Sun Report

Carbon controls and a solar surge: Are public attitudes changing the game?

By Elisabeth Graffy

Debates about federal carbon control regulations and a solar-energy-induced “death spiral” for electric utilities have been heating up, but along separate tracks. Those two debates have now effectively collided. In retrospect, this might mark a decisive turning point from a high-carbon, fossil-fuel-based power sector toward a carbon-controlled, renewable-based system — that is, if public sentiments remain influential.

On the carbon control side, disputes about climate science are taking a back seat to those about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act without new congressional action. The Supreme Court settled that issue in the EPA’s favor, but how to implement that authority remained an open question. Intense scrutiny of any agency action nearly guarantees that opponents will try to slow, if not altogether stop, momentum.

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