U.S. Greenhouse Emissions Tied to Aging Nuclear, Coal Plants

New projections from the Energy Information Administration find that the trajectory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is highly sensitive to the operation of the nation’s nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

Apr 29, 2014 at 12:52PM

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New projections from the Energy Information Administration find that the trajectory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) is highly sensitive to the operation of the nation's nuclear and coal-fired power plants.

The rate and timing of retirements from these aging plants could dramatically impact how much carbon pollution the U.S. will emit decades from now.

CO2 Emissions from the electric power sector

Source: EIA

U.S. emissions could be 4 percent higher by 2040 if more nuclear power plants are retired than expected, as natural gas moves in to fill the void. Similarly, if more coal plants are retired than expected, U.S. GHG emissions could be 20 percent lower than expected.

Many of the nation's nuclear plants began operation in the 1960s and 1970s with an initial 40-year operating license – meaning most are near the end of their intended lives.

However, more than 75 percent have received 20-year renewals, which extends their operations into the 2020s and 2030s. Many plant operators are pushing for a second 20-year renewal, and how successful they are at convincing regulators and the public to allow such a move will largely determine how many plants remain in operation beyond the next two decades.

Coal-fired power plants face a darker future. Environmental regulations will most likely lead the industry into gradual decline, forcing many plants out of operation over the same timeframe.

The New York Times has reported on a push by environmental groups to preserve nuclear power in an effort to fight climate change. Backed by former members of Congress and former Obama officials, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions argues in a new report that nuclear retirements could outpace the construction of renewable energy, resulting in higher net emissions for years. But the group also says that new EPA rules allowing carbon trading could extend the lives of nuclear reactors.

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Written by Joao Peixe at Oilprice.com

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

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This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

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KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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