American Electric Power yesterday said that the power industry is already on pace to help President Obama meet his overall climate goal of a 17 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions, from 2005 levels, by 2020 – and that new greenhouse gas rules for power plants aren’t needed.
In a conference call following release of AEP’s second quarter earnings, AEP CEO Nick Akins said new GHG rules would jeopardize economic recovery and even electric grid reliability, Reuters reports. “The mercury rules and the natural gas revolution have already achieved the [President’s] objectives,” Akins said.
The company was the second-largest power producer in 2011, and is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the US, according to research carried out at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is managing to reduce its carbon intensity, however – total CO2 emissions rose just shy of 1.5 percent from 2010 to 2011, while revenues rose 4.8 percent over that time period.
It’s true that much of the major carbon reductions in the power sector are happening because of the shift to natural gas, driven by low prices for that commodity. But regulation has played a strong role, too – not just for mercury, but for greenhouse gases. In its 2012 sustainability report, AEP says the EPA’s introduction of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, whose regulated gases include nitrogen oxides, “profoundly” affected its business and approach to emissions.
And while the company now seems to acknowledge that mercury rules had a positive role in moving the power sector towards the White House’s environmental objectives, it’s worth noting that AEP fought hard against those rules at their introduction.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.