NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 14, 2008

The debate over power plants in Texas is based on false premises. Much of the public has the mistaken impression that building new coal-fired power plants necessarily means more air pollution, says Joel Schwartz, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in a new study for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Steady advances in technology are decoupling fossil-fuel energy and air pollution.
  • Air pollution continues to reach new record lows even as Americans burn increasing amounts of coal, oil, and natural gas to power their homes, vehicles, businesses, and factories.


  • Texas already meets federal health standards for most air pollutants; the key remaining challenge for Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and other Texas cities is ozone.
  • DFW will attain the ozone standard regardless of whether new coal plants are built; coal is already a small fraction of ozone-forming emissions, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires total power plant pollution to continue to decline, even if new coal plants are built.

In other words, the debate about power plant emissions misses the point, says Schwartz.  The real choice Texas policymakers face is how expensive they want to make electricity for their constituents.  The way to meet air quality goals and keep electricity affordable is to allow utilities to take advantage of the least costly energy sources available, including choosing to build new coal plants if they wish.  Declining limits on power plant emissions ensure that air pollution from electricity generation will continue to decline, even as utilities continue to meet the increasing energy needs of Texas' citizens.

Source: Joel Schwartz, "Energy & Air Quality: A Texas Primer," Texas Public Policy Foundation, January 2008.

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