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Coal production flat in changing energy market

 Amarillo, TX -- Texas produces and consumes more energy than any other state, and coal supplies almost half of our energy.  And as the energy industry in Texas shifts toward wind and natural gas, coal production may be taking a back burner.

Just last week,  construction on what would have been the last new plant in Texas was canceled due to low natural gas prices and tighter federal regulation, among other reasons.  And now some industry analysts are wondering whether Texas will ever see a new coal-fired plant again.   

Coal supplies Texas with about 40 percent of its total consumption - but accounts for only 10 percent of its total production.  However, Texas is the leading producer of oil, wind energy, and of course, natural gas, which is by far the cheapest and most abundant energy source - creating some stiff competition for coal.  And since 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency has been tightening emissions standards on coal-fired plants, and that hasn't exactly encouraged new investment.

Wes Reeves of Xcel Energy says uncertainty in the regulatory world accounts for many of the challenges facing the coal industry today.

"Mainly the reason is it's harder to permit new coal plants," Reeves explains, "and there's a lot of unknowns about where we're going to be going with emissions regulations, because we have a lot of new EPA controls that are coming out, and new rules that limit certain emissions."

According to the EPA, coal-fired power plants produce about two-thirds of all emissions nationwide, and federal regulations push to reverse that.  Most of the coal we use here in the Panhandle is lignite, a low-sulphur grade of coal that yields less energy, but also creates less pollution, as Reeves says, "The coal plants that we use in this area are very efficient, and it is still the cheapest form of power we have, so it would be very difficult to remove coal from the equation at this point."

If you'd like to see an overview of energy production in Texas from the Energy Information Administration or learn what more analysts are predicting for coal, follow the links attached to this story.

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