Sensible Coal Revival

Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia (Creative Commons)

The EPA has essentially killed coal-fired power plants by ruling that coal-fired power plants must emit less than 1,100 pounds of CO2 per MWh.

But will this ruling stand?

Common sense would say that the rule must be revoked.

Revoking the rule is unlikely while this administration is in power. It is committed to cutting CO2 emissions regardless of whether the science supports anthropogenic global warming from CO2.

As it becomes increasingly clear that renewables, such as wind and solar, cannot supply the electricity needs of the United States, there will be a need for large, base load power plants.

This will become especially clear as more nuclear power plants are closed. See Nuclear Demise in the United States.

While natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants can provide base load power, pipeline constraints, and concerns for relying on an inordinate amount of power generation from a single technology, coupled with growth in electricity demand, will result in a revival of coal-fired power plants.

Pipelines in several areas were not capable of supplying sufficient natural gas to power plants this past winter, so there is a practical limit as to how many new NGCC power plants can be built.

Building new coal-fired power plants makes sense for three additional reasons:

  • Coal is cheap and abundant, and produces electricity at a cost that can be competitive with natural gas.
  • New, ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants that operate at very high temperatures and pressures are approximately 40% more efficient than coal-fired power plants built in the past. The improved efficiency also results in far fewer emissions.
  • Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants cost less than half as much per KW as do nuclear power plants.

The John W. Turk ultra-supercritical power plant in Arkansas is the only such plant built in the United States. China is reportedly building around 20 of these ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants.

Traditional coal-fired power plants had a thermal efficiency of around 32% HHV, while new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants have a thermal efficiency of around 45% HHV. This advance in technology has been brought about by improvements in metallurgy.

Improvements in efficiency also translate into corresponding reductions in NOx, SOx, Hg, and other pollutants. With modern pollution control equipment, these plants deserve the sobriquet of clean-coal.

If half the nuclear power plants being shuttered this century in the United States are replaced with NGCC power plants, it will still require approximately 35 new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants to be built between 2035 and 2100, or approximately one new coal-fired power plant being built every two years.

While this is an approximation, it’s close enough to establish what’s likely to happen with the closure of nuclear power plants.

It’s always risky forecasting the future. But the evidence (i.e. closure of nuclear power plants; growth in electricity demand; and practical limits of how many NGCC power plants can be built, and that wind and solar are too anemic to meet required output) supports such a forecast.

There’s no question that NGCC power plants are cleaner, but there are good reasons to build ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants.


Read more of Donn’s columns at his blog

Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia (Creative Commons)


  1. The progressive, elitist liberals do not care how expensive energy is. They will always be able to afford it. When the middle class can no longer afford it, then what's left will be plentiful for them. They will use their money to visit all of the pristine lakes, mountains, desserts, and valleys that we have been banned from. They, like our leaders will jet around the world, shopping.
    If any of this global warming hysteria was really an eminent danger, the elitist left would sell their mansions, gas guzzlers, jets, and amend their wicked ways.

    • Might I add, that when Gandhi preached peace, he didn't carry a gun and shoot those who disagreed with him. (Although he did say that it was right for a man to shoot someone in self defense.) When Dr. King, took to the streets to enact a peaceful change, he didn't loot and "knock out" those in his path. He walked peacefully ahead, in the face of danger. When Jesus saw that we needed a savior, he didn't demand that his followers take up their crosses and do as he said. He took up his cross and then told up to follow Him.
      LIARS LIE.
      What kind of a person do you want to follow?

  2. That restriction for coal fired plants is based on a calculation that is questionable at best. Every coal fird plant in the world cannot generate enough CO2 to be even noticed. There are 150 active volcanoes around the world. Just one, when it blows it's top, puts more CO2 into the atmosphere than all the automobiles and coal fired plants in the USA. And even then it is not even discernible.

  3. pineapple says:

    From "Climategate" by Sussman:

    It’s astounding to note that, of the gases on our atmosphere, the amount of carbon dioxide is almost imperceptible. By percentage, the gases are ordered as follows:

    Nitrogen 78.1%
    Oxygen 20.9%
    Water vapor 0.40%
    Argon 0.90%
    Carbon dioxide 0.038%
    Neon 0.002%
    Helium 0.005%
    Methane 0.002%
    Krypton 0.001%
    Hydrogen 0.0005%
    Nitrous oxide 0.0003%
    Ozone 0.000004%
    Carbon monoxide trace

    Carbon dioxide only accounts for a scant 38 thousandths of a percent of our planet’s atmosphere. It is known as a variable gas because, like water vapor, is has historically fluctuated. And what percentage of the miniscule amount of CO2 is produced by the activities of man, including the utilization of fossil fuels? According to a thorough analysis by the Carbon dioxide Information Analysis Center, a research wing of the U.S. Department of Energy, it is only 3.207 percent.(Stated another way, man-made carbon dioxide constitutes only .00126 % of the earth’s atmosphere.) All of this hoopla over an atmospheric component so minute, it is difficult to comprehend.
    Allow me to repeat this critical fact;

    Carbon dioxide comprises 38/1000ths of the earth’s atmosphere, and of that amount, a mere 3 percent is
    generated by mankind.

    Furthermore, nitrous oxide is 310 times more capable of retaining the sun’s heat than carbon dioxide.
    However, nitrous oxide is not vilified by global warming alarmists as is carbon dioxide. The reason for this is that nitrous oxide can not be attributed to fossil fuels and is also more difficult to measure and tax like carbon dioxide.

    According to the U.S. Historical Climatology Network archives, the temperature has warmed only 0.5 degrees F since the mid-1980s.

    Tossing out corrupted USHCN data, there has actually been a net-cooling since 1930—during the same period in which atmospheric CO2 has noticeably increased.

    Since 2007, global temperatures are engaged in a significant downward spiral, with government data illustrating a bit more than a one degree F (0.65 degrees C) drop in temperature between 2007 and 2008 alone.

Speak Your Mind

Connect with Facebook