Monthly Archives: July 2017

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Why Coal is Number One

Via The Washington Times:

Quick: what was the number one source of electricity production in the U.S. during the first half of 2017? If you answered renewable energy, you are wrong by a mile. If you answered natural gas, you were wrong by a tiny amount.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which tracks energy use in production on a monthly basis, the single largest source of electric power for the first half of 2017 was coal. See chart.

That’s an amazing finding because liberals and especially environmental groups keep telling us that coal is a dead industry. They have ridiculed Donald Trump, and called him a liar, when he has said that he will revive the coal industry and the related jobs. “Coal Isn’t Coming Back,” a New York Times piece assured us a few weeks after the election. “Saving coal is one promise he (Trump) won’t be able to keep,” the author predicted. The Financial Times was even more blunt in its headline last month: “Coal Is Dead; Long Live the Sun.”

Let’s see if the left issues a retraction. Don’t hold your breath.

According to the EIA’s July report, “EIA estimates that the share of total U.S. generation fueled by natural gas during the first half of this year averaged 29 percent. In contrast, coal’s share of generation rose from 28 percent in the first half of 2016 to 30 percent in first half of 2017.” For the full year 2017, EIA estimates that coal will generate 3.453 million kilowatts per day, while natural gas, because of a rise in its retail price this year, will generate a hair less, or 3.432 million kilowatts. Wind and solar remain niche sources of energy providing about one-seventh as much power as coal and gas.

That’s not all. The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released July 21, 2017, reports that “mining increased 21.6 percent. The first quarter growth primarily reflected increases in oil and gas extraction, as well as support activities for mining. This was the largest increase since the fourth quarter of 2014.”No other major American industry had such gains and across all industries output was up less than 2 percent.

As for the drilling and mining industries, they have gained more than 50,000 jobs since President Trump’s election with 8,000 added in June alone. Many of these were in the oil and gas industry, but some were in coal, whose output has increased 12 percent this year.

Liberals complain that coal activity isn’t a major producer of jobs because the industry is producing a lot more coal with a lot fewer workers. That is absolutely true. Ladies and gentlemen, that is called productivity. A new study by the Institute for Energy Research points out that it takes wind and solar at least 30 times more man hours to produce a kilowatt of electricity than are required to produce that same energy from coal or oil. If you don’t think this productivity advantage of fossil fuels is a good thing, then you probably think we should bring farm jobs back by abolishing tractors and modern farm equipment.

But coal jobs are not just tied to the actual mining of coal. Coal is tied to steel jobs, trucking jobs, and manufacturing jobs. Using cheap and efficient energy makes every other American industry more productive, and thus makes American employers far more competitive in global markets. Productivity creates higher paying jobs in America, it doesn’t destroy them.

We are not the only country that is using a lot more coal. Of all places, The New York Times reports that “Chinese companies are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that burn little or no coal.” India is building hundreds more.

Does any of this sound like the last gasps of an industry that is “dead?” The reason these nations are turning to coal and natural gas is very simple: price and reliability. On both measures fossil fuels are much more efficient than wind and solar generation. Here and abroad solar and wind only survive due to massive government subsidies that mask the real cost. For all the talk of the “booming” solar energy field, it accounts for one percent of American power production.

Amazing that even with the tens of billions of dollars of subsidies to tilt the playing field away from fossil fuels and regulations meant to kill them, they are still flourishing as never before.

See the article here.

These States Couldn’t Dig the Mining Industry More Right Now

Via The Wall Street Journal:

The three fastest-growing states are reaping rewards from the recently revitalized mining sector.

Mining was the driving force behind growth in Texas, West Virginia and New Mexico, which grew 3.9%, 3% and 2.8%, respectively — the fastest rates of any states — in the first quarter. Just a year earlier, Texas was growing at a 2.7% pace, while West Virginia and New Mexico were contracting at 1.9% and 0.7%, respectively, according to the Commerce Department.

The mining industry has benefited from a recovery in commodity prices after an oversupply of commodities like oil, zinc and copper sent prices plunging a couple of years ago. The industry, which grew 21.6% nationally in the first quarter, contributed to growth in 48 states.

Overall growth in real gross domestic product slowed in the first quarter, with sectors including finance, retail and agriculture leading the deceleration.

Meanwhile, mining has proven to be a bright spot in the economy. Industrial production in the second quarter was boosted by robust gains in mining production, a reflection of the continued recovery of drilling activity.

The revitalization in the sector has benefited companies as well as state economies. Caterpillar Inc., a maker of bulldozers and mining trucks, on Tuesday highlighted a rebound in the mining industry in its upbeat second-quarter earnings.

One signal of concern for states like Texas, West Virginia and New Mexico: While mining investment has made leaps and bounds so far this year, “the more recent weakness of crude oil prices suggests that mining activity could drop back in the second half of the year,” said Andrew Hunter of Capital Economics in a note earlier this month.

See the article here.

U.S. Coal Exports Soar, in Boost to Trump Energy Agenda, Data Show

Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

U.S. coal exports have jumped more than 60 percent this year due to soaring demand from Europe and Asia, according to a Reuters review of government data, allowing President Donald Trump’s administration to claim that efforts to revive the battered industry are working.

The increased shipments came as the European Union and other U.S. allies heaped criticism on the Trump administration for its rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, a deal agreed by nearly 200 countries to cut carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like coal.

The previously unpublished figures provided to Reuters by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed exports of the fuel from January through May totaled 36.79 million tons, up 60.3 percent from 22.94 million tons in the same period in 2016. While reflecting a bounce from 2016, the shipments remained well-below volumes recorded in equivalent periods the previous five years.

They included a surge to several European countries during the 2017 period, including a 175 percent increase in shipments to the United Kingdom, and a doubling to France — which had suffered a series of nuclear power plant outages that required it and regional neighbors to rely more heavily on coal.

“If Europe wants to lecture Trump on climate then EU member states need transition plans to phase out polluting coal,” said Laurence Watson, a data scientist working on coal at independent think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative in London.

Nicole Bockstaller, a spokeswoman at the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Action department, said that the EU’s coal imports have generally been on a downward trend since 2006, albeit with seasonable variations like high demand during cold snaps in the winter.

Overall exports to European nations totaled 16 million tons in the first five months of this year, up from 10.5 million in the same period last year, according to the figures. Exports to Asia meanwhile, totaled 12.3 million tons, compared to 6.2 million tons in the year-earlier period.

Trump had campaigned on a promise to “cancel” the Paris deal and sweep away Obama-era environmental regulations to help coal miners, whose output last year sank to the lowest level since 1978. The industry has been battered for years by surging supplies of cheaper natural gas, brought on by better drilling technologies, and increased use of natural gas to fuel power plants.

His administration has since sought to kill scores of pending regulations he said threatened industries like coal mining, and reversed a ban on new coal leasing on federal lands.

Both the coal industry and the Trump administration said the rising exports of both steam coal, used to generate electricity, and metallurgical coal, used in heavy industry, were evidence that Trump’s agenda was having a positive impact.

“Simply to know that coal no longer has to fight the government — that has to have some effect on investment decisions and in the outlook by companies, producers and utilities that use coal,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Energy Department, said: “These numbers clearly show that the Trump Administration’s policies are helping to revive an industry that was the target of costly and job killing overregulation from Washington for far too long.”

Efforts to obtain comment from exporters Arch Coal and privately held Murray Energy Corp. were unsuccessful. Contura Energy, which emerged as part of Alpha Natural Resource’s bankruptcy and restructuring, and filed for public offering in May, declined to comment.

A spokesman for Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer, though without a major export profile, said the United States was generally a “swing supplier of seaborne coal.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration analyst Elias Johnson said the U.S. coal industry may now be better positioned to meet foreign demand because U.S. miners have learned to produce at lower cost, after coming through a series of recent bankruptcies.

“There’s the possibility that the U.S. will become more of a primary player in the global coal trade market,” he said.

But he added there are also plenty of reasons the spike in demand could be temporary. For one thing, U.S. coal production and transportation costs are much higher than for other producers such as Indonesia and Australia.

Because coal can often be transhipped from European ports before it is consumed, it is also hard to determine where shipments ultimately end up.

Johnson pointed out that some of the fuel shipped into Western Europe, for example, could be making its way to other places like Ukraine, which is having trouble securing coal from its separatist-held regions.

Trump said last month that his administration is offering more coal to Ukraine, but it was unclear how, given deals are typically worked out between companies.

See the article here.

Coal’s Benefits: Seen Only When Gone

Coal’s Benefits: Seen Only When Gone

July 26, 2017

The front-page story in Sunday’s Washington Post was a despairing look at the human cost of “the collapse of the coal industry.”  “Disabled and Disdained” is an example of a growing interest by both broadcast and print media in the social destruction left in the wake of a vanishing industry and the jobs it supported.  Monday’s New York Times followed
with a similar story from Wise, Va.

Finally, if belatedly, we are invited to confront the anguish – poverty, drug addiction, family break up – the symptoms of a community unravelling when the threads holding it together are removed.

For too long, renewables-enthralled media ignored the struggles of these communities, blinded by the exciting potential glare of communities repaved with solar panels. It took President Trump’s election to awaken interest in their plight. Who are these people anyway?  Where is Grundy, Virginia?

What was missed in all this indifference wasn’t just the “cost” of coal’s decline. Setting aside coal’s energy producing value when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, equally significant and overlooked were the irreplaceable benefits that are only now recognized when coal is gone. From the dignity of work – the livelihoods that could support a spouse and kids – to the revenue that flowed like blood through the community – to the shops, hospitals, schools and cafes that make any place worth living.

(more…)

Reliable, Affordable Electricity Is Vital to America

Via The Morning Consult:

Remember the last time you lost power at home. Even if you went without electricity for only for a few minutes, it was an inconvenience, right? Now, imagine it is the coldest stretch in years. What happens if the electricity goes out for days at a time during this brutal cold? Think about the impact that could have, especially on the most vulnerable living amongst us.

Most Americans take reliable electricity for granted. We turn on the switch and it’s there. But as a result of policies and technologies that have transformed the way we generate and transmit electricity, we are sacrificing reliability and putting our electric grid at risk. The good news is this problem has finally caught the eye of decision-makers in Washington.

