Energy Policy: EPA Moves to Cut Coal Emissions by 50%



If the EPA’s latest move to cut coal emissions is successful, it will become nearly impossible for companies to build the kind of coal-fired electric plants that have been the country’s biggest source of electricity for decades. Under the EPA’s proposal, which the agency released last Friday, any new coal plants would be limited to just half the harmful coal emissions as the average coal-fired power plants emit today.

The EPA proposal aims to help the White House meet the goals of President Obama’s environmental “Action Plan” to cut greenhouse gas emissions by attacking the coal industry – which, according to them, is the largest single source in the United States, pumping out some 40% of the nation’s deadly greenhouse gases. Under the new laws, future coal plants would be limited to emitting 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, with a slightly higher limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour for smaller, natural-gas generators (another nail in the “natural gas is a clean industry” coffin, IMO).

Of course, the coal industry is totally against the EPA plan to cut coal emissions. “Our customers have to agree to foot that bill,” says Nick Akins, president and CEO of American Electric Power, one of the country’s largest utilities. They “won’t go for it”.

Nick, apparently, is hoping that his industry’s efforts to side-step existing disclosure laws through intermediary energy providers and distort the facts and opinions surrounding alternative electrical energy sources like wind and ethanol will work. I, on the other hand, am hoping the coal industry goes under, Akins goes broke, and his kids are forced to find jobs that don’t destroy America’s environmental future and damage the health of our children and grand-children.

We’ll all see how that goes if and when the EPA proposal goes through.


Sources | Photos: Cleantechnica, NPR, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wikipedia.

About the Author

I’ve been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.

  • Jason Carpp

    I tend to disagree with what the EPA is doing. Like anyone, I want clean air. But I believe what they’re asking is unrealistic.

    • I’d love to agree with you. When I was in college, I probably would have, but we live in a time when hitting a CAFE and emissions mandate that would have been impossible 20 years ago is now VERY possible … I really believe, at this point, that the only thing keeping these massive energy companies from behaving responsibly is greed and the general civility of the green crowd. Give the Occupy people machetes instead of weed and guitars, and you’d see some f***ing change.

      • Jason Carpp

        I’m afraid I fail to see how it’s possible to cut coal emissions.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s rather easy.

          You close coal plants and replace them with wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, biogas, tidal, hydro, and storage.

          In the short term you use natural gas as a stand-in for storage while we develop better storage technology.

          And by continuing to work on efficiency you crank down the amount of electricity residences and businesses use so that the small, short term, increase in electricity cost won’t change the bottom line.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We need to be honest with ourselves. Coal plants have limited lifetimes. The average life for a coal plant in the US is 39 years.

            Take a look at the graph I’m sticking on the bottom and you can see that a lot of our coal plants are no longer spring chickens. We’re going to have to replace them. The question is “With what?”.

            New coal plants are expensive and would produce electricity considerably more expensive than new wind, solar or natural gas. No sense in picking the expensive route. And then paying even more to treat coal pollution produced illnesses.

            Just leave last century’s power behind and get cranking on 21st Century stuff.

        • Better catalysts, more refinement prior to burning, more efficient generators that convert more of the available BTUs into power, so that the needs of the facility are met by less coal, etc. Same as cars.

          • Bob_Wallace

            All those things drive up the cost of electricity from coal plants and make coal less competitive. Wind and solar are installed, coal plants close.

            That’s what is happening. Right now 150 US coal plants are scheduled to close in the next couple of years because making them efficient would cost too much money.

          • Isn’t it grand? 🙂

          • Bob_Wallace

            Exciting times in the energy and car world. As long as you aren’t holding a handful of last century practices cards.

            About like having all your money tied up in horse whips and harness when Henry sprung his T on the world….

  • UncleB

    Chinese advances in Thorium LFTR technologies, Thorium pebble bed gas reactors? Can America break away from its controlling corporations long enough to save its own environment?

  • Wallace

    I’m just itching for a reason to go all solar on my house to cover the whole house and driving. Raise prices and I will go all solar. I already got a taste of solar and I like it. 10% of my driving is covered by a single solar panel on my house.

    • Here’s a reason: you don’t want Earth to become a desolate, barren hunk of garbage floating around a 2nd rate star on the edge of a 3rd rate galaxy, and you want to do your part.

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