The Beginning (middle?) of the End for King Coal


The article below rings true with our experience here in Virginia. Despite Dominion’s attempts to cake walk through the permitting process, they have already taken some blows on their Wise County power plant, and are sure to take more soon, and I can gurantee it, that plant will not be built.

But this is the case for coal all across the country. What does all this mean? for sure, there will be some energy scarcity, and some higher prices, but this is what innovation is made of, right? This will require new solutions, and hopefully we are seeing the birth of a new, clean energy future!

“Earth Policy Institute
News Release
April 2, 2008

A Long Year in the Life of the U.S. Coal Industry

Lester R. Brown and Jonathan G. Dorn

With concerns about climate change mounting, the era of coal-fired
electricity generation in the United States may be coming to a close.
In early 2007, a U.S. Department of Energy report listed 151 coal-fired
power plants in the planning stages in the United States . But during
2007, 59 proposed plants were either refused licenses by state
governments or quietly abandoned. In addition, close to 50 coal plants
are being contested in the courts, and the remaining plants will likely
be challenged when they reach the permitting stage.

What began as a few local ripples of resistance to coal-fired power
plants is quickly evolving into a national tidal wave of opposition
from environmental, health, farm, and community organizations as well
as leading climate scientists and state governments. Growing concern
over pending legislation to regulate carbon emissions is creating
uncertainty in financial markets. Leading financial groups are now
downgrading coal stocks and requiring utilities seeking funding for
coal plants to include a cost for carbon emissions when proving
economic viability.

On March 11, 2008, Representative Henry Waxman of California introduced
a bill to ban new coal-fired power plants without carbon emissions
controls nationwide until federal regulations are put in place to
address greenhouse gas emissions. If Congress passes this bill, it will
deal a death blow to the future of U.S. coal-fired power generation.
Yet even without a legislative mandate for a moratorium, the
contraction in financial support for new coal-fired power plants is
escalating toward a de facto moratorium. The timeline that follows is
witness to what may well be the beginning of the end of coal-fired
power in the United States .

A Long Year in the Life of the U.S. Coal Industry — Timeline
On-line at

26 February 2007 – James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute
for Space Studies and a leading climate scientist, calls for a
moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants that do not
sequester carbon, saying that it makes no sense to build these plants
when we will have to “bulldoze” them in a few years.

26 February 2007 – Under mounting pressure from environmental groups,
TXU Corporation, a Dallas-based energy company, abandons plans for 8 of
11 proposed coal-fired power plants, catalyzing the shift from
coal-based to renewable energy development in Texas .

2 April 2007 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide
and that EPA’s current rationale for not regulating this gas is

3 May 2007 – Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signs a bill that
prevents new power plants from exceeding 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide
emissions per megawatt hour of electricity generated, creating a de
facto moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants in the state.

30 May 2007 – Progress Energy, an energy company serving approximately
3.1 million customers in the Southeast, announces a two-year moratorium
on the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

2 July 2007 – The Florida Public Service Commission denies Florida
Power & Light the permits needed to move forward with the massive
1,960-megawatt coal-fired Glades Power Park, citing uncertainty
surrounding future carbon costs.

13 July 2007 – Florida Governor Charlie Crist signs an Executive Order
establishing “maximum allowable emission levels of greenhouse gases for
electric utilities.” Under the emissions cap, building new coal-fired
power plants in the state seems unlikely.

18 July 2007 – Citigroup downgrades the stocks of Peabody Energy Corp.,
Arch Coal Inc., and Foundation Coal Holdings Inc., prominent U.S. coal
companies. The decision reflects the growing uncertainty surrounding
coal’s future in the United States .

18 August 2007 – After opposing new coal-fired power in Nevada , U.S.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he is opposed to building
coal-fired power plants anywhere.

18 October 2007 – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment
denies Sunflower Electric Power Corporation air quality permits for two
proposed 700-megawatt coal-fired generators on the basis that carbon
dioxide is an air pollutant and should be regulated.

3 January 2008 – Merrill Lynch downgrades the investment ratings of
Consol Energy Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp., two leading U.S. coal

22 January 2008 – The Attorneys General of California, six eastern
states, and the District of Columbia submit a letter to the South
Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control opposing the
proposed 1,320-megawatt Pee Dee coal-fired power plant. They note that
emissions from this plant would “seriously undermin[e] the concerted
efforts being undertaken by multiple states to address global warming.”

30 January 2008 – Citing escalating costs, the Bush administration
pulls the plug on federal funding for FutureGen, a joint project with
13 utilities and coal companies to build a demonstration coal-fired
power plant that captures and sequesters carbon.

4 February 2008 – Investment banks Morgan Stanley, Citi, and J.P.
Morgan Chase announce that any future lending for coal-fired power
plants will be contingent on the utilities demonstrating economic
viability under future carbon costs. Demonstrating economic viability
would require speculation of future costs, imposing a risk on the

8 February 2008 – The U.S. Court of Appeals overturns two EPA mercury
rules covering coal-fired power plants, thus requiring new coal-fired
plants to implement the most stringent mercury controls available.
Compliance is expected to raise the considerable costs of 32 proposed
coal plants, some already under construction.

12 February 2008 – Bank of America announces that it will start
factoring in a cost of $20–40 per ton of carbon emissions in its risk
analysis when evaluating loan applications from utilities.

19 February 2008 – The federal government suspends a low-interest loan
program for rural utilities seeking assistance for new coal-fired power

11 March 2008 – Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey
(D-MA) introduce a bill that would block the EPA and states from
issuing permits to new coal-fired power plants that lack
state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage technology. Since this
technology is at least a decade away from commercial viability, if this
bill passes it would essentially place a near-term moratorium on new
coal-fired power plants.”

Source: Earth Policy Institute,, April 2008.
Additional details and references at

# # #

For a strategy on how to phase out coal-fired power generation
worldwide by 2020, see Chapters 11 and 12 in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to
Save Civilization, available for free downloading at


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