finding 18.4 : potential-less-high-energy-economy

The Midwest has a highly energy-intensive economy with per capita emissions of greenhouse gases more than 20% higher than the national average. The region also has a large and increasingly utilized potential to reduce emissions that cause climate change.



This finding is from chapter 18 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: The assessment process for the Midwest Region began with a workshop was that was held July 25, 2011, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ten participants discussed the scope and authors for a foundational Technical Input Report (TIR) report entitled “Midwest Technical Input Report.”2626b5ca-ec04-4e41-8405-9f582c779a7a The report, which consisted of nearly 240 pages of text organized into 13 chapters, was assembled by 23 authors representing governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), tribes, and other entities. The Chapter Author Team engaged in multiple technical discussions via teleconferences that permitted a careful review of the foundational TIR2626b5ca-ec04-4e41-8405-9f582c779a7a and of approximately 45 additional technical inputs provided by the public, as well as the other published literature, and professional judgment. The Chapter Author Team convened teleconferences and exchanged extensive emails to define the scope of the chapter for their expert deliberation of input materials and to generate the chapter text and figures. Each expert drafted key messages, initial text and figure drafts and traceable accounts that pertained to their individual fields of expertise. These materials were then extensively discussed by the Author Team and were approved by the Chapter Team members.

Description of evidence base: The key message and supporting text summarize extensive evidence documented in the Technical Input Report.2626b5ca-ec04-4e41-8405-9f582c779a7a Technical inputs on a wide range of topics were also received and reviewed as part of the Federal Register Notice solicitation for public input. The Midwest’s disproportionately large reliance on coal for electricity generation and the energy intensity of its agricultural and manufacturing sectors are all well documented in both government and industry records, as is the Midwest’s contribution to greenhouse gases.cd02cc8f-9ba1-4ce5-8283-b479b0374d33 The region’s potential for zero- and lower-carbon energy production is also well documented by government and private assessments. Official and regular reporting by state agencies and non-governmental organizations demonstrates the Midwest’s progress toward a decarbonized energy mix (Ch. 4: Energy; Ch. 10: Energy, Water, and Land).cd02cc8f-9ba1-4ce5-8283-b479b0374d33 There is evidence that the Midwest is steadily decarbonizing its electricity generation through a combination of new state-level policies (for example, energy efficiency and renewable energy standards) and will continue to do so in response to low natural gas prices, falling prices for renewable electricity (for example, wind and solar), greater market demand for lower-carbon energy from consumers, and new EPA regulations governing new power plants. Several midwestern states have established Renewable Portfolio Standards (see https://www.misoenergy.org/WhatWeDo/StrategicInitiatives/Pages/RenewablePortfolioStandards.aspx).

New information and remaining uncertainties: There are four key uncertainties. The first uncertainty is the net effect of emerging EPA regulations on the future energy mix of the Midwest. Assessments to date suggest a significant number of coal plants will be closed or repowered with lower-carbon natural gas; and even coal plants that are currently thought of as “must run” (to maintain the electric grid’s reliability) may be able to be replaced in some circumstances with the right combination of energy efficiency, new transmission lines, demand response, and distributed generation. A second key uncertainty is whether or not natural gas prices will remain at their historically low levels. Given that there are really only five options for meeting electricity demand – energy efficiency, renewables, coal, nuclear, and natural gas – the replacement of coal with natural gas for electricity production would have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Third is the uncertain future for federal policies that have spurred renewable energy development to date, such as the Production Tax Credit for wind. While prices for both wind and solar continue to fall, the potential loss of tax credits may dampen additional market penetration of these technologies. A fourth uncertainty is the net effect of climate change on energy demand, and the cost of meeting that new demand profile. Research to date suggests the potential for a significant swing from the historically larger demand for heating in the winter to more demand in the summer instead, due to a warmer, more humid climate.6f71c947-69a3-4b13-af70-f061f2e6671f

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: There is no dispute about the energy intensity of the midwestern economy, nor its disproportionately large contribution of greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, there is broad agreement about the Midwest’s potential for—and progress toward—lower-carbon electricity production. There is therefore very high confidence in this statement.

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