Despite Progress, Indiana Remains One of the Nation’s Top CO2 Emitting States | New
ANDERSON – When it comes to climate change, Indiana is sort of caught between two realities.
Government leaders are touting progress in cleaner air and water initiatives, and environmental experts say improvements in solar and wind technologies are reducing the state’s carbon footprint.
But conservationists say there is still a lot of work to be done.
According to a recent report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United States ranks second in the world behind China in carbon dioxide emissions from energy and transportation. ‘electricity. Ten states are half of that total, and Indiana is one of them.
Hoosier State emitted nearly 190 million metric tonnes (over 209 million US tonnes) of energy-related carbon dioxide in 2018, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration – enough to place it among the top 10 of all states in both together. and emissions per capita.
“Our sources of electricity supply in Indiana are still heavily dependent on carbon-emitting fossil fuels – things like coal and natural gas,” said Gabe Filippelli, executive director of the Institute for Environmental Resilience of Indiana University. “They represent a disproportionate portion of our electricity portfolio compared to many other states, including many of our neighboring states. “
Indiana also remains a major transportation hub, with interstate highways and railways crisscrossing the state. The Indiana Department of Transportation estimates that 724 million tonnes of cargo passes through the state each year, much of which is carried by heavy equipment that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“Basically a lot of trains and trucks go through Indiana,” Filippelli said. “In addition, we still have significant manufacturing and production facilities – not just steel but others – and these produce a disproportionate share of emissions.”
These three factors, in particular the state’s continued dependence on fossil fuels, are widely considered to be the main culprits of the state’s undesirable status as a major emitter of CO2.
According to Dana Nuccitelli, environmental specialist and research coordinator at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, more than 90% of the electricity produced by the state in 2020 was supplied by fossil fuels – 53% of the target and 38% gas, against less than 10%. from wind and other renewable energy sources.
State utilities are gradually moving away from coal and other fossil fuels despite what some critics say are legislative efforts to slow the transition. Vectren Energy announced its Integrated Resource Plan last year, which detailed its efforts to cut carbon emissions by nearly 75% and, by 2025, will depend on coal for just 12% of its energy production.
“Often, utilities are slow to make this transition because they have sunk costs in their existing fossil fuel infrastructure,” Nuccitelli said. “For example, they may have recently taken out loans to install pollution scrubbers on their coal stacks and feel the need to keep them running because they have not yet paid off those loans.”
INCENTIVES OR MANDATES?
Nuccitelli and others suggest that Indiana’s energy policies must become more robust, bringing with them greater incentives for companies to shift to renewable energy sources and tougher penalties for those who violate the laws. air quality standards.
As of September 2020, 38 states had established Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS) standards, policies that require a certain percentage of a utility’s electricity to come from renewable or other sources. clean energy. Most of them, according to Nuccitelli, require states to achieve 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
Indiana’s current mechanism is the Comprehensive Hoosier Option to Incentivize Cleaner Energy (CHOICE) program, passed by the legislature in 2011. The program sets a voluntary goal of 10% clean energy by 2025.
“To say the least, it’s not an ambitious goal,” said Nuccitelli.
Federal wind and solar tax credits, he added, could be scaled up and stretched to entice more producers to switch, with local governments potentially helping utilities cover the costs they they’ve already hired to maintain their coal-based operations. He acknowledged that the idea could lead to political retreat.
“It would mean forcing taxpayers to reward utilities (who made bad decisions about investing in fossil fuel infrastructure,” he said. “These are tough policy choices.”
Filippelli suggested that instead of waiting for legislative guidance, companies should take the initiative to assess their greenhouse gas emissions. A greenhouse gas inventory, he said, can provide insight into wasted electricity costs and provide data that could help accelerate the transition to renewables.
“A lot of these renewable energy sources have some built-in subsidies, like all of our power systems,” Filippelli said. “In a sense, coal and natural gas get a free subsidy, and they always have because they are allowed to emit their pollutant, carbon dioxide, directly into the atmosphere. There is no control over it.
“They get a free ride, and what has to happen, I think, is that the free ride has to stop,” he added, “either through a carbon tax or some other way. to count this as a pollutant which has a negative value so those other sources of electricity which do not produce this should be encouraged.
The state’s Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) recently awarded a total of $ 12 million to more than two dozen projects in the state designed to reduce diesel emissions. The money comes from the state’s $ 41 million allocation, in a $ 2.7 billion legal settlement with German automaker Volkswagen, which was found to have cheated on tests broadcasts in the early 2010s.
“This money is going to fund new vehicles that are much cleaner with emissions,” said Beverly Gard, a former Indiana state senator who served on an 11-person committee tasked with determining how to allocate the settlement. .
“We have donated a significant amount of money for school buses to switch to natural gas or electricity. Even some of the older diesel powered school buses, we donated money to upgrade them to a much cleaner diesel.
NEXT STEPS FOR GREEN ENERGY
At a recent House luncheon in Anderson, Gov. Eric Holcomb promised his office would make a series of announcements on renewable energy initiatives later this month. He said his approach to these policies would continue an “all of the above” philosophy when it comes to finding ways to promote renewable resources in various industries.
“We live in a small world, it turns out,” said Holcomb. He added that soaring natural gas prices in Europe and power shortages in China should be seen as warnings against over-reliance on traditional energy sources.
“We don’t want to be caught in this position,” he said, “so we will continue to rely on reliable, clean and sustainable sources of energy. For Indiana, this will continue to serve us well.