Coal in the News

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Baseload Power the Right Focus

Via The Columbus Dispatch

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama Administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump Administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart. Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, the Trump Administration is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to secure the nation’s power grid, Secretary Perry is now facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation over political expediency.

Significantly, America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, 66 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared—enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

No doubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Secretary Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision—since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges. In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts—and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant—but declining—share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Secretary Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump Administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Secretary Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

Terry M. 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.

Trump Administration Right to Focus on Baseload Power

Via The Troy Daily News:

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama Administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump Administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart. Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, the Trump Administration is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to secure the nation’s power grid, Secretary Perry is now facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation over political expediency.

Significantly, America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, 66 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared—enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

ubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Secretary Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision—since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges. In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts—and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant—but declining—share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Secretary Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump Administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Secretary Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

Terry M. 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.

Terry M. Jarrett is an attorney with Healy Law Offices, LLC in Jefferson City, Mo., and a former commissioner of the Missouri Public Service Commission. Jarrett has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

See the article here.

EPA Chief Pruitt: Obama ‘Increased Burden’ on Coal Mining Industry

Via Fox Business:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt lashed out at the Obama administration on Tuesday for waging a war on the coal mining industry and defended the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“I think the better discussion is not to put artificial targets, like we did in the Paris [Agreement], that the past administration, with their own regulations, failed miserably to achieve, but to focus on what we’ve already done to reduce our CO2 footprint, and then export that technology to places like China and India”, Pruitt told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.”

The Paris Climate Accord, signed by President Obama and 194 other nations in 2016, limits nations’ emissions of greenhouse gasses in an attempt to mitigate the effects of global warming. The earliest that the U.S. can leave the agreement is Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the next presidential election.

Pruitt also lauded the decision to repeal Clean Power Plan, a signature regulatory program to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants passed by Obama, which he called a “war on coal.”

“It was a real war,” he said. “And the president said the war is over. And that’s what I was there to announce to those folks there. As a regulator you shouldn’t engage in any war in any sector of the economy.”

Last year, U.S. coal production reached a record low since 1978, but 2017 has signaled a turnaround for the industry. The nation’s coal output fell about 10% in 2015 and 17% in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration. But during the first eight months of 2017, production levels rose by 14%.

The Trump administration’s’ decision to roll back the Obama-era policy could save 240 million tons of annual coal production, in addition to protect more than 27,000 mining jobs and the nearly 100,000 indirect jobs that rely on coal.

Restrictions put in place by President Obama’s administration not only hurt an already depressed coal industry, but failed to improve the environmental outcome that it purported to save, Pruitt said.

“From a mining sector perspective,” he said, “They would say to you it’s not just competition in the marketplace, it was the availed purpose by the previous administration to place burdens and restrictions on them that did not improve environmental outcome, but increased burden.”

See the article here.

Montana PSC Praise EPA Actions to Repeal Clean Power Plan

Via Daily Energy Insider:

Members of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) recently issued statements applauding U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s actions to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

“The EPA’s Clean Power Plan was all pain no gain for Montana,” Commissioner Tony O’Donnell said. “The draconian emission’s reductions specified in the plan would have created substantial hardship for Montana families in the form of higher electricity rates and lost jobs without achieving any meaningful reduction in global C02 levels. I applaud Administrator Pruitt for putting an end to this misguided and failed experiment.”

Commissioner Roger Koopman additionally praised the rollbacks and questioned the climate science the Clean Power Plan was based on.

“Pulling back the Clean Power Plan is exactly what we need right now, while we lower the emotions and decibel levels of this discussion,” Koopman said. “In final analysis, we may discover that the altar upon which the previous administration was prepared to sacrifice our security and quality of life was grounded on fundamentally false assumptions about the sources and net effects of CO2.”

Commissioner Bob Lake said that while the decision by Pruitt would be beneficial for coal plants, their future was still uncertain.

“It’s too early to tell what effect this decision will have on the market for coal power, but the Clean Power Plan was a major factor driving the accelerated closure of coal plants in the West,” Lake said. “There are many challenges ahead for the coal industry, but this decision will ensure that generators of all fuel types have the opportunity to compete to serve customers without the thumb of the federal government on the scale.”

