A new rule coming soon from the Environmental Protection Agency should put to rest any doubts about whether the Obama administration wants to drive a stake through the heart of the coal industry.
Fans of the president take umbrage at Republicans' depiction of the administration's objectives as a “war on coal.” But the new rule, regarding greenhouse gas emissions, would make it virtually impossible for any company to build a coal-fired power plant in this country.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a source who had seen the proposed rule, reported Thursday that the rule would mandate an emissions limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour for coal plants and 1,000 pounds for large gas-fired plants. That's only a slight revision from last year, when the EPA received considerable blowback over the proposed rule.
According to the Journal's sources, the revised rule would, as the newspaper put it, “ban new coal plants, which generally release about as much carbon dioxide as the proposed limits.” The newspaper said that “even the newest, most advanced coal-fired plants in the world would fall far short of that revised standard.”
Coal plants could still comply with the regs, by capturing carbon dioxide emissions and burying them underground. That's cost prohibitive, which of course is the point, and hasn't been seen at a commercial scale.
Environmentalists, naturally, love what they've heard of the new rule, which is to be formally submitted by Friday. These groups long for the day when all U.S. electricity is driven by wind or some other renewable, and every coal plant is shuttered. When consumers' electricity bills soar as a result? That's OK too.
Public comments will be allowed before the rule officially goes on the books. Those comments aren't likely to sway the administration, which would leave legal action as the only other recourse. That might be a long shot too, but it's a battle worth fighting.