Old King Coal is a sad old soul, because a dirty old soul is he. He called for brown coal and he called for a scrubber and he called for regulators three.
But alas, clean air regulations and cheap natural gas and market economics are conspiring to make him even sadder.
Illinois sits on a reserve of energy that has been tapped to the point that our landscape has changed, but still there are centuries’ worth underground. It burns hot, but has lots of sulfur that is blamed for everything from dead pines in Canada to rising waters swallowing Miami.
Our old power plants cannot use it.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
The Baldwin Energy Complex was built in the 1970s and can only burn low-sulfur brown coal shipped from Wyoming on a train that passes through our area. Those shipping costs are up and other fuel costs are down so Baldwin wants to close two-thirds of its plant and idle 122 of its 220 workers.
Illinois coal can power newer plants, such as the Prairie State Energy Campus, but those plants are expensive compared to other generating methods.
Prairie State with its adjacent coal mine cost $4.9 billion, more than double the projected cost. It was quickly sued by groups of its 2 million customers spread from Ohio to Missouri when its power costs were far higher than promised.
Another clean coal power plant in Mississippi is suffering the same fate, with construction costs also more than doubling to $6.6 billion and unhappy electricity customers suing.
Peabody Energy is the latest coal company in bankruptcy. Coal’s future is dim and will get dimmer if that Chicago Democrat in the White House gets his way.
The Obama Administration has decreed coal to be unsuitable for generating power to charge his electric car. His promises to other nations to cut greenhouse gases and get the Chinese to clean up their act rests on closing U.S. coal plants and building up wind and solar.
That black richness under our feet is so close, yet so far. Funny how a guy from Illinois hates coal, has made rural health care harder to obtain and doesn’t want a major defense installation on this side of the river.