See the article here.

Trump Cuts Clean Power Plan, Boosts America’s Prospects

Via Brietbart.com:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a notice in the Federal Register that it is rescinding former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). This action serves as further evidence the gridlock in the Washington, DC swamp has not slowed President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back ineffective and extremely costly climate programs and regulations.

The EPA’s decision was not unexpected. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said the United States faces numerous problems more important than climate change, and he pledged to eliminate environmental policies hampering economic growth and domestic energy development, targeting the CPP by name. As part of Trump’s March 28 “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” executive order, Trump directed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to review CPP and rescind or revise it, if necessary, to promote the wise development of natural resources, unencumber energy production, and increase jobs.

The EPA based the decision to rescind CPP on three main principles: CPP is inconsistent with the 1970 Clean Air Act; CPP violated states’ authority to decide the best mix of power generation within their borders and eroded longstanding federal/state partnerships necessary to achieve environmental improvement; and enforcement of CPP would have had a devastating effect on jobs and raised energy costs for consumers—all while having virtually no effect on climate change.

CPP was the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s effort to move the United States away from the use of fossil fuels, beginning with coal, to fight climate change. CPP would require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, on average.

To comply with the plan, states would have to force utilities to shutter dozens of coal-fired power plants prematurely. The Energy Information Administration projected CPP would result in $1.23 trillion in lost gross domestic product (GDP), in 2014 dollars, from 2020 to 2030, with an average annual GDP loss of $112 billion. Estimates indicate CPP would boost people’s electric bills 11–14 percent per year and cost more than 100,000 jobs in manufacturing and other sectors annually.

Despite these substantial harms, the Obama administration acknowledged in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on July 9, 2015, that if the United States met CPP’s emission reductions targets, it would prevent, at best, one one-hundredth of one-degree Celsius of temperature rise by 2100. Talk about all pain and no gain!

Twenty-seven states, led by West Virginia, and several industry groups and trade associations challenged CPP’s legality in federal court. In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of ordering a nationwide stay on implementation of CPP before it went into effect, pending the outcome of the legal challenges.

CPP would have dramatically raised energy costs in United States, harming the poorest among us more than the rest and putting U.S. industries at a competitive disadvantage in the global economy. By rescinding it, Trump is doing what he promised to do and what any president should do: putting America first. Bravo!

Having said this, unless Trump wants these gains to unravel, he has at least one more step to take. Environmental groups and some state government officials have already announced that if the CPP rescission is finalized, they will sue to block the Trump administration’s action to keep CPP on the books. In truth, this presents a problem for Trump.

CPP and the other climate regulations imposed by the Obama administration were justified based on the EPA’s determination carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and the environment, a concept known as the “endangerment finding.” Relying on unsubstantiated projections produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the EPA determined carbon dioxide emissions from cars and industry threaten human welfare.

To solidify his CPP action and other climate deregulatory efforts, Trump must direct the EPA to reconsider the endangerment finding by forcing the agency to demonstrate—through independent, validated research—carbon dioxide emissions are toxic (they aren’t at any foreseeable levels) or that global warming is causing measurable amounts of sea level rise, increased hurricane numbers or intensity, the spread of disease, or other harms attributable directly to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. If the EPA can’t directly link such problems to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (it can’t) or can’t show that such problems can be dramatically reduced by cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (they won’t), the EPA should withdraw the endangerment finding.

Withdrawing the endangerment finding would eliminate the legal justification that has been used to impose a wide range of climate regulations. In the process, it would also end radical environmental activists’ ability to use the courts to impose policies on an unwilling public—one whose elected representatives have repeatedly rejected climate alarmism.

See the article here.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will benefit all Americans

Via The Washington Examiner:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal to repealthe so-called Clean Power Plan is the most notable step President Trump and his team have taken to date to end the Obama administration’s unlawful and economically destructive war on affordable energy.

Although there is no shortage of policy reasons to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which promises lots of economic pain for no discernible environmental gain, Pruitt is proposing repeal chiefly because the plan exceeds the legal authority delegated to the agency by Congress.

