Coal war rages in presidential campaigns

The presidential campaigns’ coal war is intensifying, with each candidate promoting himself as the champion for coal and the miners who produce it.

As GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama battle over the effects of  environmental regulations on the industry and its workers, a recent study by The Brattle Group concluded that coal’s survival is more dependent on changing market forces than EPA rules.

Economists at the consulting firm recently boosted their estimates on impending retirements of coal plants  by 25,000 megawatts, finding that falling natural gas prices and declining demand for electricity have accelerated planned closures.

The economists now believe that market conditions combined with regulations will cause 59,000 to  77,000 MW of coal plant capacity to  shut down over the next five years.

“Retirement projections are even more sensitive to future market conditions than to regulations, particularly natural gas prices,” the firm asserts.

About 10 percent of the nation’s coal plant capacity – or about 30,000 megawatts – is slated to retire by 2016, according to The Brattle Group.