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An America without coal plants?

Columnist Eugene Robinson would have President Obama use executive power to shutter our nation’s coal plants, with little regard to the impact on the economy — or on the environment [“Let the coal fire die out,” op-ed, Feb. 26].

More than $100 billion has been invested to make electricity from coal almost 90 percent cleaner than it was 40 years ago. We have more than a dozen clean-coal technologies to thank for this progress. Turning our backs on coal and clean-coal technologies would give countries such as India and China a huge advantage over the United States, which has the largest coal reserves in the world.  

Global energy demand is going to increase by 50 percent over the next 25 years, and that demand cannot be met without coal. Those who value a clean environment and a strong economy should be looking for ways to use coal even more cleanly instead of abandoning clean coal to other countries.

Robert M. Duncan, Washington

The writer is president and chief executive of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Eugene Robinson appropriately lauded the closure of coal-fired power plants. The mining of coal, the emissions from burning coal and the disposal of the resulting ash all harm our health and contribute significantly to climate disruption. 

But I take issue with his claim that natural gas for power generation is a good idea. The extraction industry says that natural gas is a transition fuel to clean renewable energy. But we don’t have time for that kind of transition. We need to reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse-gas emissions sharply and soon. Natural gas is cheap now, but its price can fluctuate wildly.

We should be building solar and wind (particularly offshore wind) generation while the natural gas is cheap, so that when its price again soars we’ll have sufficient generation from endless free fuel — the sun and the wind.

Susan Stillman, Vienna

The writer is a volunteer advocate for the Sierra Club.

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