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.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
19 mins ago - Science

The murder hornets are here

A braver man than me holds a speciment of the Asian giant hornet. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.

Biden is highest-spending political candidate on TV ads

Joe Biden. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

After spending an additional $45.2 million on political ads this week, former Vice President Joe Biden has become the highest-spending political candidate on TV ads ever, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

By the numbers: In total, the Biden campaign has spent $582.7 million on TV ads between 2019 and 2020, officially surpassing Michael Bloomberg's record spend of roughly $582 million. Biden's spend includes his primary and general election advertising.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!