You may have thought the coal industry would never sing the praises of environmental regulations. But now that the clean coal carolers have moved on, the ACCCE (American Coalition for Clean Coal Euphemisms?) is singing a different tune.

In an analysis titled “77 Percent Cleaner,” the ACCCE makes one of the strongest cases I have recently seen for EPA regulations:

Over the last 35 years, America’s coal-based electricity providers have invested more than $50 billion in technologies to reduce emissions. Due to investments like these, our coal-based generating fleet is more than 77 percent cleaner on the basis of regulated emissions per unit of energy produced.

The calculations are based on five pollutants: carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. The data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reflects the environmental performance per unit of energy produced. That is, the relationship of emissions per billion kilowatt-hours. From 1970 to 2005, the value for that ratio fell from 30,510 short tons per billion kilowatt-hours to just 6,970 short tons per billion kilowatt-hours — a reduction of 77.15 percent.

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If the coal industry is publicly bragging about reducing regulated emissions, then it is obviously endorsing those regulations. And if the industry is bragging about the investments it had to make because of those regulations, then it is implicitly stating it is prepared to make further, large investments to achieve new regulatory requirements.

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The ACCCE even includes a nice figure that makes the case for strong greenhouse regulations:


Yes, this is emissions per billion kilowatt-hour, but that kind of emissions performance standard is precisely what the Center for American Progress and I have argued we need for carbon dioxide emissions.

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The industry managed to cut regulated emissions per kWh by 50 percent in 15 years — and then cut them another 50 percent in 20 years.

So now let’s regulate greenhouse gas emissions and require coal power plants to cut carbon dioxide per kWh by 50 percent in 2025. And then another 50 percent by 2045. Our mantra should be — they did it before, so they can do it again!

Since the ACCCE is touting this chart now, after originally objecting to most clean air regulations of their industry, I can only assume that while they appear to be throwing a tantrum about prospective carbon regulations, in fact, like an adolescent forced to do their piano lessons every day, they will soon be bragging to all their friends about their musical talent.

Perhaps next year, the musicians at the ACCCE can write some new lyrics for the Clean Coal Carolers song, “Frosty, the Coal Man”:

Frosty the coal man is a jolly happy soul …

There must be magic in clean air regulations

For when they looked for pollutants

There was nearly none to see.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.