The number one weather-related killer in the United States is not hurricanes or tornadoes, but rather heat waves. The elderly and poor without central air conditioning in their homes are most vulnerable to the inevitable periods of hot weather experienced in much of the country during summer months. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the direction of Lisa Jackson, has launched an all-out war on coal fired power plants, the results of which could be deadly during heat waves.

Over half of the electricity generated in America comes from coal-fired power plants. The EPA’s proposed mercury and air toxics standard rule will kill off new coal-fired power plants by imposing air quality standards so strict that it will make construction practically impossible. In addition, the proposed rule will require the installation of expensive controls on existing power plants.

It is hard to imagine how utilities will meet the growing demand for reliable electricity without using coal as a fuel. No new nuclear power plants have been built for many years and the capitol cost and regulatory complexity of building one now is formidable. Even under the most optimistic scenario it would take more than a decade for a new nuclear plant to come on line.

Wind power is unreliable and can only be counted on to supplement base-load electrical generation. Solar power is expensive and its implementation is limited to areas of the country with abundant sunshine. Large-scale dams for hydro-power are not being built and environmental groups continue to push for the shutdown of existing dams. The best prospect for replacing lost electric generation from coal-fired power plants may be the construction of additional natural gas-fired power plants. Natural gas is the preferred fuel for heating homes in the country, but increased use of that fuel would put price and supply pressure on energy markets.

The loss of thousands of jobs due to the EPA’s war on coal is a serious economic problem for an ailing economy. The loss of coal-fired power plants, however, could be a life-and-death situation for some Americans in a future without those plants.