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What kind of bargain

October 17, 2012 - Jim Anderson
The Daily News published an editorial today criticizing President Obama for waging a “war on coal.”

New limits on coal, the editorial charges, “would force tens of millions of families to pay hundreds of dollars a year more for electricity.”

The issue is far more complicated than that.

For one thing, today’s editorial ignores the fact that lower natural gas prices are a major factor in coal’s decline.

It also ignores the role of renewable energy in weakening the demand for coal power. Locally, for instance, Verso Paper is creating electricity by burning wood waste — both cheaper and cleaner than buying power from coal plants.

Most importantly, the editorial ignores the costs of coal pollution.

Relaxed emissions standards could make coal power cheaper — and keep aging facilities viable — but what kind of “bargain” is that in the end?

The coal industry estimates that compliance with the Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) Rule would cost $10.4 billion a year. The Environmental Protection Agency, in turn, claims $30 billion to $90 billion in annual health cost savings from reduced pollution. The MACT Rule, the EPA estimates, could prevent up to 11,000 deaths annually.

Such figures, to be sure, are up for debate.

But nowhere are they mentioned in today’s editorial.

(At right is a link to an InsideClimateNews piece that explores these issues at greater depth, as well as National Review Online article supporting the coal industry’s argument that emissions reductions do not justify the cost.)

 
 
 

 

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