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Majority of US voters support upgrading coal fleet

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World Coal,

A majority of US voters – 55% – believe the US government should take action to upgrade the ageing coal and nuclear fleet, according to a poll conducted by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA).

Separately, when asked about high efficiency, low emission (HELE) technologies that are being used in new coal plants around the world, 73% of American voters believe the US should be prioritising the use of these technologies, which are cited by many as the first step to near zero emissions from coal.

“Today’s poll finds that consumers believe in a diverse portfolio of fuels to power the US grid, and believe that the US should be a technology leader – not follower,” said Hal Quinn, NMA President and CEO. “Diversity and innovation breed competition, reliability and resiliency and, when it comes to energy, all three benefit Americans. Our policies must now re-align with this priority if we are to reclaim the technological leadership that we have lost to countries such as China.”

Today’s plants

Coal and nuclear today account for 50% of US electricity and yet the average coal plant is 39 years old and the average nuclear plant is 36 years old. These plants are ripe for upgrades that would make them more efficient and reduce emissions, but current permitting requirements under the New Source Review programme prevent much-needed maintenance and improvement, slowing or stopping projects designed to restore or improve unit efficiency lost over time through normal wear and tear and technological obsolescence. As plants are retired, instead of upgraded, more and more affordable, reliable energy is irreplaceably lost.

Today’s technologies

In contrast with the US, which is home to just one ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant, of China’s 100 most efficient coal plants, 90 are ultra-supercritical and 10 are supercritical. Ultra-supercritical plants are considered the gold standard in efficiency and emissions reduction, subcritical plants are the least efficient, and supercritical plants fall in the middle of the two. Chinese companies are building new coal-fired plants every year that are among the cleanest in the world.

While countries such as China and Japan have prioritised the use of the top technologies, the US has fallen behind its global competitors. Today’s poll shows overwhelming support for the US to place a priority on the use of these technologies and a desire to regain our role as a technology leader.

The poll was conducted from 5 - 7 April, 2018, of 2201 adults nationwide carrying a margin of error of +/- 2%.

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