berry, Chief of Policy Analysis at Western Resource Advocates and the report author. “Reducing CO2 missions is critical to combating Climate Change.”
Descending from the Pollution Plateau: Why Carbon Dioxide Emissions are Declining in the Mountain West and How to Keep it that Way comes on the heels of a study by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) showing CO2 emissions in the United States at their lowest level since 1992. Descending from the Pollution Plateau differs from the DOE report by focusing solely on the Mountain West and only on emissions from the electric power sector (the DOE report included transportation emissions). Energy production in the Mountain West is also much more coal-centric by comparison:
Estimates of Energy Sources in 2011
|REGION||COAL %||NATURAL GAS %||NUCLEAR %|
(Source: U.S. Energy Information Agency)
Retirement of the coal-fired Mohave Power Plant in Nevada was a major contributor to the CO2 decline in the Mountain West, and future emission reductions should be possible as more coal plants go offline in favor of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and cleaner burning natural gas-fired generation. The 2005 retirement of the Mohave power plant was responsible for a net reduction of 5.3 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Since 2010, two other coal-fired power plants have also been retired (the Cameo Station in Western Colorado and the Cherokee 2 Unit in Denver). Additionally, several coal-fired power plants in the Mountain West are scheduled to go offline in the next few years, including:
- Four Corners 1, 2, and 3 (Northwest New Mexico)
- Cherokee 1, 3, and 4 (Denver, Colorado)
- Arapahoe 3 and 4 (Denver, Colorado)
- Valmont (Boulder, Colorado)
Aside from coal plant retirements, state regulatory policies have increased the role of renewable energy and energy efficiency, contributing greatly to a reduction in CO2 emissions. The cumulative effect of energy efficiency programs and renewable energy additions undertaken since the end of 2005 was a reduction in emissions of 5.5 million metric tons (as of 2010).
Descending from the Pollution Plateau concludes that concerted public and private sector efforts to increase the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency and to retire coal-fired power plants are needed to continue a downward trend in CO2 emissions from the electric power sector. This transition is helped by the lower natural gas prices experienced in the last few years and can be accelerated by policies that put a price on carbon dioxide emissions.
CLICK HERE to download a copy of Descending from the Pollution Plateau: Why Carbon Dioxide Emissions are Declining in the Mountain West and How to Keep it that Way.
Western Resource Advocates is a regional nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting the West’s land, air, and water. Offices or staff are located in Boulder (CO), Phoenix and Tucson (AZ), Pocatello (ID), Santa Fe (NM), Carson City (NV) and Salt Lake City (UT). Visit www.WesternResourceAdvocates.org.