The EPA issued the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d). The EPA’s consistent regulatory practice over the previous 45 years, the statutory text, and the legislative history all compel the conclusion that the EPA’s power is limited to setting emission standards that facilities can affordably meet through technological or operational modifications.

The Obama administration refused to accept that limitation. It wanted big reductions in power plant emissions of carbon dioxide like those in the cap-and-trade schemes that Congress had previously rejected. But CO2-capture technology cannot be retrofitted at a reasonable cost onto current fossil fuel power plants. So the Obama administration reimagined Section 111(d) to authorize the EPA to set emission standards too stringent for any existing coal or natural gas power plant to achieve, while allowing the owners to comply by reducing output and investing in new renewable generation instead.

This obvious government favoritism punishes owners and operators of coal and natural gas power plants. In addition, the EPA interfered with states’ authority to manage their respective power sectors. This is why the Clean Power Plan is really a clear power grab. Congress never gave the EPA the authority to transfer wealth from politically disfavored power generators to special interests or to restructure state electric power sectors.

Three bizarre consequences further highlight the Clean Power Plan’s illegality. First, although Section 111(d) deals solely with “existing” facilities in specified industrial source categories (in this instance, fossil fuel power plants), compliance would supposedly be achieved by investing in “new” wind and solar facilities outside the source category.

Second, the plan’s “performance standards” are actually nonperformance mandates, compelling owners of fossil fuel power plants to produce less power or simply shut down. Third, the plan imposes tougher emission standards on existing sources than the corresponding and prerequisite new source ruleimposes on new sources, which flouts common sense. As the repeal proposal explains, “the costs of controlling emissions from existing facilities will ordinarily be greater than those for control of new sources.”

Although most people don’t like bureaucratic power grabs, they typically like job-killing regulations even less. The Obama EPA projected relatively small job losses and electricity rate increases from the Clean Power Plan, but outside experts disagree. The Heritage Foundation estimated the plan would reduce annual employment by 479,000 jobs in 2027, reduce cumulative GDP by hundreds of billions of dollars between 2020 and 2030, and reduce cumulative household income by more than $10,000. NERA Economic Consulting estimated rate increases of 11 to 14 percent from 2022 to 2033.

However, the economic impacts of the first plan compliance period are almost beside the point. The plan is a framework empowering the EPA to continually tighten the regulatory screws for decades to come. So, it’s not the first compliance period targets, but the prospect of increasingly draconian curbs on coal and gas power plants that makes the plan toxic to the domestic energy renaissance on which U.S. industrial competitiveness depends.

The Obama EPA claimed the Clean Power Plan would deliver up to $95 billion in climate change mitigation benefits by 2030, but that’s flimflam. The EPA’s own climate model estimated the plan would avert less than 0.02 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100 — too small an amount to have any discernible impact on weather patterns, polar bear populations, or anything else people care about. The climatic effects in 2030 would be even smaller.

The Clean Power Plan is an unlawful power grab that forces American consumers to endure higher electric rates, fewer jobs, and a less competitive economy — and all for no detectable climate benefit. In pursuing repeal, the administration has clearly made the right call.

Marlo Lewis Jr. is a senior fellow in energy and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

See the article here.

Costly Power Plan No Longer Threatens State’s Economy

Via The West Virginia Gazette-Mail:

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, just did a big — though little-known — favor for states like ours that use coal to generate electricity.

His decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan lifted a massive regulation from our state’s economy, sparing our industries and households from the effects of a weakened power grid, higher power prices and lost jobs.

The Clean Power Plan is a prime example of good intentions gone awry. The idea, hatched in the Obama administration, was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. But the solution was to force into retirement many of the power plants that supply more than 95 percent of our state’s electricity — and without delivering any significant environmental benefits.

 This is one early retirement plan that wouldn’t work for West Virginia. That’s because fewer coal plants mean less reliable electricity. Together with the struggles of nuclear power, the result would have made our electric grid precariously dependent on natural gas-fired plants and intermittent energy sources (like wind and solar) to provide affordable, round-the-clock electricity.

Earlier regulations have already shut down enough power plants nationwide to supply electricity to 40 million homes. The Clean Power Plan would have shuttered many more. Altogether, about one-fourth of the entire coal fleet would have closed by 2020, with the great majority of these plants forced off the grid by regulations. That would leave coal state power grids close to threadbare and more vulnerable to storms and outages.

