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How much will replacing coal cost Los Angeles?

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(Read caption) The skyline of downtown Los Angeles. Fuel switching is an interesting approach for Los Angeles considering clean coal technology enjoys majority support among California voters, Tracey writes.

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In a story from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, a city watchdog has attached a large price tag to the city’s initiative to move the city away from coal-based electricity.

According to the article, “Fred Pickel, the ratepayer advocate at the Department of Water and Power, said Monday that eliminating coal from the utility’s power mix ahead of a state-mandated deadline is projected to cost more than $600 million. What that could mean for ratepayers’ electricity bills is unclear, he said.”

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At a meeting of the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee on Wednesday, Pickel said he would urge city officials to look for ways to lower the costs. “The question is, can we do this cheaper?” he said.

Two coal plants currently provide nearly 40 percent of the city’s energy. Under the new plan, the city would supplant most of that with power produced by switching to natural gas.

Fuel switching is an interesting approach for Los Angeles considering clean coal technology enjoys majority support among California voters. It is especially noteworthy that this support is broad-based, encompassing majorities of Republican, Democratic and voters declining to state a party affiliation. Given that the most important issues to California voters are “jobs and the economy,”voter sentiment that the state’s energy policies have made it less competitive should be a red flag to Sacramento legislators.

In a recent survey of California voters, nearly 57 percent answered yes when they were asked “Do you support or oppose developing new clean coal power plants in California?” When asked the question, “Do you think that California’s energy policies have made the state more or less competitive?”, more than 43 percent answered yes. And particularly telling is the fact that nearly one-quarter of California voters feel that the state’s energy policies have made the state far less competitive.

These numbers are in stark contrast to comments recently made recently by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he announced that the city will become the only city in America that won’t get any electricity from coal by the year 2025.

Coal-based electricity is one of the least expensive, most reliable means of producing electricity, and it’s a central part of the American energy portfolio. Not only that, coal has a long history of providing energy to Americans.

America has depended on the reliable and abundant coal that comes from our land and powers our lives for more than a century. With the energy in America’s coal reserves being roughly equal to the world’s known oil reserves, it’s clear that coal should continue to be a reliable source of electricity for all of us.