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Dennis Hill

Support ‘all of the above’ energy

By Dennis Hill

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing limits on how much carbon dioxide can be emitted from all new coal and natural gas power plants built in the future. If the proposed rule is adopted as published, we are concerned it could eliminate coal as fuel source for future electric generation. Here’s why.

The proposed rule states that all future coal plants will need to emit no more than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of generation. That’s well below the current U.S. coal plant average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour.

The proposed rule for coal plants is stringent enough that utilities will only be able to build new coal plants if they can capture a significant percentage of the CO2 produced and bury it underground. This is called carbon capture and storage.

Unfortunately, the technology to capture and store CO2 is not economically feasible. It’s estimated that a coal plant that could capture and store CO2 would cost about 75 percent more than regular plants. Thus, the proposed rule, if adopted, would effectively eliminate coal as a future fuel for electric generation.

We believe an “all of the above” energy strategy rather than this “all but one” is better for the country. In 1978, Congress passed the Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act, which barred the use of natural gas for electric generation. With natural gas not an option, co-ops and other utilities had to choose between coal and nuclear power for electric generation. Electric cooperatives invested heavily in coal in that timeframe.

The ban was lifted in 1987. Now natural gas is plentiful and affordable. But will that last? There have been price spikes and shortages of natural gas (and propane this year) in our nation’s past. What if that happens again and coal is not an option?

No crystal ball can accurately predict that future. But it’s safer to say that if coal is not an option and nuclear generation doesn’t return as an option, then our nation is putting a lot of its eggs in the natural gas basket into the foreseeable future for most new generation. Coal-based generation, on the other hand, provides about 37 percent of the nation’s electricity supply and has been a steady, affordable source of power.

Help us tell the EPA that we need an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar and other renewables. You can register your voice at The comment period on this new plant standard ends March 10, so take the time to register today.


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