A bad week for U.S. coal projects

May 2, 2009

It was a bad week to be planning a coal-fired power plant in the United States.

The industry suffered its second blow of the week on Friday with the cancellation of a plant in Michigan. The move by power plant developer LS Power marks the ninth such plant to be dropped in the United States so far this year, according to a count by environmental group the Sierra Club.

The company blamed regulatory uncertainty and the weak economy for the cancellation, which environmentalists cheered because coal-fired power plants are responsible for more than 30 percent of the United States’ global warming emissions.

The Michigan plant cancellation wasn’t the first blow to coal this week, either. On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency withdrew a permit for a massive coal-fired plant in New Mexico that would have been built on an Indian reservation.

The announcements came within two weeks after the Obama administration opened the way to regulating greenhouse gas emissions by declaring them a danger to human health.

Mandated limits on greenhouse gases, which the U.S. could adopt as early as this year, are certain to deal a further blow to new coal-fired plants. The U.S. Department of Energy’s statistical arm, however, expects coal to provide the largest share of U.S. electric generation for years to come, making up 47 percent of the nation’s power generation in 2030.

What do you think is the future of coal-fired power in the United States?

Photo credit: Reuters/Staff Photographer (Southern Company’s Plant Bowen in Cartersville, Georgia, one of the biggest coal-fired plants in the United States)

12 comments

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How can we ever substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions if the percentage of coal generated energy goes up from 30% now to 47% in 2030. The US should be a green example to the rest of the world, how can we expect countries like China and India to cut greenhouse gas emissions if we fail to do so ourselves.

When cities and towns start facing daily brown outs or worst total black outs then they will wish they had looked a little harder and longer before with drawing power generating plant permits.

I look forward to seeing major cities on their environmental knees pleading for power and demanding EPA, state and federal help!

Posted by Pobept | Report as abusive

If we truly are reinventing and restructuring our economy and our effect on the rest of the world, as well as the environment, then we need to go green in order to show the rest of the world that we are still cutting edge (and stop holding on to how we used to be). There are plenty of other means of energy and power that can be used with renewable resources so we need to simply start over…

Global warming is a hoax. There is no scientific data behind it. Stop being stupid and get serious. Greenies are ignorant and selfish people.

Posted by AEinstein | Report as abusive

What amazes me is the lack of efficient use of energy. We talk and talk about coal and nuclear and solar and wind power, yet very little is said about cutting down on wasted energy. Whether it is polite to industries or not, we need to give a civilized leap forward by stopping consumption of wasteful products and services that we didn’t need in the first place! Right now we people are cut off the coal debate because energy companies feed us electricity without giving us an option on where the electricity is taken from in the first place. Truly, dumb cheap people have taken over -that is their excuse. The mentally challenged individual of the previous reply is winning. I have no idea why he is even complaining.

Posted by Julie | Report as abusive

While China and India and the rest of the world enjoys reliable power in the future, and while their economies overpower the USA because of it, Americans can at least sit back in their second-rate economy during their blackouts and say “at least we did the right thing”, when the whole global warming/climate change issue proved to be as much a load of cobblers as all the predictions given about the future on the first Earth Day in 1970. Whoever thought it would be the Americans themselves that would vote for their own slow tortured demise?

Posted by Pogue Mahone | Report as abusive

It seems so rediculous that people in the US are still making excuses for business interests to continue to operate irresponsibly. I believe that progress can be made incrementally and in some cases pollution, poisons etc can be released through ignorance. But once the science indicates there is hazards in business operations, there are no more excuses. If clean coal is possible then get it done. I dont want communities poisoned by fly ashe. I don’t want children dying because some millionaire wants a bigger boat. If the owner of the Peanut Corp of America had done the right thing when he first discovered salmonella in his product, he might still be in business and his employees would have jobs. I am tired of the excuses. America is a “Can do” nation, then do it and stop the whining.

Posted by CarmanK | Report as abusive

Take a look a Thomas Friedman’s latest “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” for a review of the problems and some possible solutions. All we need is the will, individually and politically to make the major changes that are necessary. If we can pull off Manhattan and Apollo why not the energy-climate paradigm shift?

Posted by Curt Preston | Report as abusive

if we hire the nasa people being layed off,they can solve the emmisions problen with coal very quickly

The future for coal-fired power stations may depend on whether Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) can be made to work effectively and economically.
It’s based on technology already used in the oil industry. Energy companies pump carbon dioxide into oil reservoirs so that they can raise the pressure and extract more oil and gas. More research needs to be done on the long-term effects and seepage rates of storing CO2 underground.
But it’s cost that remains the real sticking point. Adding to CCS technology to power stations is expensive. About a quarter of the power generated by a CCS-equipped power station is used in the chemical capture of the carbon dioxide, its compression and transport. Subsequently, CCS power stations will need to be about a third bigger to generate the same power as an equivalent conventional power station.

Carbon Capture & Sequestration = Son of Nuclear Waste Dump. There will never be clean coal. Move on.

Posted by Kurve Ball | Report as abusive

Emissions reduction mandates are expected to come into effect very soon—not just for heavy emitters, but medium and small emitters too. While mandatory reporting is a useful tool for managing carbon change, what is lacking in a lot of these programs is the ability to provide contextual detail, or to showcase emissions reduction achievements. Canadian Standards Association (CSA, World Secretariat for the development of ISO 14064, an international carbon accounting standard) just launched the GHG CleanStart™ Registry based on ISO 14064. It’s a voluntary program, but it covers the same bases as the regulated programs, while also allowing organizations to highlight their successes. Check it out at http://www.csa.ca/carbonperformance