The State of Colorado Coal

CFWE’s most recent Headwaters magazine on energy took a look at coal in Colorado.  Writer Josh Zaffos interviewed Jack Ihle, Xcel Energy’s director of environmental policy about the switch from coal to natural gas…

HW 32 coversmallEven with the rush toward natural gas, the push for renewables, and potential carbon emissions regulations, Ihle says Xcel—and Colorado—aren’t likely to fully divest from coal. Xcel is upgrading pollution controls at several coal plants to further limit smog and air pollution and keep the plants running and in compliance with Clean Air Act regulations. “We see value in balance even as certain drivers like emissions regulations will cause us to look harder at cleaner resources,” Ihle says. “Coal has been a very cost-effective resource and price-stable for a long time, and we’ll look for ways to make it as clean as we can.”

And the use of coal in Colorado isn’t the only thing changing.  So too is its mining.  High Country News recently published a great blog post discussing the future of coal mining in their backyard of Paonia.

“Coming out of the mountains is expensive,” says Bob Burnham, an independent Denver-based coal industry analyst. Mines in the Indiana Basin, which includes parts of Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, are much closer to Southeastern power plants. Even Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming has an advantage over most Colorado mines: it doesn’t have to cross the Continental Divide.

As TVA cuts its coal consumption, it will cut especially deeply from its Colorado suppliers, says Mansfield. That’s especially bad news for Paonia, whose three local coal mines predominantly sell to TVA.

As we learned in writing about it, the switch from coal to natural gas is much more complicated than it might appear.  Get informed on this important topic and tell us what you think!

Nicole SeltzerNicole Seltzer is the Executive Director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education


3 thoughts on “The State of Colorado Coal

  1. It’s always so important to remember how many hurdles there can be in the battle to transition away from certain technologies- especially when there’s still plenty of money to be made in the fuel being transitioned from. Throw in the communities that will be effected by a draw down in coal production and you have a big PR nightmare for a candidate pushing for cleaner energy sources.

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