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New Study Shows Coal Gasification Could Eliminate 70 to 90 Percent of Air Pollution From 18 Proposed Coal Plants in Texas

Oct. 24, 2006

New Study Shows Coal Gasification Could Eliminate 70 to 90 Percent of Air Pollution From 18 Proposed Coal Plants in Texas

Major Utilities Across Country Choosing the Technology to Lower Emissions

AUSTIN – A Public Citizen study released today shows that emissions from 18 proposed coal plants in Texas could be reduced by 70-90 percent if modern coal gasification technologies are used.

Richard Furman, an MIT-trained scientist who has worked for three electric utilities and now volunteers for environmental groups, performed the analysis for Public Citizen. He compared the total emissions from the 18 traditional pulverized coal plants to the emissions that would result if the same amount of power were to be produced by modern coal gasification plants.

The analysis showed that over a one year period, coal gasification could provide electricity for Texans with dramatically less pollution – 86 percent less NOx, a smog-forming gas; 93 percent less SO2, an acid rain-causing gas; 87 percent fewer soot or fine particles; 73 percent less brain-damaging mercury; and 92 percent less CO2, a global warming-causing gas. 

The 18 proposed coal fired power plants for Texas would emit more than 30,000 tons of smog-forming gas each year – more than that caused by one million cars. The analysis shows that if modern coal gasification was used, smog emissions could be could be cut to just 4,500 pounds a year. Gasification also more easily sequesters carbon dioxide, reducing the emissions of global warming gases by more than 90 percent a year.

“These significant emission reductions would increase the cost of electricity less than half a cent per kilowatt hour,” said Furman. “That adds up to less than 60 cents per meter per month, or less than a bottle of water.”

Coal gasification works by breaking down coal into its chemical parts rather than burning it directly. New gasification plants have demonstrated that they are a dependable way to produce energy and much cleaner than traditional coal burning plants. Gasification can operate with the types of coal commonly used in Texas and would use 60 to 70 percent of the water of a conventional plant.

“This is good news for Texas’ most polluted cities like Austin and Waco that are close to violating federal clean air standards,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The bad news is that the state’s environmental agency isn’t requiring generating companies to even look at this type of coal plant. While Public Citizen doesn’t support the use of coal for power generation, this study shows that gasification would be a far less polluting way to produce power than traditional dirty coal plants.”