According to a Wall Street Journal article posted under "Readings" on our Blackboard site, the EPA is poised to release new guidelines for coal plants that are stricter than ever: so strict, in fact, that they basically ban the construction of new coal plants. This is part of the President's strategy to slow climate change: coal plants emit a lot of carbon dioxide, which is a main contributor.
Naturally, this makes some people unhappy. "The administration discounts and does not appreciate the value of coal and how it can serve the country. You're impairing the backbone of the power grid," said Hal Quinn, chief executive of the National Mining Association, an industry trade group.... Utilities and manufacturers also worry the rules could lead to an electricity supply crunch or rising prices for consumers.
Although it's a step against this dirty, climate-changing power source, it's not an instant fix, and it may even backfire. Assuming energy demand is unchanged, this will create additional pressure to expand the use of natural gas. That's probably a good thing, but considerable ambiguity remains as to the net effect of fracking on the atmosphere. Recent studies have found that the process releases methane, a gas that does much more damage to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The issue is how much is being released: hopefully new capture technologies will limit the methane emitted, keeping natural gas cleaner than coal.