Our coal deathwatch list just keeps on growing. At the behest of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, a major loan program for new rural coal power plants has been suspended. The Rural Utilities Service, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, says the White House was concerned about rising labor and materials costs as well as the likely regulation of carbon emissions, the AP reports. Four coal projects had stood to receive $1.3 billion of loans.
Project financiers will now have to head to the open market to find funding. However, following the recent creation of The Carbon Principles, a set of guidelines for major banks looking to finance coal projects, getting money for “America’s power” will no longer be cheap and easy.
King coal, which still provides the U.S. with half of its power, is quickly losing it’s cost-conscious case — “coal isn’t so cheap any more.” A new report from Synapse Energy Economics titled “Don’t Get Burned” likens this recent slump in coal power to the stagnation of nuclear power in the 1970s that came as a result of mounting construction costs and public wariness.
While carbon considerations weigh heavily on coal plants, the problems of mounting construction costs, difficulty in finding labor and the need for more transmission lines all plague clean energy projects as well. Especially in rural areas, running transmission lines to remote wind and solar projects can easily cost more than the turbines and panels themselves.
But now that the federal government isn’t funding rural coal power plants they’ll be able to finance clean energy, right? Well, not yet. Wind lobbyists are on the Hill today pushing for the production tax credit, but legislation that puts more federal dollars into clean energy is still likely months away.