Granted, these are low-probability events, but they are high-impact events too. Ships seldom sink and planes rarely crash. But when they do, our concern is with the impact, not the probability.

The Clean Power Plan was based on wishful thinking about the ability of renewable power to fill the gap left by coal plant closings. Despite the growth in wind and solar energy, they still supply only 7 percent of the power Americans use. And even when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, it’s not always possible to carry renewable power from sunny and windy regions to parts of the country where it’s needed.

Worse, the Clean Power Plan would have raised electricity costs. The Supreme Court stayed the regulation, faulting Obama’s regulators for ignoring cost impacts. Estimates vary, but some economists concluded that constructing new infrastructure to replace the retired coal plants would cost $64 billion — that’s 64,000,000,000 dollars.

And that would have come on top of rising wholesale electricity costs that utilities would eventually pass on to consumers. The decline of coal-based power plants would lead to further declines in coal production, contributing to as many as 225,000 lost jobs — from the mines and plants to the railroads, barges and ports. The loss of these high-wage jobs would have been especially damaging in coal-dependent states like ours, where roughly 43,000 jobs rely on coal.

Environmental activists are hammering Administrator Pruitt for his decision. But the most surprising fact about the Clean Power Plan is how trivial its environmental benefit would have been: a reduction of 0.018 degrees Celsius. The plan would have had a much bigger impact on the economy than it ever would have had on climate change.

The Department of Energy is trying to forestall further weakening of the nation’s power grid. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has asked federal regulators to assign higher values to coal and nuclear power plants in recognition of their resilience and reliability. That should help to reduce further closures of power plants that can quickly and constantly generate power when needed.

Activists now claim the recent hurricanes that wracked our shores show the effect of climate change. But these storms also dramatize the vulnerability of our power grid.

Improving the environment is a worthy goal, but let’s do it without making grid reliability worse and sacrificing peoples’ jobs.

See the article here.

A Costly Power Plan No Longer Threatens Colorado’s Economy

Via Colorado Politics:

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), just did a big — though little-known — favor for states like ours that use coal to generate electricity. His decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP) lifted a massive regulation from our state’s economy, sparing our industries and households from the effects of a weakened power grid, higher power prices, and lost jobs.

The Clean Power Plan is a prime example of good intentions gone awry. The idea, hatched in the Obama administration, was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. But the solution was to force into retirement many of the power plants that supply more than 55 percent of our state’s electricity — and without delivering any significant environment benefits.

This is one early retirement plan that wouldn’t work for Colorado. That’s because fewer coal plants mean less reliable electricity. Together with the struggles of nuclear power, the result would have made our electric grid precariously dependent on natural gas-fired plants and intermittent energy sources (like wind and solar) to provide affordable, round-the-clock electricity.

Earlier regulations have already shut down enough power plants nationwide to supply electricity to 40 million homes. The CPP would have shuttered many more. Altogether, about one-fourth of the entire coal fleet would have closed by 2020, with the great majority of these plants forced off the grid by regulations. That would leave coal-state power grids close to threadbare and more vulnerable to storms and outages. Granted, these are low-probability events, but they are high-impact events too. Ships seldom sink and planes rarely crash. But when they do, our concern is with the impact, not the probability.

The CPP was based on wishful thinking about the ability of renewable power to fill the gap left by coal plant closings. Despite the growth in wind and solar energy, they still supply only 18 percent of Colorado’s electricity. And even when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, it’s not always possible to carry renewable power from sunny and windy regions to parts of the country where it’s needed.

Worse, the CPP would have raised electricity costs. The Supreme Court stayed the regulation, faulting Obama’s regulators for ignoring cost impacts. Estimates vary, but some economists concluded that constructing new infrastructure to replace the retired coal plants would cost $64 billion. And that would have come on top of rising wholesale electricity costs that utilities would eventually pass on to consumers. The decline of coal-based power plants would lead to further declines in coal production, contributing to as many as 225,000 lost jobs — from the mines and plants to the railroads, barges, and ports. The loss of these high-wage jobs would have been especially damaging in coal-dependent states like ours, where almost 13,000 jobs rely on coal.

