Carnegie Mellon University

Controlling Carbon Emissions

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Delayed Action Has Consequences, Prof Warns

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Carnegie Mellon Professor Jay Apt is urging policymakers to create incentives aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Delayed action, he warns, will greatly increase costs and may erode United States competitiveness as foreign companies continue to develop technology patents.

Apt, who heads up the university's Electricity Industry Center, explained the problem - and proposed a solution - in a paper he recently co-authored with Carnegie Mellon's Granger Morgan, head of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, and David Keith of the University of Calgary.

In the United States, electric power production generates more carbon dioxide than any other sector of the economy. The result: the electricity industry will have to assume the biggest burden for its reduction.

But if done right, power plants could reduce carbon dioxide by 80 percent at less than the price paid when the industry worked to comply with the Clean Air Act a generation ago.

The approach involves first setting clear carbon dioxide emission guidelines. Then it asks the federal government to guarantee loans for construction costs associated with adopting these standards.

Apt argues that the cost of sector-wide carbon controls could double if policy-makers wait until they are faced with public panic over adverse environmental effects before they respond.

Furthermore, he said that because aging power plants are already being replaced with new ones, now is the time to act. Carbon-control retrofits to these plants will cost much less if they are incorporated into the initial design and construction.

Apt presented his research in a recent presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in San Francisco.

Related Links: Electricity Industry Center  |  Engineering and Public Policy