For generations, coal has been the backbone of America’s economy, producing electricity to power our homes, schools, offices and factories. There’s a reason our country has been powered by coal for over a century — it is the cheapest, most reliable source of energy on the planet.

Our power grid was designed on resilient baseload power, which requires reliability on both ends of the supply chain — both at the source as well as delivery. There are two main sources of baseload power — coal and nuclear energy.

Yet over the past decade, our baseload capacity has eroded. The policies and regulations imposed by President Barack Obama forced more than 250 coal-fired plants to close. As a result, coal has declined from around 50 percent of electricity generation in 2008 to 30 percent today. Obama’s mission to move America away from coal has come at the expense of both American workers and our energy security.

Renewable resources such as wind and solar should be part of an all-of-the-above energy plan. But even when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining they fail to come close to meeting our country’s energy needs.

By their nature, they are intermittent source of energy. Until there are advancements in energy storage, that will be a downside to renewables.

Thanks to the shale revolution, natural gas is abundant and cheap. As a result, it has been growing as a share of electric generation. However, natural gas is vulnerable to wild fluctuations in price, especially during a disaster or severe weather.

In 2014, natural gas was unable to meet the spike in demand from the record polar vortex that brought frigid weather to the east coast. The extreme cold shut down schools across the region and caused 21 people to die. Natural gas was in short supply, forcing power plants to scale back or shut down operations. The price of natural gas spiked to what would be the equivalent of paying $85 for a gallon of gasoline.

While building out the natural gas pipeline infrastructure across the country will help alleviate some of those problems, bottlenecks will remain a challenge. At the same time, other important uses for natural gas — exports of LNG, manufacturing, and petrochemicals and plastics — will increase in demand and drive prices up.  Natural gas will play an important role in electric generation, but it can’t replace the dependability of coal or nuclear — which is always available when you need it.

The situation before us is not merely a challenge or an inconvenience. It is a crisis waiting to happen. If we wait until a natural disaster wipes out our capabilities, or fail to respond until a terrorist attack strikes the power grid, it will already be too late. We will be crippled by our dependence on unreliable energy and the price will be steep. Lives are at stake. Yet many in Washington have failed to take this problem seriously.

Thankfully the Trump administration and Energy Secretary Rick Perry understand the value of reliable, dependable, resilient energy sources. The Department of Energy is currently undertaking a study on the state of our electric grid and energy security. I expect the study will reveal to Washington what we in West Virginia already know — the war on coal and reliable energy needs to be reversed immediately.

It will be up to President Donald Trump and his administration to work together with Congress to address this problem. We must find a way to ensure our energy portfolio values reliability and affordability, not just a political agenda.

Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) represents West Virginia’s First Congressional District. He serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and is chairman of the Congressional Coal Caucus. He is one of two licensed engineers in Congress.

See the article here.

Good News: Workers Being Called Back

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

In another sign of life for the coal industry, Komatsu Mining Corp. (formerly Joy Global) has called back 65 workers and will hire 15 more due to a “uptick in work in the mining industry.”

The workers were called back on the job last week. The new workers that will be hired will fill positions ranging from certified welders to general laborers, said Caley Clinton, global public relations manager with Komatsu Mining based in Milwaukee, Wis.

“Most of the new positions are going to be for certified welders and a couple of general laborers,” Clinton said, adding that an “uptick in work in the mining industry” created the need for the workers. “We are seeing customers ordering new equipment again or parts. During the downturn in the mining industry they used what they had.”

Clinton said the increase in demand is not necessarily from the coal industry, but the mining industry in general, and around the world.

“We provide equipment and services in a wide variety of mining operations,” she said, adding that mineral mining has seen an increase but “it’s not any one of them, just a general uptick in the mining industry. Overall, our customers are starting to move again in placing orders.”

The Trump administration’s welcomed support for coal, and fossil fuels in general, is fueling renewed confidence within the industry.

Anytime unemployed workers are called back on the job, it is good news for our region.

We realize that coal production in the area may never reach the same levels as years ago, during the peak of the coal industry here in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. And no one is claiming that the mining industry will be resurrected overnight.

But here is the point that is all too often overlooked in the national conversation about coal. Every coal mine that reopens, and every coal miner who is called back to work, is helpful to our local economy. The same goes for related service industry positions similar to those provided by Komatsu Mining Corp. These are unemployed workers who are returning to the workforce, and new positions that are being created.

You won’t see us complain when an unemployed coal miner or industry professional is called back. And we won’t gripe when workers are hired for new positions within the industry. Every coal miner and industry professional who returns to the workforce will help our regional economy.

See the article here.

Let’s Take the Lead in Clean Coal

Via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord has drawn criticism, but if there’s a silver lining, it may be that his renewed focus on coal could spur technological advances leading to both a cleaner environment and safer power generation for millions of people around the world.

Roughly 3 billion people in the developing world have virtually no access to energy. And while countries like India and China are rapidly industrializing their power sectors, much of the world remains largely in the dark. In fact, the burning of dung still serves as the chief source of energy for cooking and heating in many places. The adverse impacts of such a fuel source — including indoor air pollution and black carbon — threaten both lives and environmental safety. So it’s imperative to find a safer means to deliver reliable energy to the people who need it most.

In contrast to the developing world, America enjoys world-leading access to power generation for schools, hospitals, public transportation, water treatment, sewage facilities and food storage. A third of this power comes from coal-fired plants that run 24/7.

Technology is helping to significantly cut emissions from these plants. New coal stations are 90 percent cleaner than the 1970s fleet they’re replacing. And while coal use has tripled over the past 40 years, regulated emissions from coal-based electricity generation have decreased by nearly 40 percent, thanks to scrubbing technologies that trap 98 percent of sulfur-dioxide emissions, 90 percent of nitrogen-oxide emissions and 90 percent of mercury emissions.

More impressive technologies are on the horizon. A Clean Coal Technology partnership administered by the U.S Department of Energy is working to develop systems that could ultimately enter large-scale commercial deployment. The CCT program has already resulted in more than 20 new, lower cost, more efficient and environmentally compatible technologies for electric utilities, steel mills, cement plants and other industries.

In the wake of the Paris accord, it’s important to consider that “carbon capture” technologies are already being brought online to trap CO2 emissions. The technological advances are impressive, including the use of CO2 to enhance oil recovery through fracking — with the CO2 subsequently stored underground.

NRG Energy in Texas, for example, captures 1.6 million tons of CO2 each year, an environmental impact equal to taking 350,000 cars off the road. The plant uses carbon dioxide from a coal-burning power plant to extract more oil and natural gas from old wells. And a company in Alberta, Canada, is injecting power plant carbon dioxide emissions into concrete to make it stronger.

Even without carbon capture, modern coal plants are reducing CO2 emissions. New “supercritical” and “ultra-supercritical” boilers increase the heat rate of coal-based power plants by as much as 49 percent, which makes for more efficient burning and less pollution.

Improvements in solar and wind systems suggest they’ll play a greater part in America’s energy portfolio, but coal and other fossil fuels will likely serve as the backbone of domestic energy production for the foreseeable future. It makes sense then to pursue advanced technologies to improve their efficiency and environmental performance.

The benefits go beyond our shores. What the United States can do is not only bring such technologies into use — to modernize and improve existing coal plants — but also share them with countries struggling to meet basic power needs. If China and India, for example, are committed to coal usage, shouldn’t the United States help them design systems that emit as little CO2 as possible and otherwise reduce environmental impacts?

America is on the cusp of great achievements in clean coal research and development. Moving forward will help to meet increasingly stringent environmental challenges and expectations, especially regarding emissions control and carbon capture. As advanced coal plants are constructed to meet the world’s growing energy needs, America will have even greater opportunities to be a leader in clean coal.

See the article here.

Trump Delivering: Coal Industry Alive and Well

Via OneNewsNow:

Luke Popovich, vice president of communications for the National Mining Association, says the death of coal has been greatly exaggerated.

“I think a lot of the major media on the coasts – and I’m talking about the most influential, big dailies – don’t like Donald Trump,” says Popovich. “Donald Trump likes coal, so they don’t like coal even more than they did before Donald Trump was elected.”

As a result, Popovich says news outlets and critics of coal have been exaggerating coal’s decline in order to exaggerate the president’s failure to deliver on his promise.

“The fact is the president did say he was going to revive the coal industry, and to great extent he has succeeded,” he continues. “He’s taken it out of a death spiral for one thing.”

How so?

“We’re seeing jobs coming back,” answers the NMA spokesman. “We’re seeing mines open in states from West Virginia, Kentucky, all the way to Pennsylvania. We’ve seen coal production coming back about 20 percent year over year, coal prices have increased since last fall when the president was elected.”

Popovich says the coal industry isn’t nearly as depressed as people would think from reading major media reports.

Still, natural gas provides more of the nation’s electricity than coal. While many utilities began making the switch to comply with the Obama administration’s regulations regarding coal, natural gas is cheap, abundant, and burns cleaner than coal. It was not that long ago that coal was providing 40 to 50 percent of the nation’s electricity.

“There’s no question that natural gas has been a formidable competitor of coal and has surpassed coal for the first time in the share of power generation in for the United States,” Popovich acknowledges. “It’s going to be a struggle for coal to get much above a third.”

But he sees hope since the government has gotten “the punitive regulations off the back of coal producers so they are freer to do what they have to do to compete against natural gas and subsidized wind and solar, which are also in this power generation market.”

Popovich adds that coal can be used for things other than energy generation.

“You can’t make steel without coal,” he explains. “Coal was booming ten years ago partly because of the industrial revolution that was going on in Asia, mostly in China. They were building cities from nothing, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty with steel. That created a huge demand for metallurgical coal, which is our highest grade coal.”

That market has cooled because China’s economy is not growing as fast as it was, but Popovich says coal still remains an essential ingredient for industrialization around the world – and most of that is occurring offshore.

“Now, if the president goes through with his plan and Coness collaborates with him to build a big infrastructure program into the budget and we see bridges and roads and buildings and dams being reconstructed here in the United States, then clearly the demand for steel and presumably metallurgical coal will also increase,” Popovich says.

See the article here.

