Science Energy Indestructible Coal Is Back, Ready to Replace Killer Windmills By Lloyd Alter Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Lloyd Alter Updated August 07, 2019 Public Domain. Lewis Hine/Wikimedia Commons/ put these kids to work again! Share Twitter Pinterest Email Science Renewable Energy Fossil Fuels What's this about CO2, sulfur dioxide and mercury? Coal is clean and beautiful. Beautiful, indestructible coal begat the industrial revolution and kept millions of people of all ages gainfully employed in the mines and powered the USA for decades. Burning it pumped out tons of CO2, feeding plant and crop growth and warming the planet, saving countless people from freezing to death. That’s pretty much how they think in the White House and at the EPA these days. So they are planning to roll back the Obama era Clean Power Plan that was going to seriously cut CO2 emissions by a plant-killing 19 percent to only 1.5 percent. Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Mercury reductions are cut back too. The industry is ecstatic; they will save about $400 million per year in compliance costs to meet the Clean Power standard. According to the Washington Post, Jim Matheson, chief executive of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, said in a statement Saturday that it appears the measure will “provide electric co-ops the certainty and flexibility they need to meet their consumer-members’ energy needs. The Clean Power Plan would have resulted in stranded assets and stranded debt, significantly increasing electricity costs for many consumers,” added Matheson, whose association’s members get 41 percent of their energy from coal-fired generation. I mean, what’s a little mercury, acid rain and nitrogen oxide-caused smog if consumers can have cheap electricity? In comments over the weekend, the President articulated his position on coal, calling it indestructible. Windmills and pipelines? Boom! Boom! Wikipedia/ Moss, Royal Air Force official photographer, Coal may be indestructible, but its infrastructure isn't. Witness Essen, 1943/Public Domain People living in Essen and the Ruhr Valley, the heart of the German coal industry during the Second World War, might tell you another story about the indestructibility of coal infrastructure; coal may be indestructible but it kind of needs trains, wires and generating plants to be sort of useful. And the birds, think of the birds! Hundreds of thousands of birds. So what if millions and millions of birds are at risk due to so-called climate change, as Mike noted: A recent report confirmed that "hundreds of bird species in the U.S. — including the bald eagle and eight state birds, from Idaho to Maryland — are at 'serious risk' due to climate change. It said some species are forecast to lose more than 95% of their current ranges." None of this is going to make any difference; Obama's Clean Power Plan was stuck at the Supreme Court and probably never would have come into force, so in a lot of ways, Trump's changes are moot. Natural gas is coming out of our ears, thanks to fracking; it is cheaper and easier to dial up and down, so it works far better with the renewables that are already far cheaper than coal. This won't save the industry, and even the EPA admits that it will continue to decline. The President can tilt at windmills all he likes, but he can't make coal great again.