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PRO, continued


and to check on the elderly as their immunity systems can be weaker. T e alerts are triggered when emissions from power plants, factories, and automobiles react to sunlight and high temperatures, causing smog (ground-level ozone). Acid rain was the main weather news in the


70s and 80s. First noticed during the industrial revolution when factories burning cheap sulfuric coal were sprouting like weeds, it was more thoroughly studied by scientists in the late 1960s. Under the fi rst President Bush, a cap-and-trade system was devised as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA), leading to industry improvements and reducing sulfur dioxide emissions 40 percent as of 2005. T e cost, as of 2010, was a mere quarter of what was originally predicted. "CAA worked and the doom and gloom costs


projected with compliance didn't happen," says Dr. Mark Meo, University of Oklahoma professor of sustainability science and policy, climate adaptation, and renewable energy. Meo suggests the problem with coal is in the politics of funding. "Coal is cheap because its social costs are not


captured in the price," explains Meo. A 2011 article in the American Economic Review agrees, fi nding the social costs (pre-mature deaths, health costs, crop damages, etc.) of coal-burning power plants are 2.8 times greater than the value added to society. T is means coal’s negative impacts cost us more than double the price we pay on our electric bill. While we may not pay the true price on our bills, we pay


Continued on page 16


CON, continued


Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), OEC’s power supplier, brought its Hugo plant online, capital costs resulted in a 40 percent increase on members’ electric bills. A repeat of that would be burdensome for already-struggling consumers and disastrous for a county that is economically weak and already headed toward a debt crisis. During the last three decades, the utility


industry has made enormous strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while improving environmental performance of both natural gas and coal-fi red power plants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, total emissions of six principal air pollutants dropped by 63 percent between 1980 and 2011, despite an increase in our energy consumption over the same time period. Carbon emissions have declined fi ve of the last six years as well. Eff orts to maintain and improve air quality


should continue, of course, but new regulation must be proportionate to risk. T e EPA’s now-delayed “carbon pollution standard rule,” introduced in 2012, set emission limits that were based on the performance characteristics of current combined- cycle natural gas technology. It would have been impossible for coal-fi red power plants to meet the proposed limits without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and the technology needed to retrofi t coal systems isn’t commercially available or cost eff ective. While there are a few CCS research/ Continued on page 16


Top left to right: A wind farm along a road way integrates naturally in the farm land; a graphic showing electric pylons, a clean-burning natural gas stove top burner, a pipeline along the shore, and smoke stacks at a factory emitting steam and pollution; and an electric power station at sunset.


News Magazine 7


Industry News


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