Wyoming mines about 40% of the United States’ coal, and claims that the industry provides 23,000 jobs to the state. So I’m sure you see why the recent attacks on coal energy have left the state worried for one of its largest markets.
Remember, Obama’s new Clean Power Plan has begun the cut of U.S. emissions rates, mainly through an increase in renewable energy sources and a reduction of coal use.
Earlier this year, the first of several expected regulations on the disposal of coal waste came into effect. These included stricter containment of dry coal ash to keep it out of groundwater and out of the air. Similar rules about pond-containment methods are next.
Additionally, every coal power plant in the country is required to cut its own individual emissions level by 1,305 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour.
Coal accounts for 75% of the electricity sector’s emissions, and without major technological advancement the most logical way to cut down on those emissions would be to cut down on coal use.
And yet some people still don’t see this as the final sign of death for coal energy.
You see, several states were already planning to shut down coal power plants before the CPP’s regulations came into play.
For instance, New Mexico utility PNM already had two coal units at the San Juan Generating Station planned for closure. The state also has its own energy-efficiency standards. Between the two, the new CPP regulations on coal won’t be too much of a blow to the state’s economy.
In fact, they may prove profitable. Should New Mexico be able to exceed the plan’s emissions goals, it will have clean energy credits to sell to other states.
Wyoming University energy economist Rob Godby recently led a study that showed how the CPP could cut the state’s coal production between 34% and 50% depending upon how much coal energy capacity the state is able to keep under the new guidelines.
“This isn’t the death of coal,” Godby insists.
Unfortunately for the coal industry, it still sounds rather like a death knoll. The CPP is only the next step in a global movement towards clean, sustainable power sources. And with carbon limits increasing and carbon taxes on the horizon, even the country’s current cheapest energy source could become uneconomical in the years to come.
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Until next time,
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