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Originally published: 2012-07-02 10:22:13
Last modified: 2012-07-02 10:30:51

Natural gas trumps coal

Earlier this month, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation has asked its members to contact the Environmental Protection Agency and express their opposition to the EPA's proposal to require the reduction of greenhouse gasses from new coal-fired power plants, since this “could affect rates our members pay.” 

Coal is the dirtiest fuel that produces electricity. It produces more acid rain and ozone-causing chemicals as well as being the 900-pound gorilla of greenhouse gases. Recently, coal has lost the advantage of being the cheapest means of producing electrical power. That distinction is now held by cleaner natural gas produced by fracking. Fracking has serious environmental problems, but those problems can be solved fairly easily and cheaply. 

Coal companies, in fact, have come on hard times recently. Coal has gone from producing more than 50 percent of electricity in the U.S. to producing about 40 percent. Coal company stock prices are way down and bankruptcy is possible for some. 

While BREMCO is correct that the new EPA regulations could affect electric rates, in all likelihood, they would cause rates to go down. Coal costs more than natural gas, period. Thus, the next generation of power plants in our state is likely to be a mix of mostly natural gas and renewables as North Carolina becomes more energy efficient and produces significant quantities of clean solar and wind power.  

Harvard AyersBoone