(NaturalNews) The Obama Administration continues to move forward with plans to completely shut down the American coal industry, as a record 57 coal-fired power stations are slated for shutdown in 2012. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 175 coal-fired generators that collectively represent a whopping 27 gigawatts (GW) worth of electricity-generating capacity are set to retire between 2012 and 2016.
A significant uptick from previous years, this high number of shutdowns represents 8.5 percent of the total coal-fired generating capacity during 2011. It also represents a 400 percent increase in shutdowns compared to the amount that occurred during the previous five-year period, when only 6.5 GW worth of coal-fired generating capacity was nixed from operation.
Based on the data, the bulk of these 175 plant shutdowns is set to occur in 2015, when 61 plants generating nearly 10 GW worth of electricity have been indicated for shutdown. The average age of the plants to be shut down during the 2012 to 2016 period is roughly 56 years old, while the areas most affected by the shutdowns will be the mid-Atlantic, Ohio River Valley, and Southeast regions of the U.S.
Framed by many media sources as a voluntary phase-out, the coal industry is actually being gradually forced into retirement as a result of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that specifically target coal production. Birthed during the Nixon era and amplified during the current Obama era, this forced regulatory phase-out of traditional energy sources is moving along as planned, and will likely have a continued negative impact on energy costs and availability.
"Under Obama, the EPA has proposed and promulgated the Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule -- more commonly known as 'Utility MACT' -- imposing expensive control retrofits on coal-fired plants," says U.S. News & World Report.
"The agency itself estimates the costs to the economy because of the new rule will be $10 billion per year. Private studies indicate it is more likely to be twice that, leading to higher electricity rates and, when combined with new rules on so-called 'greenhouse gases,' force most of these plants to close."
Should the federal government be allowed to forcibly phase-out private coal production?
Sure, traditional coal-fired power plants are considered by many to be heavy polluters, as they emit toxic chemicals and can cause other widespread problems like acid rain. But at the same time, coal power generation, which is largely decentralized, represents a significant portion of the already-ailing American economy, and thousands of people rely on coal both for affordable energy and for employment.
Nuclear power, which was long considered to be a much cleaner form of energy production, has its own inherent problems, as was made evident with the recent disaster at Fukushima. And so-called "clean" energy production, which includes things like wind and solar, have not worked out so well either, as they tend to cost far more than traditional energy production methods; produce far less energy than is needed; and have a history of fraud and failure here in the U.S. (http://www.breitbart.com).