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Forced Coal-Plant Conversions to Natural Gas: False Hope for “Cheap” Climate Action

By Robert Peltier -- October 10, 2009

[Editor: This MasterResource post from July is reprinted given the ‘war on coal’ strategy by environmental groups and certain activist strands of the upstream natural gas industry, led by Chesapeake Energy (Aubrey McClendon.]

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance, posits in the Financial Times (July 19) that converting our fleet of coal-fired power plants to natural gas could be accomplished “practically overnight” and will have the effect of “jump-starting our economy….without the expense of building new power plants.” Thus did Kennedy express his new-found love of natural gas: It’s our “bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.” (Where have we heard that before–wasn’t that Enron’s tag line decade or two ago?)

Yet Kennedy’s proposal ignores the extremely high cost of fuel conversion (upwards of $100 million for a medium-size coal plant) and the added fuel cost to burn gas.…