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Coal combustion faces controversy

Monday, March 19, 2007

A recently released MIT report found that coal contributes more to global carbon dioxide emissions than any other energy source. Coal’s high carbon to hydrogen ratio makes it a larger CO2 polluter per unit of energy than other fossil fuels. Coal combustion also emits a variety of other pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and mercury.

The MIT study shows that the average American is willing to pay 50 percent more to reduce global warming than they were willing to pay three years ago. Despite this trend, cheap and dirty coal power continues to account for half of our nation’s electricity production.

But the pursuit of coal power may be slowing. According to an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Texas utility giant TXU Corp chose to abandon construction plans for nine of eleven proposed coal power plants after facing opposition from environmental groups, state politicians, and investors.

Under current political and economic conditions, the MIT report does not predict a decline in coal combustion. The report encourages technological improvements to increase production efficiency in existing plants and reduce coal-based CO2 emissions.

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