No New Coal: New Source Performance Standards Don’t Clear the Air

The current administration continues to push for cleaner air. That means reducing carbon emissions according to the 2009 EPA ruling that defines carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. It should be no surprise then, that the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) on newly constructed power utilities reduces allowable carbon emissions.

The new emission levels, however, are below what is technologically feasible for coal burning plants. This effectively means that no new coal power plant can be constructed until new technology is developed and economically feasible. That is estimated to be ten or more years away. “[I]t is odd that they [the EPA] think it’s a good idea to ban new coal-fired power plants,” says Jeff Holmstead, former EPA air chief.

There are multiple consequences from this ruling. Whether they are good, bad, or otherwise depends on your perspective.

1. Increased power demand will have to be satisfied from alternative fuels. Coal currently provides about half of all US electricity consumption.

2. Natural gas is presently the most cost effective substitute for coal. Gas powered plants already meet the new emission standard. An increase in demand for electricity will increase the demand for natural gas. (Natural gas providers have an interest in this ruling.

3. Renewable energies, such as wind and solar, are more than twice as expensive as gas and coal and we do not have the technological capability to store the power during down times. These renewable energies require backup power sources.

4. Natural gas, similar to coal, is a fossil fuel that must be ‘mined’ from underground. Each has their own environmental consequences.

5. Unless new supply meets increasing demand, electrical rates will rise. (At present the slow economy has kept demand relatively low and natural gas production has been booming.)

6. The rule impacts only new emission sources. Existing coal fired plants remain regulated under the old rules; they can continue to produce at current emission levels.

7. Because new plants cannot be built to meet the standards, existing plants with older technology, hence more emissions, will stay online longer.

8. The fastest growing countries continue to build new coal powered electric utilities to energize manufacturing at the lowest cost and compete at the global level.

The new emission standards are similar to previous regulations in a couple of ways. First, there are some “strange bedfellows” lobbying for the new air regulations. Alternative power providers benefit from reduced competition, regardless of environmental consequences. Second, by discouraging new coal burning facilities, the rule discourages investment in cleaner coal and keeps existing utilities online longer.

Originally posted at Environmental Trends.


  1. I wonder when these brilliant idiots in DC (especially the EPA) will decide that based on carbon emissions I (and the rest of human society) will have to be limited in our daily breathing (exhaling to be specific) or else be punished with some fine or the threat to stop our exhaling altogether. I say to them: FYI we all (including them) exhale CO2 on a massive basis daily. How stupid can the be?

    • Owen pinnell says:

      It’s not only the banning of new coal burning power plants, the DC nutters now want to stick their nose into the business of gas drilling and fracing as well. For gods sake get out of the business of business.

      • Owen–for gods sake read a bit of the history of the “business of business”
        The sad record of pollution, contamination of soil,water and air, and the human suffering from running “business for business”, without regard to the consequences for society. Even the “business of banking” could not contain itself from destruction when regulations were weakened or ignored—not to mention the destruction to the US and world economy

    • Joe–you are the stupid one. Learn a little science to realize the volumes and types of harmful emissions from coal and other fossil fuels compared to the emissions from human breathing.

      • Existing climate models cannot predict future temperatures and they can’t reproduce the past, proving a serious lack of data and scientific knowledge of climates.
        There is .04% CO2 in the Earth’s Atmosphere and of that “Man” has added an extra 4% (1 part in 62,500). An 8 percent increase in CO2 over the past 15 years has caused zero global warming. Compared to CO2, water vapor and clouds have vastly more influence over weather and climate. Oddly enough, fluctuations in the sun’s energy output seems very important. Reducing CO2 is a poor reason to wreck world economies.

    • Not brilliant idiots but useful idiots as Lenin would say.

  2. james gore says:

    So coal is now cheaper to China, India, etc due to more exports from the USA. The coal industry should do a world mass balance to project if world wide carbon emissions are actually reduced by raising utility costs in the USA.


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