Coal Use and Sulfur Dioxide Emissions from Electric Power Utility Plants
Coal is being burned more cleanly today than ever before. Air pollution from coal is decreasing, while coal use is increasing.
Coal-fired power plants in the U.S. have reduced their sulfur dioxide produced per ton of coal burned by 80% from 1976 to 2004.
U.S. sulfur dioxide emissions have decreased by 52% from 1976 to 2004, even though power plants increased their coal use by 120% in that time period.
Kentucky’s 2004 sulfur dioxide emissions of 460,000 tons have been reduced by 69% from the 1976 sulfur dioxide emissions level of 1,496,000 tons.
These achievements are the result of using lower-sulfur coal and pollution control equipment such as scrubbers. The use of flue gas desulfurization equipment (FGD or scrubbers) has increased dramatically. Kentucky is second in the nation in installed scrubber capacity. Utilities in Kentucky during 1999 had scrubbers on 48% of their coal-fired generating capacity, compared to the national average of 27%.
Sources: Environmental Quality Commission (EQC), The State of Kentucky’s Environment: 2000-01 Air Quality; U.S. DOE - EIA, Electric Power Annual, 1989-2000; Cost and Quality of Fuels for Electric Utility Plants, 2000.
Coal Combustion By-Products