Experts debate whether Bush’s Clear Skies plan on power plant emissions clears the way for better emissions technologies.
Jennifer Alvey is associate editor at Public Utilities Fortnightly.
"Weak." "Bold departure from past policies." "Rollback of power plant pollution rules." "An ambitious program." Yes, it's another environmental proposal aimed at power plant emissions, this time with the moniker of "Clear Skies." The only thing that's clear about it, though, is that the energy industry likes it, and environmentalists don't.
The Bush administration has yet to deliver a detailed plan of its Clear Skies program-no legislation has been introduced. Instead, broad outlines of the plan, released Feb. 14, call for cuts on power plant emissions of 73 percent for sulfur dioxide (SO2), 67 percent for nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 69 percent for mercury, all by 2018. The plan also calls for interim targets in 2010 for SO2 and mercury, and in 2008 for NOx. The key feature of the Clear Skies plan is a radical shift to a cap-and-trade regime, and away from the much-hated (by industry) new source review (NSR) and best available control technology (BACT) aspects of the Clean Air Act.
Even without many details, there's plenty to argue about. At the top of the list is whether a cap-and-trade program will truly reduce emissions more than the current command-and-control regime.