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Carbon emissions down in Indiana and nationally

Updated: December 10, 2013 6:05AM



Carbon dioxide emissions nationally are at their lowest levels since 1994, according to a recent report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The report cites a 3.8-percent decline of CO2, from 5.290 billion metric tons in 2012 down from 5.498 billion metric tons in 2011. The 2012 figure is 12 percent lower than the 2007 peak level of 6.023 billion metric tons.

Credit for the reductions is given to an ongoing shift from coal to natural gas for energy production, and more fuel efficient motor vehicles.

Within the Indiana energy sector, emissions dropped from about 110 million tons in 2011 to just above 100 million tons in 2012, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

NIPSCO recently converted its Sugar Creek facility to burn natural gas, along with offering programs for solar and wind power, said Nick Meyer, a spokesman for the utility.

“That makes up nearly a quarter of our generation,” Meyer said, “that’s a change in the last five years. Prior to that we were nearly 100 percent coal.”

Dan Goldblatt, an IDEM spokesman, said newer federal regulations are contributing to the reductions statewide.

“Over the last two years we’ve been tracking CO2 emission,” said Goldblatt, “and we’ve seen a 20-percent decrease. Some of that comes from the federal government’s new standards. Some of that is cars being more fuel efficient, which is a mix of new standards and market demands.”

Even the manufacturing sector, Indiana’s third-largest source of CO2, has seen reduced emissions, largely because of the economic downturn in 2008.

“Although with the economy rebounding,” Goldblatt added, “we’re still not seeing the emissions any higher than the recession levels.”

Rachel Cleetus, the senior climate economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the reduction of emissions nationally were a combination of more efficient energy generation and transportation, and a warmer winter in 2012, requiring less fuel to heat houses.

“I don’t think we can count on a warm winter every year,” Cleetus said. “But the efficiencies shows that we’re wasting less energy and using energy in a more productive fashion. That’s a really good sign.”

One factor for higher efficiencies is a shift from coal to natural gas to produce electricity, as coal generating plants face tougher regulations and higher costs to operate.

“A lot of the coal fleet is old and inefficient, and there’s a need to meet health-based emissions standards,” said Cleetus, “so the coal plants don’t make sense to operate anymore.”

But while natural gas for energy burns with fewer emissions, Cleetus hopes that it serves as a transitional energy source on the road to more renewable options.

“On one hand its a positive trend, but on the other hand we know it won’t be enough to reach climate goals. Natural gas is still a carbon based fuel, and it’s still adding to our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Jodi Perras, the Indiana representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said the days of burning fossil fuels for energy should end soon, and policy makers need to ready themselves to adapt to clean energy sources.

“We’re rapidly approaching the day when technology makes it possible to switch to clean energy,” Perras said, “we need to do a better job policy-wise to prepare.”



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