Jun 6, 2018

A fork in the road for U.S. power

Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

A new study and a brewing federal policy change together highlight contrasting forces that could help shape U.S. power markets in coming years.

Two possible futures: The analysis shows the nationwide scope of the trend toward a lower-carbon mix, yet the Trump administration is preparing aggressive steps aimed at halting coal's decline.

New data: Carnegie Mellon University researchers are out with a detailed national and regional-level analysis of falling carbon emissions from electricity generation.

  • Overall, it shows a 30% reduction in the average carbon emissions intensity — that is, emissions per unit of power generated — between 2001 and 2017.

One key regional finding: The paper, published earlier this week in Environmental Research Letters, shows that over the last few years, carbon cuts have occurred in states with and without requirements called renewable portfolio standards (RPS).

  • "Many states were able to reduce the CO2 intensity of electricity generation without these standards, because some have excellent wind resources and others displaced coal with natural gas," co-author Costa Samaras said in an email.

One level deeper: "Delaware and Iowa — with the largest declines — do have RPS policies, but Oklahoma, North Dakota, and South Dakota — with the third, fourth, and sixth largest declines — do not have RPS programs but do have voluntary renewable energy goals," the paper finds.

But, but, but: The paper's arrival coincides with emerging White House plans to intervene aggressively to halt closures of coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

The intrigue: As we wrote about yesterday, some analysts say the economic lifeline to those plants could erode the ongoing decarbonization of power generation.

One interesting wrinkle: In a sign of the known unknowns about the brewing intervention, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report finds that it could also lower emissions.

  • Why? One option is providing payments for maintaining generation capacity, which might not actually boost coal-fired generation.
  • "Rewarding reactors with the same, however, would probably lead to more nuclear production and could displace millions of tons of carbon dioxide a year," notes Bloomberg in a story on the study.

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Bernie's juggernaut

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in San Antonio last night with his wife, Jane. Photo: Eric Gay/AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders won so big in the Nevada caucuses that Democrats are hard-pressed to sketch a way he's not their nominee.

Driving the news: With 60% of precincts counted (slow, but better than Iowa!), Sanders is running away with 46% of delegates — crushing Joe Biden's 20%, Pete Buttigieg's 15%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 10% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar's 5%.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Buttigieg campaign claims Nevada caucuses were "plagued with errors"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg's campaign wrote a letter on Sunday asking the Nevada State Democratic Party to release early vote and in-person vote totals by precinct and address certain caucus errors identified by campaigns, The Nevada Independent reports.

The big picture: The campaign alleges that the process of integrating early votes on caucus day was “plagued with errors and inconsistencies,” and says it received more than 200 incident reports from precincts around the state.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus threat grows, threatening some drug supplies

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

As the novel coronavirus continues spreading globally and China grapples with a limited production capability, there's a growing risk to about 150 prescription drugs in the U.S., sources tell Axios.

The big picture: The coronavirus has spread to more countries, with both South Korea and Italy stepping up emergency measures amid rising case numbers on Sunday. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,467 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health