Environmental activists will hammer Pruitt for rolling back climate change action. But the most surprising fact about the CPP is how trivial its environmental benefit would be: a reduction of 0.018° Celsius. The CPP would have had a much bigger impact on the economy than it ever would have on climate change.

The Department of Energy is trying to forestall further weakening of the nation’s power grid. Energy Secretary Perry has asked federal regulators to assign higher values to coal and nuclear power plants in recognition of their reliability. That should help to reduce further closures of power plants that can quickly and constantly generate power when needed.

Activists now claim the recent hurricanes that wracked our shores show the effect of climate change. But these storms also dramatize the vulnerability of our power grids. Improving the environment is a worthy goal, let’s do it without making grid reliability worse.

See the article here.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Moves to Preserve the U.S. Electrical Grid

Via Polizette.com:

Over the past decade, scores of coal-fired and nuclear power plants have closed, leaving the country at risk

Americans often take their daily electricity for granted. And it’s only when storms knock down power lines that we realize how much we rely on it.

Unfortunately, there are real, growing concerns about the long-term sturdiness of America’s electricity grid. That’s because a decade of heavy-handed federal regulations, along with a wave of competition from natural gas, have combined to dismantle a sizable number of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

The numbers are actually somewhat disturbing. More than 60 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity has disappeared since 2010. That’s enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And overall, this loss is slated to rise to as much as 80 gigawatts by 2020.

Coal remains underappreciated, even though it still provides more than 30 percent of total U.S. power generation. In fact, coal and nuclear plants combine to supply a steady 50 percent of overall U.S. electricity demand. Essentially, they buttress the “baseload” power generation of the United States — the power needed to continuously meet the nation’s daily operational needs.

The problem now is that, with many of America’s coal-fired power plants being dismantled and nuclear plants being retired, the country has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in a relatively short span of time. This poses a significant, long-term problem for a nation that has rapidly surpassed 325 million in population.

Thankfully, the Trump administration is taking action. Earlier this year Energy Secretary Rick Perry undertook a study of the overall viability of the nation’s power grid. And his conclusion was that the United States must maintain an “all of the above” energy strategy in order to meet its growing needs.

This is smart policy, since natural gas prices have historically been volatile. And gas-fired power plants also remain tied to lengthy pipeline delivery chains. Coal and nuclear, by contrast, maintain plentiful on-site fuel supplies — leaving them less vulnerable to weather disruptions.

Committed environmentalists are vehemently opposed to coal and nuclear, of course. But their wholehearted embrace of wind turbines and solar panels overlooks the troubling intermittency of both forms of power generation. Not only are wind and solar reliant on windy and sunny days, but they are particularly vulnerable to weather extremes.

Secretary Perry has done his due diligence, and found that coal and nuclear provide a very sturdy foundation for continued baseload generation. And in response, he’s now calling for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to assess a “reliability” value on power plants. Doing so would reward coal and nuclear for their long-term sturdiness — and thus help to ensure ample, ongoing supplies of robust power to secure the nation’s grid.

This doesn’t suit the wider interests of the American people, though. So Secretary Perry should be commended for taking a realistic approach to a potentially troubling situation.

It’s worth considering, too, that today’s coal plants are 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago, thanks to advances in high-tech systems that trap emissions of sulfur, mercury, and particulate matter. And these coal plants can become even more efficient if utilities are given the chance to invest in newer technologies that achieve greater thermal efficiencies and burn less fuel per kilowatt-hour.

Secretary Perry should be congratulated for tackling the unglamorous, technical task of attempting to secure the nation’s future power generation. Since Americans assume that the lights will always switch on at their fingertips, they should appreciate the complex logistics needed to ensure that this continues.

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.

All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy Needed to Fuel Reliable Electric Grid

Via The Philadelphia Inquirer: 

The spate of recent hurricanes that pummeled Florida, Louisiana, and Texas highlights the fragility of America’s electricity infrastructure. Millions of residents lost power for days, sometimes weeks. In tandem with this lost service came troubling disruptions to gas production and key pipelines, driving up energy costs nationwide.

