Our Views: Coal, nuclear still important in nation’s energy future

December 15, 2018

Remember coal? It’s mentioned this time of year mostly as the stocking stuffer no one wants.

It’s also one of the cheapest and plentiful sources of energy in this country and around the world.

It supplies almost a third of the power in the United States, yet many would like to do away with its use. As with most non-renewable energy sources, it has the potential for more environmental damage than things like sun and wind.

Coal use has dropped almost 40 percent since its heyday. Yet in a country depending upon economic expansion and growth, affordable energy is a requirement, not an option. The federal Environmental Protection Agency just gave coal some of its life back by loosening environmental requirements on new coal fired power plants.

The loosened regulations are mostly symbolic since there are no new coal plants on the drawing boards anywhere in the U.S. They are important, however, because they undo regulations so extreme that they virtually assured coal was dead as a power source in this country.

Instead, the new regulations seek to create high environmental standards for coal plants, ideally in ways that utility engineers can address, use and even export to other countries. If all that comes to pass, it could reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by improving the controls in countries using a lot of coal with few environmental constraints.

Arizonans probably need little convincing that clean fuel sources are very attractive yet they can be expensive. State voters soundly rejected a plan that would’ve mandated the state to get half its power from clean sources in just a few years.

Though many renewable energy sources are becoming cheaper, it is telling that widespread use is only achieved through mandate. It doesn’t come from the free market.

A mix of energy is important to this country for a variety of reasons. After a three-decade hiatus, two new nuclear plants are planned for the U.S. This source is important, too. It’s clean but has many societal and environmental hurdles.

Coal and nuclear sound like power sources from generations ago. They are. The reason they stick around is that they provide abundant energy at reasonable costs.

It’s not good policy to create heaps of unattainable regulatory goals on them as a means of ensuring more reliance on renewable sources.

— Today’s News-Herald

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