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Letter to the editor – How dirty is ‘dirty coal?’

By Staff | Dec 18, 2007

To the EDN:

I am continually amazed by how certain environmental groups or politicians chose to emotionally categorize this important and plentiful energy resource with a negative or derogatory connotation.

Since the adoption of the Federal Clean Air Act more than thirty (30) years ago, the overall air quality in the United States has improved and air pollution has decreased by more than 50%.

While electricity production from coal fired generation plants has increased by 64%, Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions has decreased by 32% and Sodium Dioxide (SO2) emissions has decreased by 38% according to the federal Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

All new coal fired generation plants being built, as well as many existing coal-fired generation plants, are required to capture sulfur dioxide. The same holds true for nitrogen oxide by using a process known as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) which converts NOx pollutants to harmless nitrogen and water byproduct.

And yes, the United States’ biggest challenge is to better manage and capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through more research and by the development of better technology in order to effectively recycle, reuse or store CO2 underground (i.e. carbon capture or sequestration). But coal is not the only source of carbon emissions. Besides the utility industry, the transportation industry remains one of the largest carbon emitters in the United States.

Iowa has overall the 20th lowest retail electricity rates in the United States while 78 percent of Iowa’s electricity generation is derived from coal fired generation plants.

With a growing Iowa economy, which is driven in part by the renewable fuels industry, Iowa’s electric utilities needs additional baseload electricity generation to meet the consuming public’s growing energy needs which is expected to nationally double by the year 2030. Expanding renewable energy generation resources when combined with better energy efficiency programs this will partially offset the increasing demand for more electricity. By gaining Governor Culver’s support and the Iowa Utilities Board approval to build the Sutherland Generation Station No. 4 at Marshalltown this will allow Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative and Alliant Energy to meet the increasing electricity needs for the future beginning in 2013 when the plant is scheduled to be operational.

What the general public and many Iowa citizens fail to understand or realize is that Iowa’s electric utilities has a duty and responsibility, as directed by the Iowa Code, to serve the public’s interest by providing electricity safely as well as reliably.

So …. The next time you read or hear that misleading “hot button” statement about dirty coal, think about that statement more carefully and remember the value and benefit of having an American controlled resource (America’s energy security future) with more than a two hundred (200) year coal supply located right here in the United States.

Common Sense Energy for Iowa needs to be based upon fact not fiction by being realistic and not emotionally tied to the past.

Terry L. Bruns, CPA

President/Chief Executive Officer

Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative