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New Power Plants Fueled by Coal Are Put on Hold

An article of the same title by Rebecca Smith appeared in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal. This caught our attention because a pulverized coal power plant has been proposed for our hometown and we are uneasy about this proposal, to say the least. The articles main thesis is huge number of new coal-fired power plants that have been announced in recent years as one-after-one they fall by the wayside due to either cost or environmental concerns.

From coast to coast, plans for a new generation of coal-fired power plants are falling by the wayside as states conclude that conventional coal plants are too dirty to build and the cost of cleaner plants is too high. If significant numbers of new coal plants don't get built in the U.S. in coming years, it will put pressure on officials to clear the path for other power sources, including nuclear power, or trim the nation's electricity demand...

As recently as May, U.S. power companies had announced intentions to build as many as 150 new generating plants fueled by coal, adding to the 645 existing units that produce about half the nation's electricity. One reason for the surge of interest in coal was concern over the higher price of natural gas, which has driven up electricity prices in many places. Coal appeared capable of softening the impact since the U.S. has deep coal reserves and prices are low. But the fleet of coal-powered plants that was supposed to be coming over the horizon is vanishing, a little more every week, as one developer after another cancels projects or quietly slows development activity. Coal has come under fire because it is a big source of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming, in a time when climate change has become a hot-button political issue.

The article illustrates the trend by discussing some specific examples from TX:

An early sign of the changing momentum was contained in the $32 billion private equity deal earlier this year to buy TXU Corp. To gain support for the deal, the buyers decided to trim eight of 11 coal plants TXU had proposed in Texas. Recent reversals in Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and other states have shown coal's future prospects are dimming. Nearly two dozen coal projects have been cancelled since early 2006, according to the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, a division of the Department of Energy.

and Florida:

The rapid shift away from coal shows how quickly and powerfully environmental concerns, and the costs associated with eradicating them, have changed matters for the power industry. One place where sentiment has swung sharply against coal is Florida. Climate change is getting more attention there because the mean elevation is only 100 feet above sea level, so melting ice caps would eat away at both its Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. In mid-July, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist convened a climate change summit to explore ways the state could improve its environmental profile. In June, he signed into laws bill that authorizes the Florida Public Service Commission to give priority to renewable energy and conservation programs before approving construction of conventional coal-fired power plants.

It also mentions that coal gasification plants are having trouble because of higher costs:

Coal plants emit more than twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of electricity produced as natural-gas-fired plants, but there's no cheap, easy way to capture and dispose of the greenhouse gas. Even proposals to build so-called "clean coal" plants have been met with skepticism. This new technology, which primarily involves converting coal into a combustible gas for electricity generation, has been touted as a solution to coal's global-warming problems.

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