If this region of the US were its own country, it would be the fifth largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. With 71% electricity generation from coal and a large manufacturing base, change is needed.
The seeds of change were planted last week when Midwest governors signed an accord designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy conservation, utilize more renewable energy, and slow climate change. The specifics of the plan will be determined over the next 12 months.
The intention is to have a cap and trade system for businesses on greenhouse gas emissions, with a focus on a handful of sectors. This would expand the Midwest’s carbon trading market currently in place by voluntary means.
The pact also calls for reducing energy consumption by 2% by 2015, with 2% annual reductions thereafter. It also requires offering ethanol-based gas E-85 at 15% of gas stations and generating 10% of the region’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015.
The agreement was signed by governors of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and the Premier of Manitoba, with Indiana, Ohio, and South Dakota considered observers. They will have the option to participate in the future if they choose.
The Midwest is ideally suited in some ways to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and profit economically from renewable energy production.
North Dakota, Minnesota, Indiana, and Ohio all contain some of the nation’s most polluting coal power plants. Although there are economic implications to shutting these plants or significantly reducing their emissions, it does provide low hanging fruit for dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while benefiting public health.
With a cool climate and ample sunshine, the Midwest is ideally suited for solar thermal technology to provide space heat and hot water. The region also has wind energy potential due to moderate amounts of wind energy, large quantities of open landscape and some of the region has an excellent transmission grid.
With large quantities of rich agricultural land, farmers can benefit from increasing prices and demand for corn used in ethanol. Switchgrass can also be used for producing ethanol and can be grown on marginal soils, with minimal need for fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. It even provides wildlife habitat and is native to North America.
It is encouraging to see the Midwest taking action to slow climate change and joining both coasts, who already have regional climate change agreements. The Midwest certainly can impact the global climate, considering it accounts for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.