NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Coal Comeback

July 29, 2003

Texas is the nation's fifth-biggest producer of coal, and its largest consumer. San Antonio's municipal utility plans to build the first new coal-fired power plant in Texas in more than a decade, signaling a new day for coal, say supporters.

Coal produces half the nation's electricity, because it is cheap and abundant.

  • Energy from coal is one-third the cost of energy from natural gas or oil and lacks the price volatility that the other fuels face.
  • The United States has a quarter of the world's known coal reserves, a 250-year supply at today's consumption level
  • It is enough to produce the energy equivalent to 1 trillion barrels of oil -- the amount of proven oil reserves in the world.

Critics have long decried coal -- the largest single industrial source of air pollution -- for its effect on the environment and public health. However, since the 1970 Clean Air Act, electricity generation from coal has tripled while total emissions have been cut by a third.

Emissions from plants employing the latest technology are on par with natural gas fired plants, say experts. They capture carbon dioxide and other emissions instead of releasing them into the air.

Across the country, 81 new coal plants have been announced, according to Energy Ventures Analysis Inc., a research and consulting firm. Only seven of those are "highly likely" to move forward, compared with 51 that are unlikely to be built, the group projects.

Source: Sudeep Reddy, "The case for coal," Dallas Morning News, July 29, 2003.


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