This article originally appeared in Dayton Daily News.
For two weeks in Paris, negotiators from more than 190 countries worked toward the historic agreement announced Saturday on commitments to lower greenhouse gases that scientists say are warming the planet and causing climate changes around the globe.
In few places in the U.S. is this debate more relevant than in Ohio, which ranks fifth nationally in carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, and where two-thirds of the electricity we consume comes from coal.
That means big changes — and potentially huge costs — could be in store for coal-dependent states like Ohio as a result of the climate-change benchmarks agreed to in Paris.
The state already faces a 2022 federal deadline to start cutting power plant carbon dioxide emissions under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which Ohio is challenging in federal court along with 26 other states. The federal mandate calls for increased use of renewable energy like solar and wind, and shifts away from coal and toward lower-carbon natural gas.
For Ohio, that means a 37 percent reduction in the rate of power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, according to rules finalized in October by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Supporters of the stronger environmental rules say opponents are driven by a shortsighted desire to protect corporate interests — utility, coal, oil and natural gas companies — at the expense of everyone else.
“We’ve seen over the last few years there has been a political attack on renewable energy and energy efficiency in Ohio,” said Gabe Elsner, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a Washington-based clean energy think tank.
“It’s been driven by organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council and legislators like (State Sen.) Bill Seitz and special interests that have a financial incentive to eliminate competition from the renewable energy industry.”