Recently here in the Tyler Paper, a guest columnist argued the country must leave coal behind as an energy source, citing a one-sided report paid for by the left-wing nonprofit Public Citizen.
This report alleges Texas’ coal-fired electricity industry is in decline and unlikely to recover due to rising competition from other energy sources. It also claims, based on flawed market projections, we should prematurely shut down existing coal-fired power plants before the end of their useful lives.
This new salvo in the left’s continued War on Coal is naïve, expensive, and risky for our power grid. It is based on a disingenuous attempt to celebrate “market forces,” when what they advocate is to distort those markets with unsound overregulation and wasteful, premature retirement of valuable power generation assets.
What environmentalists claim are “market headwinds” are actually a combination of three factors” (1) an onslaught of federal environmental regulation that has significantly increased the operating and transactional expenses of coal-fired generation; (2) the current lull in natural gas prices which reduces coal dispatch in many markets and lowers power sale margins in all markets; and (3) growing market distortions from premature acceleration of renewable energy by federal policy. The report echoes this, assuming gas prices will be low forever and that renewable generation can meet future energy demand.
It is unsound energy planning to make long-term retirement decisions based on hopeful projections and to assign permanent significance to present-day challenges faced by all power generators in a distorted market.
The only thing certain about markets is that they change. We need to let the market work, as opposed to urging market distortions in hopes that unsupported market predictions will come true. We need to do what we’ve always done to power our strong economy – maintain an “all of the above” energy strategy that relies on all of Texas’ energy sources.
President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued numerous rules targeting the fossil energy industry, with a particular emphasis on coal. For example, after failing to pass a greenhouse gas “Cap and Trade” scheme with a Democratic majority in his first 13 months in office, President Obama’s EPA went to work to develop the “Clean Power Plan.” It was finalized late last year and has been the subject of an unprecedented legal battle in which over 27 states and 120 organizations have legally challenged the rule.
Many legal observers immediately recognized the rule was illegal at best and perhaps unconstitutional. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court did something it has never done – issued a stay of rule while it was still being reviewed by a lower court. This puts the rule’s implementation on hold while years of legal challenges play out.
A court ruling against the Clean Power Plan won’t be a ruling against the environment – it will be a statement that EPA must stay within the bounds of authority granted by our elected officials in Congress. We will all be the benefactors of such a ruling given the double-digit increases in electricity rates the rule is projected to cause while at the same time generating no real environmental gain.
Ultimately, coal will remain pivotal source of energy for years to come, especially given the rapidly growing need for energy.
Luckily, these groups aren’t in charge of Texas’ market or electricity grid and, as a result, we will have coal in our energy mix for a long time and East Texas will be better for it.
Mike Nasi is the General Counsel of Balanced Energy for Texas (BET), a statewide coalition of energy consumers, producers, and providers committed to supporting policies that preserve and promote our state’s leading role in energy and economic development.
See the article here.