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Letter to the Editor: Cars, not coal plants, are the worst


Yes, renewables as an alternative to coal is good. Colorado is doing a good job toward that end. From 2010 to 2016 our electricity from renewables doubled, now at 20 percent of total.

We ranked 8th in wind power (2013) and 11th in solar energy (2016). This shows good effort. Coal provides 25 percent of our total energy consumption (60 percent of electricity).

Now about Colorado’s air pollution and coal’s contribution. A recent letter on need for renewables shows how awareness of actual, toxic air pollutants has been eroded by the media’s CO2 obsession. The author said; “The burning of coal releases carbon dioxide into the air, the main source of pollution.” CO2 does not produce our air pollution!

The six real pollutants are (EPA): Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Particulates, Ozone, and Lead. Smog (brown cloud), results from sunlight on nitrogen oxides (emitted primarily by cars) reacting with hydrocarbons (unburned gas vapors) to form ozone, the primary ingredient of smog and Denver’s major air pollution problem. Coal’s worst emissions are Mercury and Sulfur Dioxide (producing acid rain) and are bad, but car emissions, not coal are primarily responsible for the past and present brown cloud.

Denver’s “Great Brown Cloud” started in the 70’s and became so bad that Denver failed air quality standards up to 220 times a year.With tougher car emission standards by 1995 the cloud diminished. Denver in 2008 with tougher criteria was in ozone violation less than 10 times per year. With growth and many more cars, the problem grows.

Larry Von Thun,


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