NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                                MARCH 2013

Holistic Program for Solution to Coal-fired Power Plant Environmental Problems

The battle over energy and the environment is mostly caused by confusion over values. A common metric to rate all harm will lead to agreement on a program which will:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants by more than the present strategy
  • Create a big stimulus program with many new jobs
  • Reduce the deficit
  • Make the U.S. more competitive

Europe is moving away from gas and back to coal through reliance on ultrasupercritical coal-fired power plants and renewables. In the U.S. we enjoy lower gas prices, but the reality is that gas prices locally will eventually reach world levels. EIA anticipates this increase and is forecasting that U.S. consumption of coal in 2035 will be higher than consumption in 2012 and near the levels of 2008.

Over the next twenty-five years, the U.S. will operate the oldest coal fleet in the world. Even with compliance to all standards, these power plants will emit three times the pollutants emitted by new power plants. They will burn 30 percent more coal and the cost to operate them will be more than the depreciated cost of new power plants.

A common metric to measure all harm means that a numerical comparison can be made between alternative strategies and the path with the biggest harm reduction at the least cost can be chosen. All pollutants can be rated based on equivalent tons of CO2 as per the following example:



Harm in Tons of Equivalent CO2



Tons of CO2 Equivalent

Per Ton Emitted

CO2 (air)


SO2 ( air)


Mercury (air)


Water usage in drought area


Landfill Depletion


TSS (water)



This ratio is already established by EPA in its cost/benefit analyses for various rules. The relative values can be debated and a new consensus established. A tool called Quality Enhanced Life Days (QELD) can be used to help set this consensus.

Power plant operators are most concerned by what they call the Franken MACT. The threat of sequential regulation of each harm individually causes confusion and potentially exorbitant costs. So consensus on a program for total harm reduction will result in clarity and cost reduction.

The most overlooked economic statistic is that a new supercritical coal-fired power plant will be the low cost option even if it is operated for only twenty-five years. This means that the staunchest anti coal environmentalists will not be deterred from their 2050 goals.

Here is the total harm comparison between the present coal-fired fleet with all the proposed new controls and new supercritical coal-fired power plants:

Harm in Tons of Equivalent CO2 for the U.S Coal Fleet

Billions of Tons Per Year


Existing Coal Plants Upgraded to Meet New Standards

New Super-Critical Coal-fired Power Plants

Air Toxics

























Replacement of the old power plants with new ones would reduce harm by the equivalent of 3.3 billion tons of CO2 per year.China has built more supercritical power plants in the last five years than would be needed to replace the entire U.S. fleet. These plants have the latest NOx and SO2 removal equipment, so it is not just Europe who is showing why the program is possible.

The following steps are needed for success:

  • Agreement on a common metric
  • A national plan which takes into account local concerns, but is not hostage to them
  • A method for encouraging investment in the new power plants

Dialog between all the different parties can be meaningful when addressing specifics such as the comparison of harm for specific pollutants. So it is possible to achieve some consensus regarding harm values.

A national plan has to balance protection of individuals locally affected with the common interest. But guidelines will have to be set as to what constitutes a legitimate concern. These guidelines will need to be universally applied rather than on a case by case basis. (The common metric for harm can be applied here as well.)

If a plan is implemented which assures investors that the regulations for the next twenty-five years will not be drastically changed without compensation, then the funds for a massive replacement of U.S. coal-fired power plants will be readily available. The result will be a reduction in the deficit and a more competitive position in the world market.

For more information on this subject contact: Bob McIlvaine, 847 784 0012 ext 112,   . Related information is also shown at Sustainability Universal Rating System.