NOTE: As many have already noted, Michigan is mislabeled Wisconsin
While the coal industry continues to wield an unseemly amount of clout in shaping the political process, there are encouraging signs that its death grip may finally be loosening. Once touted as a key component of the president's energy agenda, big coal's output over the past year has notably slowed, with 53 proposed plants in 20 states shuttered or otherwise delayed.
As some energy planners resort to trotting out the well-worn line that the U.S. will need to ramp up its electricity production from coal to avert a potential energy crisis, others are encouraging executives to push ahead with plans to diversify away from coal into wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
Despite concerns over the price and supply volatility of natural gas, several companies are embracing this new fuel and dropping plans to build coal-fired plants in favor of natural gas ones.
Others are moving towards nuclear power, with the Tennessee Valley Authority recently committing to adding a new $2.5 billion unit to a nuclear power plant instead of building a new coal-fired plant. According to a study by the industry-backed Electric Power Research Institute, the cost of coal will exceed that of nuclear power and natural gas by 2030 if facilities begin relying on sequestration technologies.
A larger concern - one that has significantly undermined the claim that coal continues to offer the cheapest, most easily accessible energy source - is the growing cost of transportation. Gary Hunt, the president of Global Energy Advisors, believes that companies will need to spend "billions and billions" on improvements for railroads, shipping lines and new mining capacity.
By no means are we under the (naive) assumption that big coal is likely to kick the bucket any time soon; indeed, over 50% of our electricity still derives from it and with the energy needs of countries like India and China unlikely to diminish in the near future - far from it - coal-fired plants will remain an integral component of our energy infrastructure. Yet with Congress working to craft a new climate change bill - an effort big coal is (unsurprisingly) vigorously fighting - and the public increasingly willing to embrace cleaner, renewable energy sources, there is hope that its best days may finally be behind it.
Via ::Los Angeles Times: Coal is no longer on front burner (newspaper)