Policy Making and Power Plant Emissions


Policy Making and Power Plant Emissions

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There are many considerations that a government official in charge of developing policy concerning gas and particulate emissions must take into account in order to protect the environment and citizens while allowing business and the basic functions of society and its infrastructure to progress. The balance that must be struck here is one of the major reasons that environmental policy is so complex, and why it is such a hot-button issue for many officials and constituents alike. The potential effectiveness of each policy detail that might be implemented, the cost of each proposed implementation, the benefits and detriments to the various parties, and all other related minutiae must be taken into account in order for the best possible policies to be developed and implemented. The following paragraphs will consider two different alternative policies for protecting the environment and the human population surrounding a local power plant from gas and particulate emissions.

One policy that would limit the total emissions form the power plant would simply be to set a cap on the amount of emissions that would be allowed in a given time period (say, in a month), and shutting the plant down when that emission level was reached. This would involve establishing an average emissions-per-hour rate, and shutting down the plant each month if and when the maximum number of hours was reached. This could also encourage the plant to develop cleaner ways to operate and produce energy. A second policy that could be implemented to reduce total emissions would be to use tax incentives and rebates encourage property owners to utilize solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and other means of reducing energy consumption from the power plant.

Each of these policies, which are not at all mutually exclusive, would work to reduce emissions from the power plant in fairly simple and direct ways. The first policy imposes a strict and enforceable limit on the emissions that can be produced by the power plant, and by simply stopping each month when that limit was reached (as confirmed by ongoing testing), emissions would be directly limited. This could cause major infrastructure problems if not accompanied by something like the second suggested policy, however, which would work by reducing the amount of energy consumed from the power plant, both by providing clean sources of energy (i.e. solar panels) and reducing real consumption by using more efficient appliances. With less consumption from the plant, the plant needs to operate less, which would directly cut its emissions (or allow for the mandatory cut of the first policy to take place without interrupting business and residential electricity needs).

In addition to emissions reduction, both policies would present a cost savings to the municipal government in terms of supplying and maintaining the infrastructure of the local power supply. If the power plant is actually operated by the local government, this savings could be even greater by requiring less operation; even if it is privately owned and operated, the local government would experience reduced costs in line maintenance and several other areas of operation if the plant’s power output is diminished. The same effect will be seen from the reduced consumption caused by more efficient appliances, and residents and businesses will ultimately experience a cost savings by switching to more efficient appliances and renewable energy sources.

The ultimate costs savings that would be experienced with both of these policies would require some initial up-front costs. Establishing an appropriate emissions for the first policy level that both reduces emissions yet allows for the majority of power needs to be met would require extensive monitoring and measuring, as well as numerous rounds of input-seeking from various community elements and negotiations with these same elements. The tax incentives and rebates offered for purchases of energy efficient appliances and solar panels would cost the local government money in the form of these incentives and rebates during the initial years of the program, though the reduced reliance on the local government for energy production would eventually make this expense financially worthwhile, it is believed.

Determining the best level of emission reduction, as stated previously, would require a balance in protecting the citizens and environment while at the same time allowing business and residential power needs to be met. The most effective way to go about this would be to develop a schedule for increasing emissions reductions over a period of years, as energy consumption reduction efforts get underway and as renewable energy resources become more prevalent. In this way, the government would be able to transition its community and economy to one where the use of emissions-producing power was simply not necessary. This would create a true long-term solution to the problem of “dirty energy,” rather than simply trying to limit emissions now while growth is still going to occur.

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