American Electric Power on the shores of the Ohio River. Researching how clean these coal-fired power plants are lead me to another less straight-forward story.
Try googling “modern coal power plants pollution.” Your first half dozen hits will be the Institute for Energy Research whose optimistic outlook is featured in a google sidebar:
Modern coal plants, and those retrofitted with modern technologies to reduce pollution, are a success story and are currently providing 30 percent of our electricity. Undoubtedly, pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants will continue to decrease as technology improves.
The IER’s rosy outlook on coal pollution was founded by one of the Koch brothers and prioritizes deregulation, climate change denial, and a view that conventional energy sources are unlimited.
The EPA tells a different story (link found after more than a dozen industry sources).
There are about 1,400 coal- and oil-fired electric generating units (EGUs) at 600 power plants covered by these standards. They emit harmful pollutants, including mercury, non-mercury metallic toxics, acid gases, and organic air toxics such as dioxin.
Power plants are currently the dominant emitters of mercury (50 percent), acid gases (over 75 percent) and many toxic metals (20-60 percent) in the United States (see graphic at right).
While newer, and a significant percentage of older power plants already control their emissions of mercury, heavy metals, and acid gases, approximately 40 percent of the current EGUs still do not have advanced pollution control equipment.”
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