Americans have long been blessed with some of the most affordable and reliable electricity in the world. But these natural disasters serve as a reminder not to take the nation’s power grid for granted. Indeed, a post-hurricane poll found 85 percent of voters saying the United States should act to protect the diversity of its energy grid to minimize such storm impacts.

It’s a sensible strategy, but it comes just as America’s power sector is reaching a crossroads.

Much of the baseload power generation that has long buttressed the nation has been shrinking. Federal regulations and rising natural gas production have reduced America’s coal fleet to a third of total U.S. electricity generation. And the nuclear industry that supplies a fifth of America’s power is struggling to replace aging plants, with bankruptcies and cost overruns impeding new construction.

Coal in particular has long provided inexpensive, robust electricity. And this reliability is one of the reasons Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced a repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Environmental activists remain opposed to both coal and nuclear plants, touting wind and solar power to supplant this sturdy baseload generation. It’s a tall order, though, since wind and solar remain troublingly intermittent —and currently generate less than 7 percent of America’s total electricity. Thus, replacing the 50 percent of electricity now supplied by coal and nuclear energy may be harder than expected.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently unveiled a study highlighting exactly these concerns. Although America’s power grid is secure for now, the study suggests that the nation’s power supply will require contributions from all energy sources. So while it’s helpful that wind and solar are slowly increasing their share, a diverse power mix remains crucial.

The dismantling of both coal and nuclear has many turning to natural gas as the next best option. America undoubtedly possesses enormous supplies of natural gas, with the fracking revolution positioning the United States to become a net energy exporter.

But a shift toward large-scale exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) to the European Union could have surprising repercussions. Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm has predicted that U.S. natural gas exports could triple within three years, sending 42 percent of America’s production offshore. Since U.S. consumers rely heavily on natural gas for home heating and electricity, this tighter market for gas supplies could drive up domestic prices. The Department of Energy predicted as much in 2015 when it estimated that increased LNG exports could “raise domestic prices and lower prices internationally.”

While natural gas has seemed like such a boon for electricity generation, the prospect of heavier reliance on a less diverse fuel mix could hit consumers hard. And higher utility bills could become problematic without a sufficient coal and nuclear fleet to help balance price fluctuations.

Ironically, the move away from coal and nuclear energy could complicate matters further, if many automotive experts are right in predicting a boom in electric cars. In the next decade, the electric-vehicle fleet may jump from 2 million to a whopping 150 million. In that case, the ensuing electricity demand would place huge burdens on the nation’s power grid. The need to ramp up baseload power in such circumstances could help to justify investments now being considered for advanced coal technologies that would increase efficiency while reducing emissions.

The Department of Energy was right to conclude that the nation should follow an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. With natural gas supplies poised for export, wind and solar expanding at a slow pace, nuclear plants retiring, and coal plants being shut down, the country needs a forward-looking strategy for continued reliable electricity. Otherwise, the recent spectacle of power outages and higher energy prices may provide an unfortunate preview of an avoidable problem.

See the article here.

Quinn: Coal Reset

Via The Miami Herald:

The Oct. 11 editorial, “EPA rollbacks are bad for our planet,” is an extreme misrepresentation of a much-needed regulatory reset.

With unprecedented enthusiasm for regulation, the prior administration issued broad, sweeping rules that overstepped the bounds of what the federal government can and should do — duplicating existing regulations, creating jurisdictional confusion among agencies, steamrolling states’ authority, and picking winners and losers in the energy market. Well-intended or not, it was an inappropriate use of authority that the current administration is working to address.

Coal’s critics should have nothing to fear — the market will determine the coal industry’s fate. That’s all we have been asking for: a chance to compete. But, if the industry succeeds, the U.S. can drive real and positive change. Coal will remain one of the world’s leading sources of energy in developed and developing countries for the foreseeable future, and is key to addressing energy poverty.

For those who care about the environment, instead of trying to obstruct the coal industry at home, a more appropriate path would be as a global leader driving the adoption of advanced coal technologies that will continue to reduce emissions everywhere.

See the article here.

Promise Kept: Trump to Roll Back Clean Power Plan

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

“The war on coal is over.” That’s the welcomed verdict from new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who confirmed Monday what we already know — President Donald Trump is a friend of coal. And once again the Trump administration is making good on its pledge to help those coal-producing states that were unfairly targeted by former President Barack Obama.

