The US sits on the largest reserves of coal in the world. But after the EPA gets its way, the fuel won't be worth the trouble to get it out of the ground.
The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants as early as Tuesday, according to several people briefed on the proposal. The move could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.
The proposed rule -- years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review -- will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.
Industry officials and environmentalists said in interviews that the rule, which comes on the heels of tough new requirements that the Obama administration imposed on mercury emissions and cross-state pollution from utilities within the past year, dooms any proposal to build a coal-fired plant that does not have costly carbon controls.
"This standard effectively bans new coal plants," said Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton and Williams and represents several utility companies. "So I don't see how that is an 'all of the above' energy policy."
Electricity costs are going to go up - perhaps way up. It depends on the economy and how it manages to make up for the lost power generation. Efficiencies elsewhere may keep the increase manageable. More likely, that process will lag a few years and rates will skyrocket.
Consumers will blame the power companies for the increases, not realizing it is their own government that wants them to pay sky high prices for electricity and has fashioned policies to see that it happens.