Increased U.S. Reliance on Natural Gas Poses Grave Security Risk

Via Lifezette: 

Without coal as backup, attack on key pipelines or hubs could threaten power for millions of Americans

Energy enthusiasts have been rallying around natural gas in recent years as a replacement for coal in generating electricity. And undoubtedly, the fracking revolution has unleashed more natural gas for power generation. But the resulting push toward a greater reliance on natural gas for electricity production at the expense of coal-fired generation could invite troubling, unintended consequences.

In recent years, Americans have rightly become more concerned about threats to the internet posed by cyberhacking, as well as physical attacks on critical infrastructure. From a security standpoint, there are reasons to be particularly worried about the vulnerability of America’s power grid. This concern is one reason why Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry has commissioned a study on the reliability of the U.S. power grid.

Right now, there are more than 30 natural gas hubs located throughout the United States, each supplied with processed natural gas from an interstate network of pipelines. It is from these centralized hubs that gas is then distributed to regions of the country demanding large amounts of natural gas — for both power generation and residential use.

What’s of particular concern is the centralized nature of this spidery pipeline network. Each hub feeds a limited number of key pipelines across major population centers. A successful attack on one of these pipelines could potentially halt power generation across a series of metropolitan areas.

A good way to envision this is that, while there are plenty of electricity transmission lines strung throughout the country, there are comparatively few pipelines. And while a downed transmission line can be repaired — with electricity re-routed in the interim — the loss of a major pipeline could mean the complete stoppage of gas delivery to multiple power plants.

The vulnerability of these hub pipelines points to a key drawback of gas-fired power. Natural gas plants do not store reserves, and are thus perpetually reliant on the secure delivery of a steady, inflow of fuel.

Such limitations are all the more striking when one considers that much of the nation’s coal fleet maintains a 30-day supply of coal, rendering them essentially independent of day-to-day constraints. If a supply train is late, for example, or a snowstorm delays a coal shipment, the coal plant remains unaffected— and able to keep generating 24/7 electricity for millions of customers.

Both coal and natural gas, though, generate prodigious amounts of power. And such robust delivery shouldn’t be underestimated. A typical 500-megawatt coal plant can provide enough electricity to power 350,000 homes. A 1.5-megawatt wind turbine, in contrast, can power roughly 332 homes. Unfortunately, wind turbines only generate this full “rated capacity” about 40 percent of the time — since the wind doesn’t always blow as needed.

In order to meet the growing power needs of a continually growing population, the United States needs to keep generating ever greater amounts of electricity. As such, the heavy lifting undertaken by coal and natural gas appears more and more crucial. Coal itself still supplies roughly 30 percent of America’s electricity, and the nation’s sturdy coal fleet proved particularly important during the “polar vortex” chill of 2014.

During the coldest parts of that winter, major utility company American Electric Power reported that 90 percent of its coal plants slated for retirement were running at full speed just to meet that peak demand. And even more troubling is that PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization in 13 states, has determined that in the event of another polar vortex-type winter, coal plants will be indispensable for meeting peak demand.

All of this begs the question of whether America can simply entrust its future power grid to a greater reliance on natural gas. The possibility of a disruption on a major natural gas hub is a disturbing scenario that must be contemplated and addressed. And so, if the nation wants to move toward increased natural gas power generation, it seems prudent to fully and adequately take steps now to secure the pipeline network currently underpinning much of the country’s power production.

See the article here.

Rick Perry Says ‘Clean’ Coal Will Shape America’s Energy Future

Via The Daily Caller:

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry emphasized in a recent interview that clean coal will highlight his energy agenda, utilizing American innovation to pursue cleaner, cheaper coal while creating jobs in the process.

The Washington Examiner sat down with Perry this week at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Perry toured the lab the day prior, and lauded its initiatives of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in shale. The NETL lab is one of 17 laboratories nationwide that receive government funding. The Pittsburgh location is the only lab that is managed completely by the federal government.

The former Republican presidential contender weighed in on upcoming projects to create jobs while simultaneously making energy cheaper, cleaner and more accessible. Perry was asked about innovative “cracker plants,” or energy plants that crack molecules in natural gas to make byproducts such as ethane and ethylene.

“If you just took that gas and burned it at a power plant, it’s sort of like cooking your breakfast using $100 bills. It will cook your breakfast, but it’s a pretty expensive way to do it,” the secretary said. “But if you take that gas, process it, crack it, send different streams different ways to be used in a lot of valued-added processing, that can happen right here in this region. So, one job becomes 10 jobs. And those are high-value jobs.”

Perry also defended the Trump administration’s endorsement of coal initiatives, despite concerns over climate change. He believes that clean coal is not only pragmatic, but will become commonplace.

He recently toured West Virginia’s Longview Power Plant, which says it is one of the most efficient coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

“Walking through the plant in Longview — it’s a highly efficient, low-emission plant — and is using tons of coal to create electrical power. It’s pulverizing that coal into like talcum powder. I literally wiped my hand across the first floor of this plant, and it looks like my hand looks right now wiping it across this tabletop. Totally clean. That is the innovation that we’ve come to expect in America,” Perry said.

Finally, Secretary Perry addressed the bombshell decision by President Donald Trump several weeks ago to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. He responded to the tremendous opposition from Democrats, and talked about some of the benefits of withdrawal.

“I’m not sure this is ever going to be an absolute black and/or white issue. … I hope we can have an open, thoughtful conversation with people on both sides of this as we go forward and agree that we’re making great progress. America has reduced its emissions more than any country out there from the standpoint of a percentage,” answered Perry.

The secretary of energy was optimistic about the future of American energy, and excited about technological innovations that will help the United States lead the world in addressing the challenge of creating clean energy jobs and mitigating carbon emissions.

He closed out the interview saying, “I happen to think that Donald Trump is about shaking up, if you will, going outside the norms of what we’ve historically seen. I think he’s going to be very successful.”

See the article here.

Coal Exports Exceeded Expectations at Start of Year

Via The Casper Star-Tribune:

U.S. coal exports rose sharply in early 2017 amid increased demand in Asia and Europe.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday that exports are up by 8 million tons to 22.3 million tons through March.

That’s a 58 percent jump over the 14.1 million tons exported during the same period in 2016. The increase comes after five years of declines.

Exporting Wyoming coal has long been an idea on the backburner for state leaders eager to find more places to sell the Powder River Basin rock. But the economics simply haven’t lined up. Only Cloud Peak Energy, the Gillette-based company with mines in northern Wyoming and across the border in Montana, has plans to export to Asia this year. The company has 3.3 million tons of exports under contract for the year. It sent .5 million tons across seas in the first three months of the year.

Other companies operating in Wyoming have shown interest in developments like the Millennium Bulk export terminal in Longview, Washington, which if completed would open up another conduit to send U.S. coal to Asia. The terminal was first proposed in 2012 and has experienced repeated delays in permitting and pushback from environmental opponents. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to release a final environmental review of the project later this year.

Export volumes in the first quarter of the year were up most significantly through ports in Norfolk, Virginia and New Orleans. Top destinations for U.S. coal were the Netherlands, South Korea and India.

 Despite the increase, volumes remain well below industry expectations when plans were announced over the past decade to build or expand coal ports in Oregon, Louisiana, Washington state and California.

Most of those projects have stalled or been cancelled. Federal officials say there’s still more export capacity than needed.

See the article here.

Coal Projected to be Top Power Source

Via The Williamson Daily News:

By a thin margin, coal will be the top source for U.S. power generation in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s monthly Short Term Energy Outlook released Tuesday.

The EIA report projects coal will fuel 31.3 percent of electricity in the U.S. in 2017, compared with 31.1 percent for natural gas. In 2016, natural gas surpassed coal as the nation’s top fuel for the first time, totaling 33.8 percent of generation compared with 30.4 percent for coal.

“This report is a very positive sign for coal, and that it is moving in the right direction,” said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “It shows that coal is still a very viable and most dependable energy source in the country.”

 The agency has projected natural gas to be the top fuel in 2017 in most of its reports so far this year, including June’s edition, but increasing gas prices as well as higher hydro generation have pushed it below coal in the latest forecast.

Coal supply and production

EIA estimates that coal production declined by 169 million short tons, or 19 percent in 2016 to 728 million, the lowest level of coal production since 1978.

In 2017, growth in coal-fired electricity generation and exports is expected to lead to an increase of 57 million short tons, or 8 percent, in total U.S. coal production.

“Production of coal is up in the first six months of 2017 in West Virginia by approximately 18 to 19 percent,” Raney said. “After eight years of an administration that was attacking coal, now we are seeing the beginning of what can happen when there is support for coal on the federal level. We need to continue this positive momentum.”

Increases in production from the Appalachian region and the Interior region are expected to be 16 million and 15 million short tons, respectively, according to the EIA report. Production in the Western region is forecast to increase by 26 million.

In 2018, total coal production is expected to remain relatively unchanged, with declines in Appalachian region production offset by increases in Interior region and Western region production, the report showed.

“Coal production has been increasing recently because of the huge drop due to the great recession of 2008, together with employment,” said Dr. Tony Szwilski, a professor and director at Marshall University’s College of Engineering. “Coal production in Appalachian states was about 391 million short tons in 2008 compared to 222 million in 2015, a drop of 23 percent.”

According to the EIA report, electric power sector coal stockpiles were 166 million tons in April 2017, the last actual data point, up 1 percent from the previous month, according to the report. This increase in total coal stockpiles is normal during the spring when the power sector builds coal stockpiles for use during the summer months when demand for electricity is greater, the report stated.

Coal Consumption

Electric power sector coal consumption is forecast to increase by 9 million short tons (1 percent) in 2017, mostly because of rising natural gas prices.

“I think the bigger story is the fall of natural gas and growth with renewable energy sources,” said Richard Bajura, director of the National Resource Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University. “It is good to see that coal is holding steady while it faces stiff competition with cheaper natural gas and renewables.

“I expect to continue to see increases in natural gas prices, but coal will continue to face increased competition with cheaper gas prices and cheaper renewable prices,” Bajura said. “There is really no data of big distinction with this short-term outlook report.”

In 2018, demand for coal in the power sector is expected to increase by 2 million short tons.

“There is no long-term forecast to be made based on this data,” Bajura said. “This is a very complex market, and I believe cheaper natural gas and renewables will continue to gain to make gains in the future, while coal will continue to hold steady.”

