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View from around the state: EPA goal will help drive change

Wisconsin has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 percent in less than a decade.

Let’s keep going.

The Environmental Protection Agency just set ambitious goals for Wisconsin and other states to reduce emissions further. EPA wants a 34 percent decline in Wisconsin by 2030, compared to levels in 2005.

That won’t be easy or without up-front cost. But our state is already about a third of the way there. And refusing to act on the serious threat of climate change is far too risky for our economy and health.

Wisconsin manufacturers and other employers are understandably concerned about the price of energy. Wisconsin still gets more than half of its electricity from burning coal, which is a major source of the greenhouse gases tied to climate change. Using less coal will raise utility bills if alternative and renewable energies are more expensive.

But that will depend a lot on the price of cleaner-burning natural gas, as well as the ability of Wisconsin power plants to become more efficient and to take better advantage of biomass, wind and solar power.

Utility companies this week reacted to the EPA’s tighter limits on carbon emissions with more confidence than the state’s business lobby (though also with a caveat that they’re still analyzing the 645 pages of rules).

“They look ambitious, but they do have a lot of flexibility built in, so that’s a positive thing,” said Scott Reigstad, spokesman for Alliant Energy in Madison.

Similar to other energy providers, Alliant has invested in technology, expanded its use of natural gas, built wind farms and is shutting down one of its older coal plants.

“We feel like we have a pretty good starting point,” Reigstad said.

Wisconsin should have set a more aggressive clean energy goal years ago. Now the federal government is doing it for Wisconsin, and we have to catch up to other states.

Wisconsin depends heavily on inexpensive coal. Yet the price of carbon-based energy will jump sharply if the cost of its emissions is added to its price. Wisconsin can’t afford to stand still.

The EPA rules move our state and nation in the right direction. Reducing our use of dirty coal can ease the worst effects of climate change for future generations.

— Wisconsin State Journal

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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