By Tim Zorn, Post-Tribune staff writer 

Coal-burning power plants are the main reason why Indiana is the nation’s seventh-largest producer of carbon dioxide, a report released Tuesday says.

Many scientists suspect that carbon dioxide emissions, particularly from the United States, have created a “greenhouse effect” that is making Earth heat up.

From 1960 through 2001, 28 states more than doubled their carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group report.

Indiana’s emissions increased 79 percent during that time, the report says, and 71 percent of that increase came from burning coal.

Indiana ranked first among the states for the percentage of carbon dioxide emissions from coal.

Alex Geisinger, a Valparaiso University law school professor, said the data shows the need for a comprehensive federal strategy to cut carbon emissions.

Voluntary or state-by-state reductions don’t work, he said, because states cut regulations when they compete with each other for new businesses.

“When we leave it to voluntary reductions, we have a race to the bottom,” he said.

Stan Pinegar, executive director of the Indiana Energy Association, said the state’s investor-owned utilities have realized that future carbon-emissions limits are likely and are examining new technologies, such as a process to turn coal into cleaner-burning gas, for the next generation of power plants.

“Our companies are still convinced coal is the best fuel to use,” Pinegar said. “It’s hard for me to imagine that the potential renewable energy sources are going to make up a big part of the energy supply.”

Brian Wright, the Hoosier Environmental Council’s coal policy director, said a coalition of Indiana businesses, not-for-profit organizations and government officials — the Indiana Coalition for Renewable Energy and Economic Development — is looking for ways to create energy that doesn’t require burning coal or oil.

He noted that two California firms recently announced plans to build scores of wind-powered, electricity-generating turbines in Benton County, south of Newton County.

The U.S. PIRG report, “The Carbon Boom,” analyzed data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory; 2001 was the latest year for which state-to-state comparable data was available, U.S. PIRG said.

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