Coal trade

The EIA reported coal exports for the first quarter of 2017 were 58 percent higher than in the same quarter last year, with steam coal exports increasing by 6 million short tons. The trend continued in April, with exports 58 percent higher than in April 2016.

“The coal industry is still trying to get its feet under it after eight years of a war on coal,” Raney said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but this forecast shows positive reports and that’s great news for everyone in the coal industry.”

EIA expects growth in coal exports to slow in the coming months, with exports for all of 2017 forecast at 72 million short tons, or 12 million (19 percent) above the 2016 level. Coal exports are expected to be 63 million short tons in 2018.

Atlantic and Gulf Coast electric power generators are forecast to generally maintain their current levels of coal imports, which are primarily from Latin America.

Total U.S. imports are estimated to have been 10 million short tons in 2016 and are forecast to remain between 9 million and 10 million in 2017 and 2018, according to the EIA report.

Coal Prices

EIA estimates the delivered coal price averaged $2.11 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2016, which is 5 percent lower than the 2015 price.

 Coal prices are forecast to increase in 2017 and in 2018 to $2.15/MMBtu and $2.21/MMBtu, respectively, the report showed.

Henry Hub spot prices are projected to average $3.22/MMBtu in 2017 and $3.52/MMBtu in 2018. They averaged $2.60/MMBtu in 2016, it reported.

Delivered utility coal prices are projected to average $2.15/MMBtu in 2017 and $2.21/MMBtu in 2018, up from $2.12/MMBtu in 2016.

Coal future

Coal is not going away and will always be part of the energy mix for at least 20 to 30 years, according to Szwilski.

Power sector generation from coal in 2008 was 49.9 percent, in 2016 it was 31.4 percent, and a peak generation was 56.8 percent in 1985, he said.

“There are basically two coal markets: power generation and coking coal for steel production,” he explained. “Both markets have dropped significantly since 2008 in line with the overall domestic and world economy.

Coking coal price is about double that of thermal coal, so as steel production rises coking coal will rise, especially exports which holds significant promise.”

Szwilski says thermal coal production has been hit significantly by the boom and future promise of an expected secure supply of lower price shale gas.

“The coal consumption market is being diminished by power plants replacing the coal fuel base with shale gas while many coal power plants have been decommissioned,” he said. “The cost of extracting coal from the ground will also steadily increase. Big picture … world coal production is projected to peak in about 2035.”

Although the positive data for the coal industry from the EIA appears to be short term, coal officials still welcome the good news.

“All of this news is very encouraging for the coal industry,” Raney said. “Some may think these are just small movements in the right direction, but at least we are moving in a positive direction for the first time in eight years.”

See the article here.

Prospects for Change

Via Mining News:

After eight years of battling anti-mining policies being promulgated by the Obama Administration, the National Mining Association is cautiously optimistic about the positive change in the tone and substance of U.S. resource development policies since Donald Trump has moved into the White House.

“The November election ushered in a surprisingly swift and dramatic change, particularly in the way people in Washington D.C. view natural resources,” NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said during a June 28 keynote speech at the Resource Development Council for Alaska annual membership luncheon in Anchorage.

The leader of the United States’ top mining advocacy group said the about face in the tone and substance emanating from the White House when it comes to mining policies extends to the nation’s resource sectors at large.

“For all resource industries things are changing and with the new administration there is a return of government that encourages responsible development and the use of all our natural resources,” Quinn told the Alaska resource community at the sold-out luncheon.

Unmistakable change

Quinn said there is no clearer sign of the dramatic change in this tone than seeing miners flank President Trump as he signs a resolution that overturns a midnight hour Obama administration rule that threatened U.S. coal miners with added regulatory burden.

This so-called Stream Protection Rule was touted by the Obama administration as a necessary clarification of the regulations surrounding valley fill, a mining technique used in Appalachia that involves depositing overburden removed from hilltops in an adjacent valley and then re-contouring the landscape after mining is complete.

Usibelli Coal Mine Inc., Alaska’s sole coal producers, had argued that this “one-size-fits-all” regulation attempts to address concerns in the eastern U.S. and apply them across the country, an approach that does not work for an area as unique as Alaska.

Less than a month after being sworn into office, Trump signed H.J. Resolution 38, which overturns what he called “another terrible job-killing rule.”

“Compliance costs for this rule would be over $50 million a year for the coal industry alone, and it’s unnecessary,” the President told the legislators and coal miners gathered to witness the signing.

“Do you recall something close to this happening in the last eight years?” Quinn asked the Alaska resource development community gathered in Anchorage, referring to the miners in attendance.

The NMA President said American miners have also been invited as guests of honor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters;.

While Quinn anticipated that the Trump Administration would bring positive change for mining in the U.S., he said he never though he would witness a U.S. Labor Secretary stroll through the front doors of the NMA office in Washington D.C. and introduce himself.

Not only did Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta make a courtesy visit, but took the time to sit down with mining safety leaders meeting that day at the NMA office.

Trump’s signing of the energy independence executive order; and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s trip to Alaska as part of his department’s “focus on energy independence and energy dominance,” are other indicators of a new direction for resource development under Trump.

“So, the change is unmistakable,” Quinn said.

See the full article here.

Rising Demand for Coal Lifts Job Confidence

Via The Daily Item:

Over the decade from 2006 to 2016, coal mining and its support jobs were down 37.6 percent, a drop of more than 3,100 jobs, according to data from the state Department of Labor and Industry provided by Deputy Communications Director Lindsay Bracale.

In the past five years, from 2011 and 2016, coal mining and support jobs were down by 43.6 percent, a drop of more than 4,000 jobs, according to the data.

“The most precipitous decline in the last ten years happened between 2015 and 2016, in which nearly 2,000 jobs were lost,” Bracale said.

President Trump on the campaign trail and during the first six months of his presidency expressed support for the coal industry, promising that out-of-work miners and struggling companies will soon be back on the job and finding relief. Trump has also rolled back regulations from the previous administration.

Although coal jobs are down, the demand is up for both anthracite coal, at 18 percent, and bituminous coal, at 21 percent, according to Duane Feagley, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Counsel, based in Pottsville.

“There’s more confidence with the industry in general, but there’s also caution,” Feagley said. “Some of it has to do with coal mining operators having more certainty. That’s a direct result of the leadership in DC and regulations being rolled back. That creates less anxiety and more certainty in the market. Overall, the economy is picking up as well, creating more of a demand.”

In the first quarter of 2017, the industry produced 500,000 tons of anthracite coal and 12.074 million tons of bituminous. Comparatively, in the first quarter of 2016, the industry produced 424,000 tons of anthracite coal and 9.901 million tons of bituminous coal, according to the Energy Information Administration.

As far as jobs go, Feagley said the anthracite industry is “holding steady” with approximately 1,000 coal jobs and approximately 3,000 support jobs in Pennsylvania right now.

In June, Gov. Tom Wolf attended the opening of Corsa Coal’s Acosta mine in Jenner Township, Somerset County, that will produce fuel for manufacturing and lead to hundreds of new jobs headed to the region, directly and indirectly.

“By helping to fund this project, Pennsylvania is investing in this community and the project shows how the diversity of Pennsylvania’s economy makes it a great place to build and grow a business,” said Wolf in statement. “This mine will help to support this community and its workforce, by providing jobs and opportunity to an area that needs both and I want to thank Corsa for its commitment to Western Pennsylvania.”

The Acosta mine, located in Jenner Township Somerset County, is expected to bring nearly 100 direct full-time jobs and an estimated 500 indirect jobs to western Pennsylvania. The mine is projected to produce 400,000 tons of metallurgical coal per year that will be sold to steel companies in the United States, Asia, Europe, and South America. The project has been funded in part through a $3 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant to support the development of a new deep mine facility.

“We at Corsa Coal are grateful for the Governor’s support as we open the Acosta Deep mine,” Corsa Coal CEO George Dethlefsen said. “Coal miners and the state government are partners in business, as we have a shared commitment to jobs, safety and environmental protection. This mine will provide a much-needed economic boost to the region for years to come.”

In order to look at more current information, Bracale said a different data set that does not have as much detail – Current Employment Statistics – must be consulted. This data set does not have data for support activities for coal mining, but it does have coal mining itself, which in May 2017 was essentially unchanged from May 2016. The additions of 100 jobs may be due to rounding, Bracale said.

The definition for support activities is as follows: “This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing support activities for coal mining (except site preparation and related construction activities) on a contract or fee basis. Exploration for coal is included in this industry. Exploration includes traditional prospecting methods, such as taking core samples and making geological observations at prospective sites.”

“Some examples of companies that this are ones that provide contract blasting services, drilling services, tunneling services, training, draining or pumping of coal mines, and exploration for coal,” Bracale said. “This isn’t all-inclusive, but it covers a good bit of what is included.”

Stacie Snyder, the site administrator for the Northumberland/Snyder/Union counties PA CareerLink in Sunbury, said no coal companies are currently partnered with the job-seeking organization. More than a year ago, some companies were hiring truck drivers and blasters, but there’s no demand now.

“We haven’t had much activity within the past year,” Snyder said. “One employer kept a position open for blasters, but there’s not too much movement. Nothing for related jobs either. It’s been pretty slow.”

Snyder said the CareerLink did work with one company for job training for a blaster position.

Bob Garrett, president/CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, said a handful of coal company owners have expressed the need for employees. Last year, the GSV Chamber absorbed the Brush Valley Chamber of Commerce, which served what is commonly known as the Coal Region in eastern Northumberland County.

Don Alexander, the planning and economic director for Northumberland County, said he is frequently in touch with coal and coal-related industries in the county, but hasn’t heard much of a demand for jobs.

“At least in the foreseeable future, there’s a stabilization of coal companies, those that found other uses besides burning coal,” Alexander said. “I’m not seeing signs the downward trend will continue. There seems to be stabilization.”

See the article here.

America’s Next Energy Crisis

Via Forbes.com

Some disasters arise unexpectedly, like an earthquake or massive storm. Others seem inevitable. Who didn’t see the 2008 financial crisis coming?

In hindsight, most of us.

In reality, most crises that seem inevitable after the fact often catch nearly all of us by surprise when they occur. The factors were obvious enough, but few people saw them coming together.

