The average U.S. coal plant is 35 years old. The plants older than 35 are some of the dirtiest, most inefficient electricity generators, and represent 7 percent of worldwide carbon pollution. Most older coal plants cannot be retrofitted for carbon capture and storage if and when such technology is available.
As a nation, we can save money and reduce emissions by retiring these older coal-fired plants, or “electricity clunkers,” and using wind, solar, or natural gas power instead. The national “cash for clunkers” program that focuses on transportation provides a model for the nation’s power sector.
Using money from the sale of greenhouse gas pollution allowances under a cap-and-trade program, we could create economic incentives to foster the rapid shutdown of dirty, decades-old coal belchers in exchange for renewable and gas electricity. Any transition must ensure strong protections for affected workers and communities.
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