How many new coal-fired power plants came online in the U.S. last year? None. Zero. Ninguno. According to the Washington Post:
The headline news for the coal industry in 2010 was what didn't happen: Construction did not begin on a single new coal-fired power plant in the United States for the second straight year.
This in a nation where a fleet of coal-fired plants generates nearly half the electricity used.
But a combination of low natural gas prices, shale gas discoveries, the economic slowdown and litigation by environmental groups has stopped - at least for now - groundbreaking on new ones.
"Coal is a dead man walkin'," says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. "Banks won't finance them. Insurance companies won't insure them. The EPA is coming after them. . . . And the economics to make it clean don't work."
One of the beneficiaries of that progress is Ball State University where I teach. When its aging coal-fired plant came due for an overhaul last year, the university received no bids to replace it. The result? The nation's largest geothermal project.