As EPA prepares the first-ever national standards for carbon pollution from new fossil fuel powerplants, the coal industry is embarking, predictably, on its latest dis-information campaign to try to block these desperately needed public health and climate safeguards. New coal plants are dirty, risky, and expensive. No wonder the smart money won’t touch them.
Flacks for the coal lobby have their hair on fire about the rumored content of draft EPA standards that haven’t even been released. They say the standards will kill new coal plants. Haven’t they been paying attention? No one wants to build new coal plants. Except for a handful already underway, no more are planned for the foreseeable future. We don’t know what the EPA draft standards say but we should all be asking a simple question. Exactly why should EPA write a standard that is gerrymandered to make room for dirty powerplants that the private sector does not want to build?
Let’s look at the facts. Starting about ten years ago, there were waves of announcements for scores of new coal plants. In all, nearly 200 coal plants were proposed. Now only a handful of these projects are technically alive and they are on life support. A small number of proposed plants have permits but like many previous plants with such permits, most if not all of these proposals will turn out to be vaporware. A permit may get a developer a meeting with project financiers but it will not get their money. The finance community understands new coal plants are simply not economic, given the alternatives that are available.
Other than a few plants under construction there is virtually no prospect of new conventional coal plants being built in the next quarter century according to the Energy Information Administration. EIA reports no new conventional coal plants coming online after 2012 and only two gigawatts (GW) of coal plants with carbon capture and sequestration coming online around 2017; then nothing more through 2035, the end of the EIA forecast period.
Are the rumored new EPA CO2 standards responsible for the collapse of the new coal plant boom? No. Market forces have rejected new coal plants. Abundant supplies of natural gas have produced lower prices for that fuel and those low prices seem here to stay.
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