Train transporting coal out of an open pit coal mine in Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan, one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world, operated by Bogatyr Access Komyr. Photo: Christopher Herwig / Kod 9266

[Desdemona strongly supports the War on Coal: Earth’s greatest mass extinction caused by coal: study]

By the Editors
11 November 2013

(Bloomberg) – The logic is pretty straightforward. Carbon dioxide emissions are threatening the planet. In the U.S., coal plants are the second-largest source of those emissions, after transportation. Therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency should impose emissions limits on coal-fired plants.

The EPA is trying to do just that; it plans to issue rules by next June that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. As part of that process, it has just finished an 11-city “listening tour,” seeking public comment for how best to approach its task.

If the Washington leg of that tour was any indication, the undertaking also became a platform for the EPA’s opponents to challenge the idea that rules should be issued at all. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell descended on the panel last week, complete with nine-member entourage, to ask the agency to end its “war on coal.”

It’s worth considering the various incarnations of that argument. If the EPA is to achieve its mission -- the greatest possible emissions reduction at the least possible cost -- it will have to lay them to rest:

1. Carbon emissions should be addressed through legislation, not regulations issued under the Clean Air Act.

There’s no disputing that a 40-year-old law that wasn’t written with carbon dioxide in mind is an imperfect vehicle for addressing greenhouse gases. But public policy, like politics, is the art of the possible, and Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in passing climate-change legislation. For the moment, it’s regulation or nothing.

2. Regulations are unnecessary because market forces are already reducing the share of power produced by coal.

Again, no disputing that the share of U.S. power generated by coal has fallen, to 37 percent last year from 45 percent in 2000, thanks largely to the falling price of natural gas. That’s not a reason to curtail efforts to make coal plants less polluting. Besides, energy prices can change quickly, and they will almost certainly shift again. [more]

Five Bad Arguments From the Coal Industry

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