Old King Coal
A tottering old soul
King Coal’s crown seems to be teetering.
The second fuel of America’s prosperity may be losing the race to the future, just as wood did before it. Scarcity is not the problem; many of America’s coalfields continue producing high yields. At issue are the consequences of the fossil fuel’s combustion: carbon pollution clogging air and lungs.
More than 150 coal-burning plants have retired since 2010. This week, two of Maryland’s remaining seven coal-fired plants announced plans to close shop. Both are close Chesapeake Country neighbors: Chalk Point on the Patuxent River in Prince George’s County; Dickerson in Montgomery County. Both are owned by NRG Energy and will close in May 2017.
Meanwhile, Maryland is joining a region-wide effort to push for stronger regulation of coal-burning plants in states up the air stream.
Eight northeast and mid-Atlantic states have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act to require upwind states to reduce air pollution generated within their borders. The multi-state action is aimed at requiring nine upwind states — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — to be good neighbors by reducing air pollution emissions that are carried by prevailing winds, contributing to the formation of ozone to the north and east.
Environmental action behind the scenes is pushing awareness and action. Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign is funded in healthy part — $50 million — by billionaire news mogul and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network join Sierra Club in the Clean Air Taskforce pushing plants to clean up or transition away from burning coal.
Natural gas is under hot debate as one of the fuels of the future. Also promising is a very old fuel, biomass like corn stalks, as a supplemental feed in the coal-plant hoppers.