How President Obama's Climate Action Plan could affect WI - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

How President Obama's Climate Action Plan could affect WI

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Last month, President Barack Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan, but what the impact could be in Wisconsin is still unclear.

The President vowed to use the full authority of the Federal Clean Air Act to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. It's still unclear how that plan will directly affect Wisconsin, but the fact that coal burning is still a major source of the energy in the state, Wisconsin may find itself at the center of a national debate.

Gary Radloff, the director of Midwest energy policy at Wisconsin Energy Institute, says Wisconsin and all states will need to go through an energy change.

"We've been using lots of coal over the years as our primary electrical generation source, now we're evolving to future energy sources from clean energy technologies of renewable, nuclear, and other sources," Radloff said. "

Coal-fired power plants are one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and according to Radloff can cause some health problems.

"I think the reason President Obama has decided the federal government has to be taking stronger action and reducing greenhouse gases, especially carbon emissions, is because it can certainly cause asthma, heart attacks, people missing work, and even premature deaths, so it's a serious issue," Radloff said.

According to Radloff, 60 percent of Wisconsin's energy relied on coal-burning plants in 2011. He says it's getting better, but needs to improve.

"We're still very dependent on coal, and again I think we have to start looking to diversifying our energy portfolio for the future," Radloff said.

President Obama did offer a pitch for replacing coal with natural gas, something Radloff thinks is a good idea for now.

"The president wants to allow states to have some flexibility to start to implement these changes," Radloff said. "Natural gas prices right now are low, they may not stay low, but for now they're low, so that's a good transition fuel as we start to move away from coal and move more to renewable sources. I think long term we have to be a little careful because, as an international commodity, it's very volatile in price and very volatile to price spikes."

Radloff joined us on 27 News at 5 on Wednesday.

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