Using more natural gas and installing modern pollution controls on coal plants are cleaning our air. Big time.
That is the conclusion of a colloborative analysis done by M.J. Bradley & Associates for Entergy, Exelon, Bank of America, Tenaska, Ceres, and NRDC documenting enormous reductions from power plants of sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen pollution--pollutants that cause smog and acid rain among other problems. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/39052/2012Benchmarking-Emissions.pdf.
The "Benchmarking Air Emissions" report finds that both sox and nox pollution was reduced 68% from 1990 to 2010. See page 3 at the Executive Summary.
While the report mainly uses data through 2010, it notes that 2011 and 2012 are proving to be years featuring big changes that decrease even further pollutants. At page 51, the Report has graphs of 2011 and 2012 data that look like another approximately 15% decline in sox and nox pollutants took place from 2010 to March 2012.
The Report states at page 52 "...the two major forces driving the recent drop in emissions are record low natural gas prices and an increased level of pollution controls installed at coal plants." The EPA states that 33,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants--about 10% of the fleet--installed scrubbers in 2010 and 2011. Additionally, coal-fired generation's market share dropped from 44% in 2010 to 34% as of April 2012, as a result of low gas prices shifting generation to gas..
Thanks in part to natural gas and the shale gas revolution that crashed its price, lives are being saved, illnesses prevented, billions of dollars saved, and the sky is blue.