David A. Nealy
To the editor:
Recent editorial commentary in local newspapers as well as certain local TV “investigative” reports continue to castigate Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management for failure to rein in the state’s coal and utility industries regarding environmental damage by coal-fired power plants.
However, some perspective on this issue is clearly in order, particularly in light of the significant electrical energy cost benefits to this state. While coal certainly produces combustion products of some environmental consequence, it should be recognized that in the last few decades our regional electric utilities have spent literally billions of their own (nontaxpayer) money to significantly mitigate plant environmental damage, particularly regarding soot, mercury and SO2 emissions. In spite of claims to the contrary, our overall air quality today is undeniably improved over the 40-plus years I have lived here, meeting state and federal guidelines even as electric power demand has significantly increased.
The most serious environmental consequence of coal combustion remains CO2 emissions and its potential impact on global warming. Again, some perspective may be in order inasmuch as most carbon-based fuels (coal, natural gas, gasoline, diesel, etc.) produce CO2 in almost direct proportion to the amount of fuel burned. Also, most fossil-fueled power producing systems (power plants, automobile/ truck engines, etc) essentially convert fuel energy to useful energy (electrical power, horsepower output, etc) at roughly the same ratio.