Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Coal's Downturn

In some states, coal is being run out of business, but the "war on coal" hasn't reached that far yet in Maryland. We still make about half of our electricity from coal. Two coal-fired plants (1,200 MW in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties) are expected to be retired by 2017 due to environmental regulations. In recent developments:

but there are still seven coal powered electric plants in the state.  Having the toughest air pollution restrictions on the east coast is admirable, but Baltimore still suffers from unhealthy air (a plight common to 85% of the world's population).

Yet, the nominally cleaner natural gas has its own set of problems. In the way of pollution, its greenhouse gas effect is 30 times worse, pound for pound, than CO2. It sometimes (more than we realize) gets loose on its own, like the 1 cubic mile of 1,500 psi gas being released from cracks that recently developed in a storage facility pipe under Los Angeles. As I pointed out in my last post, the prospect of less fracking (who wants to live in Oklahoma now, earthquake center of the U.S?) and the need to follow-through with plans to reduce global emissions makes investment in more gas-powered generation look pretty short-sighted. Solar and off-shore wind are looking better and better.

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