Iowa is joining with seven states and the City of New York to sue the nation’s five largest power companies. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says carbon dioxide emissions from those plants are a threat to the world because it’s causing global warming. Miller says global warming is an important issue that can have “enormous consequences” for the state, the country and the world. For example, Miller says each year Iowa corn farmers lose nearly half a billion dollars because their crop yields are reduced by global warming’s main warning signs: severe weather events, like drought and heavy rain. Miller says if global warming continues, over the next hundred years the average global temperature will increase three to 10 degrees. Miller says that big of an increase in temperatures will shift Iowa’s climate so that crops will not yield as much and more Iowans, particularly the elderly, will suffer and perhaps die from heat stroke. Miller says the five power companies being sued operate 174 power plants in the U.S.Those plants emit 650 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. That’s one-quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted from the nation’s electric power industry. The lawsuit asks the utilities to first stabilize carbon dioxide emissions, then gradually reduce C-O-two emissions by energy conservation and the use of alternatives to fossil fuels, like the wind and the sun. Miller says “it’s an important way to protect the planet” and ensure Iowa agriculture continues in its long tradition. Iowa State University extension climatologist Elwyn Taylor says the productivity of farmers isn’t increasing as quickly in the past few decades because of the increasing presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Taylor says “if it were not for agriculture, we’d have no culture at all” because the world’s existence depends on agricultural productivity. Taylor says humans are burning fossil fuels at a rate that’s higher than the Earth’s ability to create new fossil fuels. Taylor says for a long time, it was thought that humans were insignificant in influencing the world’s climate, but he says in the 1960s, scientists began to see data indicating human activity could influence the weather and the climate of an entire planet. Bush Administration officials say they don’t have the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Miller says the lawsuit filed today shouldn’t be seen as a partisan shot since New York City, which is joining the lawsuit, is led by a republican Mayor and other republican state Attorneys General have expressed support for it.Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy is among the power companies being sued over its carbon dioxide emissions. Paul Adelmann says his company is working to refurbish plants and is the nation’s second largest supplier of wind power.Adelmann says his company already has “a carbon dioxide management strategy that will save 12 million tons in carbon dioxide total by the year 2009.” Adelmann says Xcel “is basically ahead of the curve in dealing with carbon dioxide.” Carbon dioxide is a by-product of coal-burning power plants, as well as a naturally-occurring gas. The lawsuit seeks “substantial cuts” in emissions, rather than financial compensation. Adelmann says Xcel is very proud of its environmental record. Adelmann says his company is spending one-billion dollars in the Twin Cities area to refurbish three older plants and is voluntarily reducing emissions. For example, Xcel spent two-hundred-11 million dollars on power plants in Denver to voluntarily reduce emissions. New York City is teaming up with the states of California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin to sue American Electric Power, Cinergy, the Southern Company, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Xcel Energy.
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