The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
A section of the Shiyang river is seen next to a coal thermoelectric plant in Wuwei, Gansu province September 21, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria A section of the Shiyang river is seen next to a coal thermoelectric plant in Wuwei, Gansu province September 21, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria  

The EPA’s death blow to the coal industry

Photo of Brian McNicoll
Brian McNicoll
Senior Director of Communications, CEI

“Surprise! The Federal Government Just Did Something That Will Address Climate Change,” blared the headline on the George Soros-funded, radical-left Climate Progress website.

Only the new rule announced Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon emissions from power plants will do nothing of the sort.

What it will address – in the most direct way possible – is the coal industry. And its message to them is simple: Drop dead. If the rule becomes law, new coal-fired plants would be limited to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour of carbon dioxide emissions, and natural gas plants would be limited to 1,000 pounds per megawatt hour. Today, the most technologically advanced coal plants emit 1,800 pounds and gas plants 800-850.

So you can see the problem here. If this rule ever takes effect, no new coal plants will be built in the United States. To do so would require designing one that somehow emits 40 percent less carbon. All we need is a tiny shot of technological innovation, says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“We are very confident that the data is showing that carbon capture and sequestration is technologically feasible … and available,” and that it “has been successfully demonstrated,” she said Friday.

The reality-based community disagrees. An emission performance standard is supposed to reflect the “degree of emission limitation achievable through the application of the best system of emission reduction” that has “been adequately demonstrated.” The EPA picked 1,000 lbs of CO2/MWh because gas-fired plants can meet that target. But gas-fired plants do not equal a system of emissions reduction for a coal-fired plant.

The EPA says coal-fired plants can achieve these goals through carbon capture and sequestration – a process that has not even been demonstrated on this large a scale. It withdrew a similarly-constructed rule in April when it became clear the CCS technology was not available and thus the rule would not withstand court challenges.

The technology is no more available today than it was then. McCarthy seems to believe the rule itself will force industry to come up with adequate CCS measures, but the people who do this for a living do not share her optimism, and courts take a dim view of acting on the whims of officials’ crystal ball predictions.

In the interim, as the rule receives comments and those inevitable legal challenges, why would anyone even think of building a coal-fired plant? Coal provides nearly half our electricity, and we have more of it on reserve than any country on Earth. But, for now, all that is on hold until this latest debacle ends in a federal courtroom.