There’s a potential crisis that will seem predictable, after the fact. It’s better to take thoughtful consideration and positive action now and not say “I told you so” later.

Our electrical grid is being stretched to the brink. The U.S. is making itself less resilient against catastrophic failure from a major weather event or terror attack every day. Our infrastructure increasingly depends on much less secure, resilient and reliable sources of energy, like wind, solar or even natural gas. These sources do not provide the dependable availability of nuclear or coal.

During the polar vortex in 2014, coal and nuclear power plants in the Midwest and Northeast had to run at full capacity to ensure tens of millions of Americans didn’t lose power or heat. The output was a testament to a system that included the resilience of those power plants.

What’s worrying is that many of those coal and nuclear plants are no longer operating. Many more will be phased out soon. These closures are the result in part of a regulatory framework that imposes much higher burdens on these pillars of our electrical-power grid than the less secure sources to which we’re now calling “our future.” We anticipate growing by subtracting resilient energy sources, and the math doesn’t work.

Most Americans don’t think much about electricity. It charges our phones and turns the lights on when we flick a switch. When it works, there isn’t much reason to think about it. We have been lucky to avoid a major catastrophe, but we’re mixing in more and more ingredients for an outage that could disrupt life for millions, particularly in the Northeast or Midwest.

Not thinking about it creates a dangerous blind spot. Because most of us take electricity for granted, very few Americans understand our electricity supply is steaming toward this crisis. And, like most crises, we will be wishing we had done something earlier to prevent it.

Thankfully, the Department of Energy under Secretary Rick Perry is examining the problem. The department is expected to release a report later this month that details these concerns with the existing power grid and the value of so-called “baseload power” – coal, nuclear and hydro-electricity.

As a former assistant secretary of energy for fossil energy during Barack Obama’s presidency, I am encouraged by the department’s review, particularly its focus on the reliability and resilience of the electricity grid and the benefits of coal and nuclear power.

Coal and nuclear plants are unmatched in their ability to generate reliable energy under all circumstances, but these plants are being retired at an alarming rate because of a combination of punitive regulations, low natural gas prices, and government subsidies and mandates for renewables.

Perhaps the bigger concern is the “magical thinking” behind some analysis trying to wish our electricity system into resiliency and reliability without these traditional base-load power plants. It can be uncomfortable to face facts honestly.

There is no reliable way to store meaningful amounts of electricity today. It must be produced when it is needed. That is a big problem for renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, that only produce power under the right circumstances – when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Even natural gas is less secure than coal and nuclear power because it relies on pipeline supply of fuel on demand.

See the article here.

Support for Coal

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

During a tour of the Mountain State last week, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said coal, and particularly coal-fired plants, will continue to play an important role in our nation’s future. The welcomed proclamation was the latest showing of support for coal by the Trump administration.

Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, says the days of Washington pushing an anti-coal agenda at the expense of hard-working families in West Virginia are over.

“Having a diverse portfolio of all energy sources, including renewables, is important to this country,” Perry said. “Picking and choosing the few that fit your political philosophy is not good for America. The last eight years, we have seen an administration that was sometimes — I think they used their whole hand, not just their thumb — to affect the power portfolio of America. Those days are over. The people of West Virginia who are making their living in coal mines, running plants like these, they need to understand something. They have a friend in the White House.”

And while the Obama administration waged a crippling war on coal over the last eight years, other countries, including China and Germany, moved forward on clean-coal technology, Perry said.

“One of the challenges we have because of the last eight years of a clear anti-coal administration in place is that other countries have moved forward with this technology,” Perry said. “Other countries are making advances in clean coal technology that we historically led the world in. We need to get that edge back.”

We agree. And we need more investments in clean-coal technology right here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. One thing that is already helping is the Trump administration’s welcomed roll-back of Obama-era anti-coal rules.

One of the questions reporters asked Perry last week was how the administration could control market forces such as lower prices for shale gas. It is worth noting that a recent study from West Virginia University predicted that coal production in the Mountain State would continue to decline in the long-term.

“Here’s an economics lesson,” Perry answered. “Supply and demand. You put the supply out there and demand will follow that. The market decides which of these. They pick and choose. It’s really simple. All too often, in the last eight years, we’ve put our thumb on the economics scale.”

One thing is certain. The war on coal is over. And we do have an administration in Washington that is supporting a common-sense energy portfolio that includes both coal, clean-coal technology and natural gas. And this can only help West Virginia and Virginia.
See the article here.

Trump Has Returned Hope to Coal Industry

Via Cincinnati.com:  

For the Kentucky Coal Association, the election of President Donald Trump gave us hope. Instead of vilifying coal like President Barack Obama did, the Trump administration recognizes that coal is a reliable and affordable source of energy.

Coal powers our homes and businesses, and the low energy costs it provides gives the commonwealth a competitive advantage when attracting new employers and jobs. Most members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation have been fighting against the “war on coal” for many years, and Trump has been a fierce ally in getting meaningful regulatory relief across the finish line.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our elected officials who’ve been working to undo some of the damage from the last eight years.

When Trump entered office, Congress and this administration came together to overturn the Obama-era stream buffer rule that attempted to make coal too expensive to mine or use. Even worse, the rule could have put as many as one-third of coal-related jobs at risk.

Sen. Mitch McConnell used his role as majority leader to prioritize the repeal of this regulation by introducing a resolution to overturn this anti-coal rule, the first regulation overturned by the Senate this year. I was proud to stand with McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul as Trump signed the resolution into law, signaling a new era for federal treatment of Kentucky coal.

Next, Trump used a pair of executive orders to dismantle other devastating anti-coal regulations. First, he stopped a rule that tried to extend the federal bureaucracy into nearly every pothole, ditch and puddle – often referred to as the waters of the U.S. rule. Then, his Energy Independence Executive Order initiated the repeal of a pair of regulations seeking to close existing coal-fired plants across the nation and prevent new ones from being built.

KCA also thanks Trump for his recent decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. McConnell and Paul joined a letter in the Senate and representatives Andy Barr and James Comer signed onto a similar letter in the House urging the president to protect Kentucky coal communities and withdraw the U.S. from this unattainable agreement.

In addition to helping deliver regulatory relief to struggling coal communities, Kentucky senators and representatives have also secured new research funding to support technological advancements for coal. The most recent government-funding legislation included over $660 million to support a Department of Energy program focused on developing new coal technology, which is important to keeping coal competitive.

The industry simply wants to get Washington bureaucracy out of the way so that coal can compete on the open market. Those who blame coal’s downturn on cheap natural gas prices are missing the full picture and are too quick to forget natural gas’ characteristic price volatility. When the Obama administration put coal at a disadvantage, the marketplace followed that direction.

Although it will take some time to recover from the Obama administration’s regulatory damage, I am encouraged that we have recently seen slight increases in coal production in some places and some federal projections estimate increased production over the next few years. It’s too early to say whether a trend in increased coal production will come to fruition, but the regulatory relief has restored some hope.

Trump and leaders in Congress like McConnell have created an optimism about coal by offering their support to struggling communities. As a result, we have seen idle mines start back production and new companies begin operations in some of the most devastated regions of our state. We know that there is still much work to do for Kentucky’s coal country but together we are making strides in a positive direction.

See the article here.

North Dakota Coal Industry is Alive and Well

Via The Star Tribune:

The chimneys of Coal Creek Station, North Dakota’s largest power plant, tower 60 stories over the prairie. Nearby, an excavator that looks like a giant crane looms over a big coal mine.

The mine feeds the plant owned by Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, which churns out electricity for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. Four other coal mines dot the North Dakota countryside, mostly supplying neighboring power plants.

This “mine-to-mouth” model produces some of the cheapest power in the country and has enabled coal to remain an economic anchor in North Dakota, even as the industry crumbles in other parts of the United States.

Mines have actually been hiring in North Dakota in recent years, a sharp contrast to other coal regions. Utilities have been investing significant money in coal-powered plants.

“The coal industry has rolled back considerably from what it was 10 to 20 years ago, but we haven’t seen that in North Dakota,” said Dean Bangsund, an economist at North Dakota State University.

Still, the forces causing electricity producers to forsake coal nationally are creeping into the landscape. Wind power is surging, and it can be even cheaper than electricity produced from North Dakota’s coal-fired plants.

Great River has responded by retooling its Coal Creek plant so production can be more easily reduced when it’s windy. Other plants are doing the same, or looking at it. But the more they reduce production, the less coal they need — what could be a troubling prospect for the coal mines in the long-term future.

 The state’s coal industry “isn’t immune to what’s occurring in the rest of the U.S., but it may be the last place where it hits,” Bangsund said.
Cheap coal

While oil and its market gyrations are often in the headlines, coal has been a stable bedrock of North Dakota’s energy industry for decades.

Beneath North Dakota lies North America’s largest deposit of lignite. It’s a soft coal with less thermal energy and more water than higher-quality coal mined elsewhere in the United States. Shipping lignite by train or barge to far-flung power plants makes little economic sense.

But place a power plant amid a lignite deposit and the economics change drastically. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, five big power plants were built in North Dakota, all near mines.

 Coal fuels about 70 percent of the electricity generated in North Dakota, well above the national norm and Minnesota’s 39 percent rate. Yet Minnesota benefits from North Dakota’s supply.

“We’re exporting half of the power we produce, and Minnesota is by far our biggest market,” said Jason Bohrer, head of the Lignite Energy Council in Bismarck, a trade group for both coal mines and power plants.

Otter Tail Power and Minnkota Power — which serve more than 100,000 Minnesota residents — have ownership stakes in N.D. lignite-fired coal plants. Duluth-based Allete Corp. owns a lignite mine that supplies a nearby power plant, which in turn has an electricity supply agreement with Minnesota Power, Allete’s main subsidiary.

Great River has an even larger stake in North Dakota. A wholesale co-op, Great River sells electricity to 28 retail co-ops that span Minnesota and serve 685,000 customers. Coal Creek, with a 1,145 megawatt capacity, is by far Great River’s largest electricity generator; it has enough to power up to 700,000 homes. (A megawatt is a million watts).

The company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars at Coal Creek over the past decade, reducing emissions and increasing the plant’s ­efficiency.

