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Report: hundreds of US coal-fired plants 'ripe for retirement'

Over 300 coal-fired electricity plants in the country should be retired due to their extreme age, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

By CER News DeskGuest blogger / November 16, 2012

In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kan. Hundreds of plants examined in a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, each operating past their 30-year lifespan, generate the bulk of the nation’s pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Charlie Riedel/AP/File

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A coalition of scientists in the United States has released a report suggesting that as many as 353 coal-fired electricity plants in the country should be retired due to their extreme age and general inability to compete with cheaper alternatives like natural gas and wind power.

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Issued by a group called the Union of Concerned Scientists, the report targets a total of 59 gigawatts of electric power generating capability across the country, representing more than 6 percent of the total amount of electricity used by American citizens and businesses. The plants in question, each well-aged and operating past their 30 year lifespan, generate the bulk of the nation’s pollutants and greenhouse gases; with the costs of keeping them up to official standards taken into account, the report suggests that none are worth maintaining in the long run. (Read More: The Death of American Coal Producers — and a Potential Lifeline)

The report comes on the heels of Barack Obama’s reelection, a sure sign in and of itself that regulations on coal-fired plants will only become more stringent given the president’s stance on environmental policy. Shares of major American coal producers such as Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. have dropped sharply following the counting of votes last week, leading some industry lobbyists to complain of a perceived “war on coal” by the Obama administration.

Despite that view, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, contends that trying to keep coal-fired plants up to standards is simply not economically feasible, promising that it will inevitably lead to higher costs for taxpayers even as energy returns drop in response to stricter regulations imposed on them.(Read More: In the American West, Coal Power Being Dropped in Favor of Natural Gas and Renewables

“Spending billions to upgrade old coal plants may simply be throwing good money after bad,” said Steven Frenkel, director of the group’s Midwest office and a co-author of the report, in an official statement.

Source: Scientists Say Many Coal-Fired Plants ‘Ripe for Retirement’

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