Coal-fueled power plants the future of energy, construction needed

By Clayton Cross

There have been several articles in the Kernel recently that speak poorly of the coal mining industry.

The common theme of these articles has been a call to replace coal-fired power plants with more environmental friendly means of power generation, and I could not agree more.

The current electricity demand of the U.S. is being met with outdated and inefficient coal-fueled power plants.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration approximated that at the end of 2010, 73 percent of all coal-based generating capacity were 30 years or older.

Thankfully, there is a straightforward solution to replace these aging operations with more efficient and environmentally friendly electricity generation — new coal-fired power plants.

Technological advancements have improved the operation of these plants such that they emit 90 percent less pollutants (SO2, NOx, particulates, mercury) than those from the 1970s.

This is in addition to the fact that coal-fueled power generation has tripled in the past four decades, yet primary emissions fell 80 percent.

Currently, there are 430 highly efficient coal-fueled plants under development, most in China and India.

The U.S. accounts for very few of these projects, many being canceled or delayed because of the Environmental Protection Agency, at the direction of President Barack Obama and his administration.

The current administration is preventing job creation and could potentially drive businesses out with higher electricity costs.

With demand for electricity in the U.S. projected to increase 30 percent over the next 25 years, it is physically impossible to replace nearly 50 percent of our nation’s power generation with renewable sources.

With such a large domestic supply, coal is the backbone and the future to electricity generation in our great nation.

It’s time to move forward and allow for the construction of new, more environmentally friendly, coal-fueled power plants.

Clayton Cross is a mining engineering graduate student. Email

Well done Clayton. All energy forms have an environmental footprint, even windmills and solar. The mining industry actually likes those forms of energy generation as well, as they are not truly sustainable. One has to keep mining to replace the units as they deteriorate. The minerals footprint for one windmill and one solar panel is significant. The bottom line is there is no form of energy that is truly “clean”. When you think about it, we really owe the longevity we enjoy today to the low cost coal fired electicity that has advanced our technology to where it is. Can we do better? Yes. The best we can do as engineers is to design systems that are the best they can be within the limits of our current technology.

Thank you for the truthful article about coal energy. We will eventually come up with new and cheaper types of energy, but until we do, we do not need to stop using coal.

I like Aashi’s thinking but you don’t need to shoot your horse due to the invention of the automobile. It would be reckless and irresponsible to rely solely on fossil fuels to be our energy future. At the same time it’s idiotic to reject resources we have readily available and drive up utility prices that people already have trouble paying. I used the word utility to help force the point that when energy prices increase, all other cost follow (remember the cost of groceries when gas prices were terribly inflated a couple years ago?). Anyway my point is we need to leave this either/or mentality and adopt a both/and one. It’s not like we’re short workers, have you seen the unemployment rate lately? We need to effectively and responsibly use the resources we currently have while urgently seek a long term solution.

I think the common fallacy about our energy future is that we need to replace huge centralized sources of energy, such as coal plants, nuclear plants, natural gas plants, etc, with some other huge centralized source. It is true that wind and solar and other clean energy solutions cannot do this. However if houses were built properly (google “passivhaus”), a very small solar array would provide more than enough energy to power that house, for about the cost of a nice refrigerator. For a little more, you could even power your car. That could be supplemented with some other locally produced wind or biofuel. There is a huge array of storage options for nighttime operation. The cost of all this is way less than the cost of any new plants–coal, nuclear, or otherwise. Cheap, and clean. We just need to do it.

Nice article Clayton. Although you may be reading too much KSR seeing as your paragraphs are pratically bullit points.

What’s this? An opinion article that isn’t based on sensationalistic metaphors and unsubstantiated claims? I am shocked to see statistics and sound reasoning in my Kernel. Well done sir, well done.

I would rather use coal and have cheap electricity than use some other “green” energy and pay more. THERE IS NO SUCH THING as global warming so why are we not using more coal. Ben if you don’t like coal then don’t use electricity.

There is NO SUCH THING as an “environmentally friendly coal-fueled power plant” just as there is NO SUCH THING as a lung-friendly cigarette.