 Coal Creek’s fuel arrives by 36 conveyor belts stretching a little over a mile from the Falkirk mine, which is owned by Texas-based North American Coal Corp. The mine and plant have a symbiotic relationship. Managers from each even get together for weekly planning meetings.

The power plant employs 265, the mine 462; and both offer some of the state’s best-paying hourly jobs. Utility workers and coal miners in North Dakota make over $95,000 a year on average, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And in North Dakota, coal-mining employment actually rose from 943 in 2001 to 1,203 in 2015, before dipping by about 30 jobs last year, federal data show. Nationally, coal-mining jobs fell nearly 15 percent from 2001 through 2015, and they nose-dived further in 2016.

“Up here, everybody feels pretty safe, and it’s mainly because of the power plant,” said Perry Meske, who has worked at the Falkirk mine for 31 years.

Meske runs a 6,500-ton dragline, which looks like a giant crane but actually excavates dirt and rocks, exposing coal seams below. Bulldozers rip the coal, which is carried away in massive trucks as tall as a house. (The pit is reclaimed when the digging is done.)

Meske and his co-workers at Falkirk are well aware of the coal industry’s precariousness outside of North Dakota. Federal mining inspectors at Falkirk — some of whom have relocated from dying coal regions — offer reminders.

“They’ve told me stories about how many places have closed up,” Meske said.

See the full article here.

Sturdiness of America’s Power Grid is a Key Issue

Via The Newark Advocate:

Americans have been exceptionally fortunate in recent decades to enjoy robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and deliver clean drinking water. Unlike many countries, the United States maintains affordable, non-stop, 24/7 electricity. It’s an impressive feat in a nation of 325 million that continues to add more than 2 million people annually.

As America increases its use of intermittent wind and solar power, it’s important to examine whether the nation can continue to meet its overall energy needs. Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid—and just as the nation faces conflicting energy problems. Nuclear power, which generates about a fifth of America’s electricity, appears to be winding down, thanks to prohibitive construction costs. And while natural gas generates a third of the nation’s power, export controls are being lifted—which could lead to price increases as both domestic and overseas demand is rising.

Secretary Perry has his work cut out for him, since the task of securing America’s energy grid could stumble into a perfect storm of higher prices. And much-touted renewable power faces its own troubling drawbacks—since the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. If Washington bets the farm on natural gas and renewables, it’s unclear whether the nation will still be able to meet base load power needs while also maintaining affordable pricing.

These are important issues for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to consider. But news of Secretary Perry’s study has stirred up controversy nevertheless. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects under scrutiny, these groups very much want to justify their position.

Notably, coal still undergirds America’s overall power generation. And with the DOE looking to keep the lights on, coal may play a surprisingly strong role in the coming years.

Right now, coal provides roughly one-third of total U.S. power generation. And 13 states depend on coal for more than half of their overall power supply. Unfortunately, this workhorse effort appears under-appreciated. For example, less than 10 percent of voters in a recent study correctly assessed the scale of emissions reductions attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years.

Evidently though, any discussion of coal’s strengths, or the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects, disturbs the renewable energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But Obama Administration regulations posed real consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations threatened the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants, while competition from much-touted low natural gas prices threatened only 9 percent. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have meant solar power being subsidized by over 345 times more than coal, and wind being subsidized over 52 times more. And this subsidization is costly. DOE data reveals that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per Megawatt-hour, wind yields only 2,200, and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables is indeed impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy. Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can afford.

See the article here.

Perry: Coal-fired Power Plants Important in U.S. Future

Via The Herald & Review:

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday that coal-fired power plants are important for the country’s future, and he suggested that energy supply will spark demand.

After touring a coal-fired power plant, Perry was asked about the economics of coal when natural gas is far cheaper. West Virginia currently has a boom in gas production but needs more shipping capacity. Several pipeline projects are under way.

“Here’s a little economics lesson, supply and demand: You put the supply out there and the demand will follow that,” Perry said. “The market will decide which of these they’re going to pick and choose.”

That’s not typically how economists would describe the way supply and demand works. In general, higher demand for any good or service — such as coal — drives the supply. That’s because more customer demand typically drives up the price, which then encourages businesses to provide more of the good or service to make more money. The rise in supply then acts to bring down the price.

After touring one of the few recently built coal-fired power plants in the U.S., Perry said the plant’s technology provides “the ability to deliver a secure, economical and environmentally good source of energy.” He said the nation needs a stable baseload of electricity.

The Longview Power 700-megawatt plant in northern West Virginia first produced electricity in 2011. It reports higher efficiency burning coal and lower emissions than other U.S. coal-fired plants, with about 70 percent less nitrogen oxide, 78 percent less sulfur dioxide and at least 90 percent fewer particulates.

It reports carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent lower because it burns 20 percent less coal.

Coal belongs in a diverse U.S. energy portfolio that includes renewable solar, wind and hydro power, he said.

President Donald Trump “intuitively understood” that coal can be used in an economically powerful and responsible way that makes America more secure, Perry said. “If you lose your electrical power, you have chaos,” he said.

“Having a diverse portfolio of all the energy sources, including renewables, is important to this country,” he said. “Picking and choosing a few that fit your political agenda is not good for America.”

The Longview Power project cost about $2 billion, according to company officials. It gets coal directly from an affiliated Mepco LLC mine in southern Pennsylvania along a 4.5-mile conveyor belt. It emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in 2015 and is owned by private investors. It operates at full capacity almost constantly.

It claims efficiencies from that low-cost fuel source, an advanced boiler, pollution controls in its initial design instead of a retrofit, and other advanced techniques and equipment. Other countries, including China and Japan, have built new similar coal-fired power plants, Longview CEO Jeffrey Keffer said.

West Virginia’s U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin and Rep. David McKinley joined Perry on the tour.

Keffer said natural gas-burning power plants are being built, and once those start consuming that price is going to go back up.

Capito said there are other uses for natural gas, including jet fuel, chemicals and fertilizer. “We don’t want to, I don’t think, put all our eggs into the natural gas basket for power production,” she said.

Manchin said reliable uninterruptible power is needed, citing the coal piled outside Longview. He said gas flow can be interrupted by cyber attacks or pipeline sabotage. “The country has to decide: How much uninterruptible power do you want to energize the grid?”

See the article here.

Energy Secretary Promises Coal Miners, Coal Plants Have a Friend in the White House

Via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

In a push to keep coal part of the national energy mix, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry spent Thursday touring one of the newest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the country and promising more federal energy research into clean coal projects.

On Friday, he is scheduled to head to the Pittsburgh area to meet with researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park.

Mr. Perry’s two-day visit to northern Appalachia comes as the U.S. Department of Energy prepares to release a much-anticipated review of the country’s electric grid later this month.

The goal of the review, announced earlier this year, is to determine if a wave of coal plant shutdowns in recent years has threatened reliability of the U.S. grid to meet demand.

The answer on Thursday — though Mr. Perry said he couldn’t directly comment on the study — seemed to be a resounding yes. And he emphasized President Donald Trump’s goal to roll back regulations on coal as the way to lift up the industry.

“The last eight years we’ve seen an administration that was using their thumb to affect the power portfolio in America,” Mr. Perry said. “Those days are over.”

He added, “People in West Virginia who make their living in the coal mines and running plants like this, they need to understand something: They have a friend and proponent in the White House.”

Mr. Perry found an ideal backdrop for his comments.

Longview Power Plant, about seven miles north of Morgantown near the Monongahela River, is touted as what a modern coal-fired power plant can look like. The 700-megawatt plant cost $2.2 billion to build — the largest private investment in the history of West Virginia — and came online in 2011 after about a decade of planning.

Plant operator Longview Power said it had achieved a high energy conversion rate, which means the plant needs less fuel to generate the same amount of electricity. More sophisticated air pollution control systems keep emissions lower than older coal plants, company officials said.

To lower costs, Longview also arranged a nearby source of fuel: a coal mine operated by affiliated company Mepco LLC, just across the border in Greene County, Pa., which transports the coal to the plant on a 4.5-mile conveyor belt.

Just two years after the plant opened, however, both Longview and Mepco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing competition from cheaper natural gas and operational defects that the companies blamed on a group of construction contractors.

In 2015, the plant emerged from bankruptcy with a $275 million loan from Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, KKR Corporate Funding and Third Avenue Trust.

Together, Longview and Mepco currently employ more than 600 workers with an annual payroll of $72 million, according to the company.

Mr. Perry’s visit follows the White House’s “Energy Week,” during which President Donald Trump gave a speech pledging to mine more “clean, beautiful coal” and burn it cleanly.

Putting a damper on that promise, Atlanta-based electric utility Southern Co. last week suspended work at a Mississippi coal plant intended to showcase clean coal technology. The utility did not want to accept any more ratepayer money, it said, after work on carbon capture and storage systems at the Kemper coal plant ran $4 billion over budget and three years behind schedule.

Mississippi regulators recommended it continue running fueled by natural gas.

Longview Power officials were quick to acknowledge the Kemper plant’s failure and draw distinctions. Longview has no equipment to capture carbon emissions and gasify coal — common clean coal technologies that have been slow to commercialize.

During the two-year bankruptcy restructuring, company officials said, Longview overcame some construction setbacks with a number of improvements.

“We’re so compliant from an environmental standpoint, it’s inconceivable that they would have additional restrictions that would cause us not be able to produce that power going forward,” said Jeffery Keffer, chief executive officer of Longview Power.

Mr. Keffer added that Longview is also counting on higher natural gas prices once more pipelines are built to take it from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to places it can be consumed. Last month, the first-ever U.S. exports of liquified natural gas arrived in Poland, a shipment Mr. Trump promoted on Thursday during a visit to that country.

“The world is clamoring for our natural gas,” Mr. Keffer said. “Once they start consuming that gas, your supply is going to start matching that demand. So the price is going to go back up.”

Mr. Perry was joined Thursday by three lawmakers from West Virginia — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Republican Rep. David McKinley — who presented a bipartisan front.

“We want a balance between the economy and environment,” said Mr. Manchin, who said he worked frequently with Mr. Perry when they were both governors. “We can do that, and this plant shows it can be done and done well.”

