(Wall Street Journal, May 19) – King Coal has been eulogized by the current administration and many of its partisan stakeholders by word and deed. The Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory program for both new and existing coal plants, with the Supreme Court’s endorsement of cross-state pollution standards enforcement, has dug his grave and entombment is nigh.
So the real question is what about his progeny? Do they live, procreate and serve a new generation of power production or are they buried with him?
I say they should live under new conditions that will be acceptable to coal producers, power producers and consumers of coal-based power.
In the first instance we should not kill coal. Burying the economic potential of all that natural resource is a criminal act foisted upon the American economy for the most selfish of partisan reasons. Example: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once said to me: “Coal mining is immoral.” I honor her personal honesty; and disagree with her totally. Second, Americans deserve the best technological protection possible from the effects of coal and its environmental and health impacts. We have such technology.
Here’s what we need to do: Charter state public-utility commissions to allow ratepayers to pay not just for the most economic sources of power but also for best technologies for clean power generation. Enable ratepayer funding of construction and commissioning of new plants in real time. This encourages new coal plant design and construction of coal gasification, called IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle), with carbon capture and sequestration. The process improves efficient use of coal, which pays for the new technology over the life of the facility, produces synthetic natural gas to make steam, and captures pollutant emissions.
It also produces clean, cost effective, reliable electrons by the megawatts for American energy security and prosperity.
John Hofmeister (@cfaenergy) is former president of Shell Oil Co. and founder and head of Citizens for Affordable Energy. He is also a member of the U.S. Energy Security Council.