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Natural Gas Could Ease Pain of Regulations

As the EPA begins to enforce new regulations of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide coal-fired plants will start to retire, but existing natural gas plants will be ready to take up some of the slack, said experts at the World Energy Engineering Congress.

Starting in January 2011, a series of new regulations will cause operators of older coal-fired plants to question the viability of their operations. Some have suggested that over the years at least 50 gigawatts of coal generation will be retired. This has been called, in some quarters, a coming train wreck.

Despite the criticism, panelists said, many of these regulations are mandated by law or by court orders and will start to go into effect. The panel discussed legislative and regulatory prospects given the shift in politics during the November elections.

Natural gas plants have been built at a growing rate in the US as plans for coal plants have been cancelled. Although existing natural gas generators are not sufficient to replace all the capacity that might be retired under the new regulations, it is enough to cushion the initial transition.

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