New Coal Power Plants in the US

WeSupportLee provides an excellent look at a variety of energy topics.

One of these, new coal plants, generates disproportionate yawns in the public . Yes, there are protests, but these protests are not proportionate to the harm done by coal. (Part of the reason I think so is because we in California build our coal plants to the east, so they pollute others. Hence, little local discussion. Here CA lists much of its coal power under Energy Imports: Pacific Southwest; here that figure is included, check out the coal use in your state.)

Fortunately, new California regulations and legislation are discouraging the addition of coal power. California Public Utility Commission requires a “Carbon Adder” for planning future power plants; utilities must assume that carbon cap and trade or carbon taxes are being applied and will be increased. Utilities assume a price of $8/ton C in 2005, and increase the assumed price 5%/year. Otherwise, utilities might be making business plans based on an unlikely scenario, that greenhouse gases will not be regulated, and that coal power will continue to be cheap. AB 32 requires California greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 to decrease to 1990 levels.

WeSupportLee looks at less positive decisions: coal plans for Kansas (2,100 MW, eek, approval likely) and for Texas (and includes links to other discussions on TX plans).

The recent Stern report says,

The effects of our actions now on future changes in the climate have long lead times.What we do now can have only a limited effect on the climate over the next 40 or 50 years. On the other hand what we do in the next 10 or 20 years can have a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century and in the next.

Countries with huge coal supplies will insist on using them. However we must require no new coal plants without carbon capture and storage technologies. Basically, instead of using air, a coal power plant uses a different (and much less polluting) design, and oxygen instead of air, producing only 1/5 as much waste gas. The waste gas is then injected into permanent storage, in a coal mine or oil well.

The less polluting part is important: coal particulates alone kill 30,000 Americans each year from heart and respiratory disease. Pennsylvania has the largest number of coal deaths per year (2,250), and Kentucky (1,000) the largest per capita coal deaths. See the effect of coal power on your state in the appendix. It is not good of us to ignore this kind of pollution: excepting second hand smoke, fossil fuel particulates kill more Americans each year than all other pollutants combined.

There is an additional benefit of increasing the price of electricity, a lot. This encourages much more rapid increases in energy efficiency, doing the same with less energy.

The current path is immoral, and not economically prudent, and decisions being made in Texas and Kansas to increase coal use will have enormous negative implications for the rest of the United States and the rest of the world.

Object. Let your legislators know that you would like to see greenhouse gas cap and trade policies enacted immediately. These should be significant enough to make current designs for coal power plant unfeasible. Additionally, pilot tests must be done to give more information and to minimize problems. The current Department of Energy policies lack a sense of urgency.

Object. Currently few Americans list the environment as an important reason for our vote, and our legislators are acting accordingly.

One Response to “New Coal Power Plants in the US”

  1. Fantastic post! Thanks for the information about California’s energy picture.

    And, thanks for the links! 🙂