It remains to be seen how Longview’s technology could be replicated with natural gas prices still low and the costs of renewable energy falling. Federal energy research into clean coal — though projects have faltered in recent years amid a lack of funding and interest — could get a boost under Mr. Perry.

“There are other countries that are making advances in clean coal technology that we historically have led the world in,” he told reporters at the Longview plant. “We need to get that edge back.”

The tone could not have been more different in September 2016, when former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz visited Longview with Mr. Manchin and Mr. McKinley. While Mr. Moniz reportedly praised Longview’s technology, he backed a renewable energy tax incentives and the Obama administration’s $39 million in funding for laid-off coal miners to explore other careers.

See the article here.

Perry Says Coal-Fired Power Plants Important in US Future

Via U.S. News & World Report: 

After touring one of the few recently built coal-fired power plants in the U.S., Energy Secretary Rick Perry says they’re important for the country’s future.

Perry says a stable baseload of electricity is important and this technology provides “the ability to deliver a secure, economical and environmentally good source of energy.”

He says coal belongs in a diverse U.S. energy portfolio that includes renewable solar and wind power.

The Longview Power 700-megawatt plant in northern West Virginia first produced electricity in 2011. It reports higher efficiency burning coal and lower emissions than other U.S. coal-fired plants, with about 70 percent less nitrogen oxide, 78 percent less sulfur dioxide and at least 90 percent fewer particulates.

It reports carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent lower because it burns 20 percent less coal.
See the article here.

National View: Perry Right to Find out if U.S. on Track to Meet Future Power Needs

Via The Duluth News Tribune:

Americans have been exceptionally fortunate in recent decades to enjoy robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and deliver clean drinking water. Unlike many countries, the United States maintains affordable, nonstop, 24/7 electricity. It’s an impressive feat in a nation of 325 million that continues to add more than 2 million people annually.

As America increases its use of intermittent wind and solar power, it’s important to examine whether the nation can continue to meet its overall energy needs.

Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid. He did so just as the nation faces conflicting energy problems. Nuclear power, which generates about a fifth of America’s electricity, appears to be winding down due to prohibitive construction costs. And while natural gas generates a third of the nation’s power, export controls are being lifted, which could lead to price increases as both domestic and overseas demand is rising.

Secretary Perry has his work cut out for him, since the task of securing America’s energy grid could stumble into a perfect storm of higher prices.

Much-touted renewable power faces its own troubling drawbacks — since the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. If Washington bets the farm on natural gas and renewables, it’s unclear whether the nation will be able to meet the base load power that’s needed while also maintaining affordable pricing.

These are important issues for the U.S. Department of Energy to consider.

But news of Secretary Perry’s study has stirred up controversy. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power-grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects under scrutiny, these groups very much want to justify their position.

Notably, coal still undergirds America’s overall power generation. And with the Department of Energy looking to keep the lights on, coal may play a surprisingly strong role in the coming years. Right now, coal provides roughly one-third of total U.S. power generation; 13 states depend on coal for more than half of their overall power supply.

Unfortunately, this workhorse effort appears underappreciated. For example, less than 10 percent of voters in a recent study correctly assessed the scale of emissions reductions attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years.

Evidently, though, any discussion of coal’s strengths, or the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects, disturbs the renewable-energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But regulations passed by the administration of President Barack Obama posed real consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations threaten the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants while competition from much-touted low natural-gas prices threatens only 9 percent. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have meant that solar power is subsidized roughly 345 times more than coal, and wind is subsidized roughly 52 times more than coal. This subsidization is costly. Department of Energy data reveal that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind-industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per megawatt hour, wind yields only 2,200 and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base-load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables indeed is impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy.

Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can afford.

See the article here.

Don’t Count Out Coal Yet

Via U.S. News & World Report: 

The coal industry has faced headwinds for the past decade. Burdensome regulations and competition from cheap natural gas have taken their toll. Conventional wisdom now suggests the sun is setting on the U.S. coal industry, but the assumptions driving that thinking are far from certainties.

Energy experts point to falling costs for renewables and the nation’s vast and low-cost supply of natural gas as signs that coal’s market share will continue to erode. But why should we assume renewable energy technology improves faster and more disruptively than fossil fuel technology? There are also good reasons that natural gas might not remain cheap.

Natural gas has a well-documented history of price volatility. As demand for natural gas continues to grow – from electricity generation, from heavy industry and now from exports – and as public opposition to drilling and new pipeline projects seemingly grows as well, demand might well overtake supply. We are left with far more questions than satisfactory answers.

Conversely, even if renewable technologies do continue to improve and natural gas prices stay low, don’t count out advanced coal technology. Breakthroughs and cost reductions with advanced coal technology – such as supercritical coal combustion and carbon capture; utilization; and storage – could upend perceptions about coal’s environmental impact. If that seems improbable, look no further than our recently discovered abundance of natural gas from the shale revolution as evidence that the improbable happens regularly when it comes to energy.

The energy industry has a long and distinguished history of having the strongest assumptions and most carefully constructed and conservative projections turned on their head. The arrival of the shale revolution is a perfect example of unexpected energy serendipity

Less than a decade ago, domestic demand for natural gas was far outpacing production. Experts were confident that the U.S. was poised to rival Japan as the world’s largest liquefied natural gas importer. Liquefied natural gas import terminals, with price tags in the billions, were built in anticipation of our inevitable dependence on gas from overseas. But that inevitability never arrived. Instead, the revolutionary twin technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling unlocked supplies of natural gas and oil long thought inaccessible and uneconomical. And now the U.S. is the world’s largest natural gas producer, and no one saw it coming.

This change did not come overnight. Experimental fracking on shale deposits had been taking place since the 1970s. One new technology after another – everything from 3-D seismic imaging to horizontal drilling and new mixtures of sand and fracturing fluids – finally came together for a breakthrough 20 years later.

The shale revolution, and its origin, offer two powerful reminders. First, experimentation with technologies that may seem like a dead end can wind up being game-changers when private industry gets support from our national labs and the Department of Energy. While it was petropreneurs and private companies that finally cracked the shale code, they did it with assistance from government researchers, grants and tax credits.

Second, despite our best analysis, projections about our energy future remain nothing more than guesses. There are always technologies in the pipeline, some nothing more than ideas on a piece of paper at first, but some are destined to upend how we produce and consume energy.

In that tradition of continual advances in technology, don’t count out coal just yet. For all the well-publicized work happening on advanced solar panels or battery technology, the same kind of innovation is happening with advanced coal technologies. And these technologies could possibly be far more important to meeting global environmental goals than anything happening with renewables.

While coal is in retreat here in America, it remains the world’s mainstay for electricity generation. The need for advanced coal technologies is greater than ever. The very technologies we should be investing in to help reduce emissions in China and India could well be the technologies that ensure affordable energy and energy security right here at home in the decades ahead.

See the article here.

Column: Death of Coal Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Via The Columbus Dispatch:

The decline of basic industries that provide good jobs for the middle class rightfully disturbs most Americans. Bad enough that they’re disappearing, but worse when these industries are being buried alive.

You wouldn’t know it from much of what you read these days, but the U.S. coal industry isn’t dead and its vital signs are even improving. And despite strong competition from energy sources like natural gas, wind, and solar power, coal still generates almost a third of America’s electricity.

This is especially remarkable after former President Obama spent eight years trying to shut down coal production and retire coal power plants through massive regulations, and all at the same time shale gas emerged as a powerful new competitor.

But after a brush with serious illness, coal has emerged from intensive care to slowly regain its strength. The industry added about 2,000 direct jobs in the last year, with 1,700 added just since December 2016. Mines are expanding and new ones are opening in Alabama, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Year-to-date production is up about 50 million tons, rail loadings are climbing despite a relatively mild winter, and power sector coal consumption climbed almost 23 percent in March YTD. Both prices and exports are now expected to tick upwards this year.

Why aren’t we reading about this story of industrial resilience in the face of market competition and federal opposition? And why is the media reporting a funeral when no one has died?

It could be because the coal industry is a favorite of a new president who is deeply unpopular with much of the news media. And to his critics, whatever the president likes must be bad, and whatever he aids must fail.

Clearly the president likes coal. His rollback of costly federal regulations from the Obama-era is gradually helping put some coal communities back on their feet. The Environmental Protection Agency has voided or put on hold costly regulations that would have achieved little or no environmental benefit. The Department of the Interior has lifted a moratorium arbitrarily placed on federal coal production. And the Energy Department has launched a study to see how regulatory interference—resulting in coal plants retirements—has damaged the reliability of the nation’s power grid.

For the president’s critics, this is reason enough to write coal off rather than write of its endurance. For some pundits, coal has become a convenient surrogate for a president they don’t like. By denying or diminishing any signs of industry revival they can deny the president any credit for helping it.

Examples abound. A prominent Washington newspaper recently belittled the revival of the industry by contrasting the slow growth of coal jobs with the rising number of fast food workers. That’s an unhelpful comparison; coal jobs pay an annual average of $84,000, plus good benefits. Fast food jobs offer little more than minimum wage.

The same article also claimed that coal employment has declined since the mid-1980s, a point intended to diminish the impact of Obama-era regulations and write the industry’s obituary. But this premise is wrong. Coal employment climbed by 32 percent from 2000 until 2011,reaching 143,000 jobs before a massive Obama Administration rule—and not natural gas production—began forcing almost 20 percent of America’s coal plants out of business.

Some reporters minimize recent coal job creation by only citing federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—a data set that excludes contract workers also working in the mines. Adding contract workers to the recent jobs tally shows that coal has in fact grown by about 2,000 high-wage jobs in the past year. Coal could echo Mark Twain’s crack about his death being greatly exaggerated.

Others attack a straw man, claiming the president will never restore the industry to its dominant position. But most miners already know the difference between campaign rhetoric and reality. They don’t expect “King Coal” to regain the market share it held before the shale gas revolution.

All that coal miners could reasonably expect from the new administration was to get the government off their back and out of the business of picking winners and losers. That’s essentially what this administration is doing—and why lifting the regulations has helped coal mining and the jobs it supports.

Coal’s critics shouldn’t bury the industry just because President Trump promised to revive it. The question now is whether fake news of coal’s demise will be replaced by real news of coal’s survival. Or will coal continue to bear the brunt of media ire against the president.

