When push comes to shove

For all the talk of windmills and other devices, the U.S. Energy Department now agrees with China that the core of electric power generation far into the future will be coal. More than half of U.S. electricity comes from the black stuff and this will continue because it is plentiful, cheap, reliable and secure. Since 2008, 16 coal-fired plants have opened, 16 more are under construction, and the efficiency of such plants is set to double in the next 10 years. The goal of “clean coal” remains elusive but legislation to place serious limits on carbon emissions through schemes such as “cap and trade” looks increasingly unlikely. Scotland should note that the US, with its public as unwilling as ours to pay hugely increased power bills, has little choice but to fall back on the old faithful – coal.

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