Skip to main content

Moving the Needle with Coal and the EPA

20091122_clinchThe Environmental Protection Agency has released a proposed rule that indicates, absent more progress (effective, scalable, reasonably economical progress) on carbon capture and sequestration, the days of coal are, perhaps, numbered:

The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

And nuclear energy? No carbon emissions at all. Natural gas will be the chief beneficiary here – you could say that the rule was crafted with that in mind - at least as long as gas prices stay low and fracking doesn’t shake up the landscape. Renewable energy sources should benefit, too.

All these point the way forward, with the coal industry now under pressure to get CCS working as it will need to work to keep coal relevant. I know, I know – but never say never – coal remains plentiful and works as advertised, so abandoning it without trying to make it plausible under this new scenario seems economically foolish.

There are about 20 coal plants now pursuing permits; two of them are federally subsidized and would meet the new standard with advanced pollution controls.

But:

The proposal does not cover existing plants, although utility companies have announced that they plan to shut down more than 300 boilers, representing more than 42 gigawatts of electricity generation — nearly 13 percent of the nation’s coal-fired electricity — rather than upgrade them with pollution-control technology.

The story makes clear that natural gas is as responsible for this as regulation, but it’s just as clear that the electricity sector is moving the needle on carbon emissions in the absence of cap-and-trade. (They also built a fair number of coal plants in the interim – that is, between 2009 – after cap-and-trade failed in Congress – and last year – in anticipation of this rule. This is a countervailing force that one may now consider, er, vailed.)

At this point, though, it’s just a proposed rule. More to come.

---

Here is Slate’s Matt Yglesias on this move:

The face of new fossil fuel based electricity will be gas (which is considerably cleaner than coal), and the alternative to gas in the event that the gas boom ends will be renewables.

He’s got quite the blind spot there, doesn’t he?

There are a surprising lot of nice shots of nuclear facilities, but surprisingly few of coal plants. They’re both big industrial structures, after all. I don’t know why that should be.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Home for Our Blog: Join Us on NEI.org

On February 27, NEI launched the new NEI.org. We overhauled the public site, framing all of our content around the National Nuclear Energy Strategy.

So, what's changed?

Our top priority was to put you, the user, first. Now you can quickly get the information you need. You'll enjoy visiting the site with its intuitive navigation, social media integration and compelling and shareable visuals. We've added a feature called Nuclear Now, which showcases the latest industry news and resources like fact sheets and reports. It's one of the first sections you'll see on our home page and it can be accessed anywhere throughout the site by clicking on the atom symbol in the top right corner of the page.
Most importantly for you, our loyal NEI Nuclear Notes readers, is that we've migrated the blog to the new site. Moving forward, all blog posts will be published in the News section, along with our press releases, Nuclear Energy Overview stories and more. Just look for the &qu…

Hurricane Harvey Couldn't Stop the South Texas Project

As Hurricane Harvey battered southeast Texas over the past week, the devastation and loss of life in its wake have kept our attention and been a cause of grief.

Through the tragedy, many stories of heroics and sacrifice have emerged. Among those who have sacrificed are nearly 250 workers who have been hunkered down at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear plant in Matagorda County, Texas.

STP’s priorities were always the safety of their employees and the communities they serve. We are proud that STP continued to operate at full power throughout the storm. It is a true testament to the reliability and resiliency of not only the operators but of our industry.

The world is starting to notice what a feat it is to have maintained operations through the catastrophic event. Forbes’ Rod Adams did an excellent job describing the contribution of these men and women:

“STP storm crew members deserve to be proud of the work that they are doing. Their families should take comfort in the fact that…

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…