Of coal, gas & the Pa. Legislature

Of coal, gas & the Pa. Legislature

A new study confirms that replacing coal plants with natural gas cuts pollution and saves lives.

The study, from the University of California, San Diego, analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and air pollution data from U.S. counties where power plants either closed or opened between 2005 and 2016.

More than 300 coal-fired generating units at 138 power plants were decommissioned. They were replaced largely by more than 600 natural gas-fired units.

The study was published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

But the same study did not take into account the supposed effects of fracking pollution. And that could “lessen” or even “swamp” the benefits of natural gas over coal, the study claims.

Of course, the analysis has given cover for some to continue their argument that natural gas-fired power generation should be stopped, too.

Folks like Mark K. Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford.

“We should eliminate both (coal and natural gas) and transition to clean, renewable energy, like solar and wind and geothermal hydroelectric power, because they eliminate both the health and climate problems,” he told State Impact, a product of National Public Radio.

But to say such highly touted “green energy” alternatives have no such problems is intellectually dishonest, given the well-documented issues with them – from efficiency, affordability and reliability to environmental problems.

Here’s a statistic making the rounds again as the Pennsylvania General Assembly has returned to session:

The number of bills that Pennsylvania legislators have introduced and passed into law during each two-year session is down markedly.

To wit, the high-water mark for that metric was 600 between 1975 and 1982. But by the end of the 2019 legislative session, the number had dropped to 286.

Once again, class, that’s somehow a problem?

Oh, indeed, the Pennsylvania Legislature is too big and too expensive and passes far too many frivolous bills. And, yes, that size and those costs should be slashed.

But given the Pennsylvania General Assembly long has been considered a perpetual machination machine, the less it legislates the better it is for the body politic.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).