"Should We Transport Coal, Gas or
Electricity: Cost, Efficiency & Environmental"
We examine the life cycle costs, environmental discharges, and
deaths of moving coal via rail, coal-gas via pipeline, and electricity
via wire from the Powder River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming to Texas. Which
method has least social cost depends on how much additional investments
in rail line, transmission, or pipeline infrastructure are required, as
well as the amount of a carbon tax, whether underground sequestration of
carbon-dioxide is allowed and works, and the level of transmission
losses. All methods generate significant environmental discharges.
Transporting 50 million tons of PRB coal by rail to Texas is cheapest
since the infrastructure is in place; it requires 130 million gallons of
diesel fuel and results in the death of 15 people. Shipping the energy
via transmission lines requires additional generation and more mining.
Gasifying the coal is somewhat more expensive, but has important
environmental advantages compared to a pulverized coal boiler.
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