Demand for coal falls short of predictions amid uncertainties

At least 16 coal-fired power plant proposals nationwide have been scrapped in recent months and more than three dozen have been delayed as utilities face increasing pressure due to concerns over global warming and rising construction costs.

The slow pace of plant construction reflects a dramatic change in fortune for a fuel source that just a few years ago was poised for a major resurgence. Combined, the canceled and delayed projects represent enough electricity to power approximately 20 million homes.

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Coal Rush Reverses, Power Firms Follow

The mayor of Missoula, Mont., is the latest person to discover just how unpopular coal plants have become.

In early August, Mayor John Engen (D) won city council support to buy electricity from a new coal-fired plant scheduled to begin operation in 2011. He said the city government would save money on its electric bills.

But three weeks later, Engen pulled out of the deal after receiving hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from constituents upset that Missoula would contribute to the creation of a coal plant and concerned about what the town would do if the plant never got built.

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Coal plant prospects poor

Last week was a tough one for proposed coal plants in Montana —the Bull Mountain plant near Roundup hit a permit snag and an environmental group filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Highway Generating Station near Great Falls — but coal-plant woes aren’t limited to Montana.

Across the country, prospects for new coal-fired generators just keep getting blacker.

According to a front-page Wall Street Journal story last week, plans for coal plants are falling by the wayside from coast to coast because conventional coal-fired plants are seen as too dirty and cleaner plants are seen as too expensive.

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