Obama to move forward on limits on power plant emissions

The Obama administration is expected to announce on Friday that it will move toward setting limits on green house gas emissions for new and existing power plants in the U.S., the New York Times reports. The limits for new natural gas plants will be at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour and new coal plants will have to hit 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide.

An average new coal plant can emit around 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour. Which means that new coal plants in the U.S. will either need to use advanced technology for capturing or storing carbon emissions — representing a major boon for those companies selling this next-gen tech — or there will be considerably less coal plants built in the U.S. going forward. The move will be highly controversial in states with large coal industries.

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Emissions limits for existing power plants — which are more controversial — will probably be set over the coming months and years. That will be a more difficult task, and the administration plans a year-long “listening tour” to figure out what those emissions limits will be.

This announcement is important for a couple reasons. It shows that the Obama administration isn’t backing down from its plan to deal with climate change. It also could represent a major market trigger for new emissions reductions technologies, like carbon capture and storage, which has proven uneconomical for many years.

The administration’s EPA administrator Gina McCarthy is supposed to make the announcement at the National Press Club on Friday.