The coal industry and coal-fired power has been dealt a series of body blows by the Obama administration over the last four years. Yesterday, the EPA delivered the coup de grace to coal, in the form of a new rule that – unless overturned by Congress or a future administration – will ensure that no new, modern coal-fired power plants will be built in the United States.
The EPA released Subpart TTTT of New Source Performance Standards yesterday, a proposed rule that limits carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. No coal-fired power plant can meet the emission limit (1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of power produced), but natural gas-fired power plants can. This will lead to some significant changes in the power energy once the rule goes final, sometime next year.
It is now estimated that around 50,000 to 80,000 megawatts of coal fired power will be retired from the grid over the next few years. Coal fired power is base load power (that is, power that has to be available all of the time) and neither solar nor wind can provide base load power anywhere but in the President’s green fantasies. Biomass (wood, energy crops, etc.) can provide base load power, but there’s not nearly enough of the fuel to replace so much coal. More nuclear power could easily shoulder the load, but there’s no way that we can permit and build enough nuclear plants in the time available. That leaves natural gas as the only fuel that can possibly be used to replace all of that coal.