Many of the suggestions by an energy advisory committee appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford appear to be sensible ways to help the state reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But we don't think the state should exclude discussions about new state mandates in addition to voluntary measures.
The governor's Climate, Energy and Commerce Advisory Committee presented a report this month that says South Carolina can release less carbon dioxide than it did in 1990 by promoting voluntary efforts prompted by incentives and laws already on the books. The group offered 51 recommendations that should, according to the report, allow the state to cut emissions by 5 percent by 2020.
If the state did nothing else, the report said, greenhouse gas emissions would reach 102 million metric tons by 2020 with the laws, regulations and incentives already in place. But if the state were to adopt the 51 recommendations, the panel believes emissions could be cut to about 64 million metric tons.
The report states that incentives and changes in building codes to promote more environmentally friendly new construction could save 40 million metric tons. Using more nuclear power sources could save more than 66 million metric tons, and using renewable energy sources such as solar power could save 58 million metric tons, according to the report.
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Those proposals all seem sensible, although the use of more nuclear power would entail building more nuclear power stations. Although there are plans to build four new nuclear plants in the state, construction will take years, and realizing large energy savings from new nuclear power sources by 2020 seems unlikely.
Tax incentives and subsidies at both the commercial and residential level make sense. But the state should not shy away from reasonable government mandates.
One example: The state of South Carolina has mandated that energy efficiency and renewable energy sources must account for 12.5 percent of the state's utilities' electricity sales by 2021.
Earlier this month, Duke Energy announced that it would buy 2 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power about 1,600 homes -- produced by methane gas captured from the old city landfill in Durham, N.C. Gas from the landfill, which closed in the mid-1990s, will be turned into electricity beginning next year.
The methane is produced as buried organic material decomposes. The Durham dump had been burning off its methane, but now the gas will be put to good use.
Earlier this year, Duke also announced intentions to buy the 16-megawatt output of the nation's largest solar farm, to be built in Davidson County, N.C., north of Charlotte.
Duke, to its credit, is one of the nation's more environmentally responsible companies. Duke executives believe the energy industry must confront the problem of global warming, and they have led by example.
Using methane and solar power to generate electricity no doubt makes economic as well as environmental sense. Nonetheless, the state mandate may also have played a role in Duke's decision to pursue these ventures.
And despite the recommendations of Sanford's panel, South Carolina would do well to emulate North Carolina in enacting similar industrial mandates here.
State mandates could be another valuable incentive in reducing greenhouse gases.
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