Fuel switch, coal clean-up continues to drive emissions drops - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Fuel switch, coal clean-up continues to drive emissions drops

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A new post by the Energy Information Administration points to fuel-switching and cleaner coal-burning processes for sharp reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions.

In 2012, the electric power sector emitted less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide than any year since passage of 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. The EIA post points to increased retrofitting of flue-gas desulfurization, or scrubber technology, less use of high-sulfur coal and technologies dedicated to burning coal that reduce or eliminate sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

The decline, the EIA's post points out, is also attributable to the switching from coal to cheaper natural gas.

The amendments to the Clean Air Act were primarily written to address the issue of acid rain.

"Because coal-fired units accounted for a large share of SO2 and NOx emissions, the program provided an economic incentive for coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions by installing pollution control systems, burning lower sulfur coal, or, for high-emitting plants, dispatching less electricity," the EIA wrote. "… The reduction in SO2 and NOx emissions through the late 2000s was primarily the result of coal plants employing strategies to reduce emissions, not a reduction in the use of coal overall."