Big Coal’s Big Problems

From Rolling Stone

By Brooke Jarvis

You wouldn’t have guessed it from all the theatrics of the 2012 election – like when Mitt Romney, who once stood in front of a coal-fired power plant and announced, “That plant kills people,” turned around and campaigned on a promise to revive the coal industry – but the days of Big Coal’s power have been numbered for a while now. And the prognosis may be about to get worse.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule limiting how much carbon dioxide a new power plant can emit per megawatt of electricity it produces. Plants powered by the sun, wind, nuclear and natural gas are capable of operating under the new limit – but not those powered by coal.

The rule was heralded as marking the end of new coal power in the U.S., though in fact cheap natural gas, the rising cost of producing coal, the availability of ever-cheaper renewable power, strong opposition to coal and the possibility of a carbon price had already kept utilities from planning new coal plants (or prompted them to cancel them) even before the rule was issued.

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