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Canadian province officially bans coal power

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The Canadian province of Ontario has announced the closure of its last coal-fired power plant as part of a 10-year campaign to go coal-free.

Officials also seized the moment to announce a sweeping ban on future coal plant construction — becoming the first province or state in North America to ban coal use.

The move was praised by failed presidential candidate and environmentalist Al Gore, who celebrated the coal ban as a step in the right direction in the fight against global warming.

“Ontario has become the first regional jurisdiction in all of North America to take these steps on the burning of coal. Congratulations, Ontario, and thank you, Ontario,” Gore said.

The plant is slated to close next year and will be converted to burn advanced biomass to generate electricity. Coal power still makes up nine percent of the province’s installed power capacity, but now the lion’s share of power generation will be done by nuclear power and burning natural gas.

Renewable energy, which has received government help, only makes up a small percentage of generation — wind equals only about five percent while other green sources like wood waste and biogas make up 0.3 percent of capacity.

Ontario officials have been pushing coal out of the picture by subsidizing renewables and relying on more nuclear power and natural gas power for years. Over the last decade, “five nuclear projects, 12 natural gas projects, five hydropower projects, and 17 wind projects” have been completed in Ontario, National Journal reports. All while coal plants have been switching to burning natural gas and biomass.

Environmentalists have been aggressively pushing such policies in the U.S. as well, culminating this year in the Environmental Protection Agency banning the construction of coal plants that don’t use carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology.

The EPA did not technically outlaw coal plants outright, like Ontario, but the coal industry argues that CCS is an unproven and costly technology. Requiring CCS for all new coal plants essentially amounts to a ban since the technology is not ready for commercial deployment, the industry argues.

“The EPA is holding the coal industry to impossible standards. And for the first time ever, the federal government is trying to force an industry to do something that is technologically impossible to achieve — at least, right now,” said West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Coal currently provides 37 percent of the power in the U.S., but increased competition from low-priced natural gas is cutting into coal’s share of the power market. Coal supporters argue that EPA rules targeting coal use could make the decline in coal permanent.

Coal state lawmakers have pushed back against the EPA’s effective coal ban, introducing legislation aimed at stifling the agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants.

“We need a diverse energy portfolio — a true ‘all-of-the-above’ mix of natural gas, nuclear, renewables, oil and coal,” Manchin said. “Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has chosen a regulatory path devoid of common sense that will take us way off course from a future of abundant, affordable, clean energy.”

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