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Emissions will not reduce themselves. We need a plan

From Christine Todd Whitman, Co-Chair, Clean and Safe Energy (CASEnergy) Coalition:

“Do more with less.” Regardless of how you make your living, this is likely what you’ve been doing for some time. The same holds true for electricity providers in North Carolina and across the country. They are faced with this same challenge, only with a slight twist – utilities must do more but emit less in an effort to keep our air clean.

In order to meet these goals, we need less carbon emission, less nitrogen oxide, less sulfur dioxide, less mecury and fewer air pollutants in general as a byproduct of creating electricity.

By and large, utilities have been meeting the challenge head on. Just last month the Environmental Protection Agency announced that greenhouse gas emissions from power plants fell an astounding 10 percent from 2010 to 2012. Moreover, according to estimates by the Energy Information Administration, carbon dioxide emissions are at the lowest levels since 1994.

The real challenge lies in keeping emissions from electricity production low well into the future. The EIA projects that our country’s electricity demand will increase 28 percent by 2040. Do more, emit less, while providing affordable, clean, reliable power.

There is no single solution; we need all sources of electricity, including wind, solar, natural gas and nuclear energy. In fact, nuclear energy is currently the country’s largest source of clean electricity that is available 24/7.

Nuclear-generated electricity powers one out of every five American homes and businesses. Altogether, nuclear energy avoids nearly 570 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent to more than 118 million passenger cars – almost all the cars in America.

Nuclear energy is playing an even bigger role in North Carolina. Not only does nuclear energy from the state’s three nuclear power stations supply about 32 percent of the state’s electricity needs, it also provides 90 percent of the state’s carbon-free power, avoiding the emission of 34 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and giving its citizens cleaner, healthier air.

In addition nuclear energy plays an essential role in boosting economic growth and supporting high-paying jobs. During construction, a nuclear energy facility creates 1,400-1,800 high-paying jobs with an estimated peak employment as high as 3,500 jobs. Once in operation, the average nuclear energy facility generates approximately $470 million a year in total output for the local community. North Carolina’s three nuclear facilities support about 2,600 jobs and have an annual payroll of nearly $203 million.

Notably, jobs at U.S. nuclear facilities on average pay substantially higher – 36 percent more – than average salaries in the local area.

As demand for energy continues to grow in North Carolina and across the United States, it is imperative that electricity producers embrace a broad portfolio of American-produced energy solutions. Reliable energy production and economic development should not be synonymous with carbon emission and air pollution, and nuclear energy is an important part of the solution. By maintaining our current nuclear fleet and increasing output to meet demand today and tomorrow, we can do more while emitting less to the benefit of generations to come.

Whitman, the former EPA Administrator and Governor of New Jersey, will speak Friday at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Summit in Charlotte.
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