See the article here.

Coal Still Provides Opportunities for American Job Creation and Consumer Choice

Via RealClearEnergy:

President Trump’s executive order scaling back Obama-era initiatives such as the Clean Power Plan, along with other environmental regulations, was received with the expected pomp from liberals and conservatives alike. But it doesn’t take a bleeding heart to see the writing on the wall: while the coal industry may have been given new life, Trump’s executive order in reality may be only an incremental stay in extending that life. Even with the President’s blessing, coal still faces numerous obstacles in the marketplace quickened by the previous Administration.

Another reality is that increased energy demand from the global marketplace, along with the expanded cost competitiveness from sustainable energy sources, reinforces the necessity that America has the chance to seize upon the tremendous opportunity to export our advanced clean coal power technology to consumers worldwide. Both to the world’s benefit, and to ours.

The future of American coal isn’t found underground; it’s in American technological superiority in making the planet’s most abundant source of energy cleaner and more efficient. As the United States pursues our own energy independence, we should seize on the opportunity to support developing countries as they seek to maximize and benefit from their own energy resources.

In 2017, 1.2 billion people worldwide still lack basic household access to electricity. This impacts children who need clean water to drink, vaccines that need refridgeration to work, and farms that need power to feed the hungry. Without reliable and affordable energy, developing countries have little hope of lifting their citizens out of poverty. This remains a humanitarian crisis that makes the world less safe and less hospitable, contributing to state failure and destabilizing mass-migration.

Accordingly, it is downright irresponsible for institutions like the World Bank/IMF to dictate what energy sources the poorest countries in the world can leverage to support their development. While many take issue with the World Bank’s role in general, so long as it exists and exerts its influence, pressure should be applied to move it away from oppressive policies. As they convene on Washington this month for annual meetings, the fact will remain that over a billion people don’t have the power necessary to turn on the lights. If it is injecting itself into the world’s  development initiatives, the World Bank/IMF should ease restrictions limiting funding for clean coal power production projects in developing countries.

Coal use and responsible environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive ideas. Clean coal technologies can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions while producing more energy with less coal. The United States is leading the way in carbon capture technology development. High-Efficiency Low-Emission (HELE) power stations built by American companies in developing countries are the most effective way of making power generation cleaner while ensuring our electricity remains affordable. American consumers support expanding areas for safe exploration and extraction of our energy assets which will ultimately provide people with the power to choose the energy options that are right for them.

Rather than supporting colonial policies that prevent development where it’s needed most, the United States should support sovereign nations like India, which is actively seeking to revitalize its power sector through the use of clean coal as part of its energy mix. U.S. leaders should leverage the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), which empowers U.S. exporters to increase their sales abroad to make our technology more competitive abroad. Increasing global sales will directly and immediately benefit the bottom-line of American companies by expanding job growth at home, building our trade balance, and supporting the research and development of critical future technologies.

This is the kind of energy policy the American people have been waiting for; one that supports U.S. businesses, creates new American jobs through manufacturing of clean coal technologies, ensures energy consumers access to affordable and reliable energy options, and produces cleaner energy in the U.S. and around the world.

See the article here. 

Coal Industry Says Stability is Good News

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

A new report foresees stabilization of West Virginia’s coal industry over the next 15 or so years, but then a period of production decline to below 80 million tons after 2030.

That’s actually not such bad news, say leaders of the West Virginia Coal Association.

That kind of prediction means coal remains a vital and competitive component of West Virginia’s economy years into the future, Coal Association vice president Chris Hamilton said at a forum Thursday at the state Culture Center.

“When the future of coal predicts less than a hundred million tons, there are those who see that as a further decline or erosion,” Hamilton said.

“While that may be factually correct, I think when you’re looking at an industry that’s a $20 billion industry, even in a smaller capacity as we are today, it’s still a very significant part of our state’s industrial base, our economy, our job base. We’ve lost half of our coal mining jobs, but they still stand strong at 12,000. I think we’d be very excited to welcome a business or industry that would bring 12,000 direct jobs to our state.”

Hamilton was speaking during a session of the West Virginia Coal Forum, an organization representing business and labor in the coal industry. Thursday’s session at the coal industry was one of several such events around West Virginia, including in Wheeling and Morgantown.

 

Some of the remarks, including Hamilton’s, brushed on the report released Wednesday by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The researchers estimate that coal production will reach about 89 million tons this year and remain in the upper 80 million ton range into the early 2020s. Production will fall below 80 million tons by 2030, the report forecast.

Hamilton continued to say that kind of stability is not necessarily bad news.

“Is the glass half full or empty?” Hamilton asked. “Well, it’s half empty when you’re going through the transition that we have over the past few years. But when you step back and look at it, and when you look at it 10 years from now, it may not be what it once was but it’s still going to be a major piece of the economy here in our state and our industrial job base.”

Another big theme of the Coal Forum was the decreased pressure of federal regulation under the Trump administration — particularly relating to the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate accord.

Forum presenters from the coal industry said there’s been some relief from their perspective, but they said the result has been a steady market rather than a miracle rebound. They said their aim is to sustain.

“We’ve been on defense and fighting regulatory provisions or new legislation over the past five or six years,” Hamilton said.

“Today everything has changed. It’s changed dramatically, gone from night to day. We have an opportunity here to implement some infrastructure and perhaps put some things in place to grow and develop this resource.”

Utilities plan their investments to last years into the future, but coal will remain a major part of the energy mix, said another forum presenter, Jeri Matheny, spokeswoman for Appalachian Power.

Matheny noted that her own company has made headlines over statements that it won’t be building any new coal-burning power plants. But she said the reasons are multifaceted.

“People see that as shocking because we’re right in the middle of coal country, but the reality is that shouldn’t be a surprise, and it’s not bad news because we are heavily invested in coal in West Virginia, and that’s not going to change,” Matheny said.

But changing demand for power is affecting decisions by companies like Appalachian Power too, Matheny said.

“Demand is not going up. For decades, demand for electricity is not going up. It’s not any more. A lot of that is energy efficiency. People’s usage is changing,” she said.

She added that the mix of the utility’s energy sources is likely to expand.

“We do plan to introduce small amounts of wind power. We do hope to introduce solar some day, maybe even some battery technology, but we’ll still be a coal-fired utility in many ways; we’ll depend on coal for a long time.”

Appalachian Power’s decisions will often depend on price.

“Usually coal wins in that argument, but sometimes nowadays natural gas can win because natural gas prices are so low. And, wind can win in that argument as well,” Matheny said.

See the article here.

EPA To Consider Impact On Jobs

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not required to estimate the number of mining job losses that may be caused by air pollution regulations, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

Despite the decision, the agency said that under President Donald Trump it would consider the impact of its policies on jobs.

“President Trump’s EPA will take the economic and job impacts of its proposed regulations into account … regardless of the outcome of this particular case,” EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham said in a statement.

Trump has repeatedly called for a resurgence of coal, which has been in a steep decline over the last several years. Last month, he removed the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, which seeks to deal globally with carbon emissions. He declared in a speech Thursday that his administration had “ended the war on coal.”

The ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a West Virginia judge’s decision that sided with coal companies. Ohio-based Murray Energy and other companies argued the EPA should have to report on potential job losses caused by its policies. The EPA under the Obama administration had appealed that ruling.

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray has been critical of Obama administration environmental policies, saying they led to massive job losses in the coal industry because power plants moved away from burning coal to generate electricity.

A Murray Energy spokesman says the company plans to appeal.

The appeals court ruled that the EPA “gets to decide how to collect a broad set of employment impact data, how to judge and examine this extensive data, and how to manage these tasks on an ongoing basis.” It said the courts are “ill-equipped to supervise” that process.

It also ruled that the lower court lacked jurisdiction in the case and ordered the suit dismissed.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey ruled in January that the EPA was required by law to analyze the economic impact on a continuing basis when enforcing the Clean Air Act. The judge ordered the EPA to identify facilities harmed by the regulations during the Obama presidency by July 1.

The EPA had argued that analyzing job loss wouldn’t change global energy trends.

See the article here.

Sturdiness of America’s Power Grid a Key Issue for Energy Study

Via News-Democrat Leader:

Americans have been exceptionally fortunate in recent decades to enjoy robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and deliver clean drinking water. Unlike many countries, the United States maintains affordable, non-stop, 24/7 electricity. It’s an impressive feat in a nation of 325 million that continues to add more than 2 million people annually.

As America increases its use of intermittent wind and solar power, it’s important to examine whether the nation can continue to meet its overall energy needs. Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid—and just as the nation faces conflicting energy problems. Nuclear power, which generates about a fifth of America’s electricity, appears to be winding down, thanks to prohibitive construction costs. And while natural gas generates a third of the nation’s power, export controls are being lifted—which could lead to price increases as both domestic and overseas demand is rising.

Secretary Perry has his work cut out for him, since the task of securing America’s energy grid could stumble into a perfect storm of higher prices. And much-touted renewable power faces its own troubling drawbacks—since the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. If Washington bets the farm on natural gas and renewables, it’s unclear whether the nation will still be able to meet base load power needs while also maintaining affordable pricing.

These are important issues for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to consider. But news of Secretary Perry’s study has stirred up controversy nevertheless. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects under scrutiny, these groups very much want to justify their position.

Notably, coal still undergirds America’s overall power generation. And with the DOE looking to keep the lights on, coal may play a surprisingly strong role in the coming years.

Right now, coal provides roughly one-third of total U.S. power generation. And 13 states depend on coal for more than half of their overall power supply. Unfortunately, this workhorse effort appears under-appreciated. For example, less than 10 percent of voters in a recent study correctly assessed the scale of emissions reductions attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years.

Evidently though, any discussion of coal’s strengths, or the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects, disturbs the renewable energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But Obama Administration regulations posed real consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations threatened the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants, while competition from much-touted low natural gas prices threatened only 9 percent. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have meant solar power being subsidized by over 345 times more than coal, and wind being subsidized over 52 times more. And this subsidization is costly. DOE data reveals that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per Megawatt-hour, wind yields only 2,200, and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables is indeed impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy. Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can afford.

Terry Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

See the article here.