Not In My Back Yard morphs into Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. There is a controversy brewing up all over the country on building coal-fired power plants. There are literally scores of them in the planning stages. Activists on both sides are drawing lines and rapidly building a full employment program for lawyers.
Should power companies be permitted to build new plants that pollute more but are reliable and less expensive? Or should regulators push utilities toward cleaner burning coal plants, even if it means they will cost more and are based on newer, yet still unproven, technology?
How those questions are answered will have huge implications over the next few decades. It could determine how Americans light, heat and cool their homes and business, the rate of return on utility investments and the potential environmental impact of the new plants.
Nowhere do these competing interests play out with such force as in Texas, where 16 new coal-fired plants are proposed — 11 of them by Dallas-based TXU Corp., the state's biggest power company.
The scope of TXU's 5-year, $10 billion plan is considered bellwether and being closely watched by industry analysts, lawmakers, competitors and environmentalists across the U.S.
"TXU put its stake in the ground and said it will (build the plants) faster and cheaper than anyone else," said Daniele M. Seitz, analyst with investment firm Dahlman Rose. "So they have something to prove."
The company is hardly alone, however.
Some 154 new coal-fired plants are on the drawing board in 42 states. Texas and Illinois are the only states where 10 or more plants are planned, according to the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Energy analysts say factors driving coal's resurgence are soaring power demands, volatile natural gas prices and a favorable investment market.
Coal now accounts for about 50 percent of the power generated in the U.S. By the year 2030, that share will increase to 57 percent, according to Energy Department forecasts.
The U.S. has the world's largest coal reserves, enough to last for the next 200 to 250 years, analysts believe.
We are approaching a crisis on power generation. The fact of the matter is that all the "alternative" forms of power production like solar and wind require 100% backup available instantly for when the sun goes behind the clouds or the wind dies. That means you need baseline capacity that is there when you need it. If backup capacity is not there, you will have to live with brownouts (and burned out refrigerator compressor motors) or blackouts. There is no other choice here. (I've been over that before). So the choices come down to: build coal plants, build older style nuke plants or build next generation nuke plants like the pebble bed reactor. But we have to build something. Or regress to a third world standard of living. Take your pick.