Pruitt said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, the controversial, job-killing Obama-era rule that set emissions standards that coal-fired power plants could not reasonably meet.

“The war on coal is over,”  Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. “The EPA and no federal agency should ever use its authority to say to you we are going to declare war on any sector of our economy.”

 Amen. Lawmakers representing southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia have long argued that the Obama-era rules were unrealistic and unfairly targeted coal-producing states like West Virginia and Virginia.

Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay last year that prevented the Clean Power Plan from taking effect following a legal challenge from coal-producing states, including West Virginia.

Ever since the election of Trump last November, the coal industry has seen an uptick in production. A full rollback of the job-killing Clean Power Plan will help in further boosting the industry.

Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, estimates that the new Trump plan will save an estimated 240 million tons of annual coal production and safeguard more than 27,000 mining jobs and almost 100,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain.

Excellent. Every industry job that is saved, and every new job that is created, helps our regional economy.

See the article here.

Governor Mead Applauds EPA Clean Power Plan Repeal Decision

Via KGAB AM650: 

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is speaking out in support of a decision by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to begin the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan [CPP].

The CPP was first issued in 2014 and would have required states to make big reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, including a 44 percent reduction for Wyoming.

The CPP was the Obama administration’s signature effort at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Many scientists say the emissions are a primary factory in global climate change.
But the plan was also considered extremely hostile to the coal industry because coal-fired power plants are a primary cause of carbon dioxide emissions. Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, had long objected to the CPP.

Governor Mead said on Tuesday that the EPA overstepped its authority in creating the rule. Wyoming’s congressional delegation has joined the governor in applauding the repeal of the power plan.

Pruit’s decision is only the first step in repealing the CPP. Once the rule repealing the plan is published in the federal register, a 60 day comment period will begin to allow public input on the repeal.

See the article here.

Pruitt’s Clean Power Break

Via The Wall Street Journal:

The Trump Administration is giving the economy a boost with its deregulatory agenda, and the latest example comes Tuesday when Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt will propose to repeal the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Ending this power grab will uphold the letter of the law and restore cooperative federalism with the states.

The Obama EPA imposed the rule in 2015 to regulate carbon emissions nationwide and force the retirement of coal-fired electric power plants. Former EPA chief Gina McCarthy took creative license by reinterpreting Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, which directs the agency to implement the “best system of emission reduction” for pollutants.

EPA had previously applied this provision narrowly to single sources of emissions (e.g., individual power plants), but Ms. McCarthy broke with decades of precedent to dictate a systemic shift in power generation. The Clean Power Plan initially requires new efficiency at coal-fired plants, but over time it impels states to substitute coal with natural gas and ultimately solar and wind.

This usurped the regulatory role of states and contradicted the Clean Air Act text, which says that “air pollution control at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments.” The Clean Power Plan would have forced states to scramble to alter their electric-power mix, shutting down coal plants long before the end of their useful life regardless of whether substitutes were on hand and affordable. Higher electricity costs and brownouts were likely.

The Supreme Court stayed the rule in February 2016 after 27 states and 37 electric co-ops sued. In March Mr. Pruitt launched a formal review of the rule, and a draft of the EPA’s new analysis that we’ve seen estimates that rescinding the carbon rule would save $33 billion in compliance costs by 2030.

It also finds that the Obama EPA rigged the cost-benefit calculations. For example, the McCarthy EPA claimed tangential benefits from reductions of other emissions like particulate matter that could have been achieved with less heavy-handed regulation. U.S. social costs were compared against global climate benefits.

Ms. McCarthy also assumed linear health benefits from emissions reductions notwithstanding diminishing returns. In violation of the Office and Management and Budget’s longstanding practice, energy efficiency was cited as an avoided cost rather than as a benefit. This allowed the Obama Administration to low-ball the rule’s cost estimate.

Mr. Pruitt’s proposed rule-making starts the 60-day window for public comments. EPA notes that it hasn’t decided whether it will follow its repeal of the Clean Power Plan with a new rule that regulates greenhouse gases from existing power plants and is considering “whether it is appropriate to propose such a rule.” The decision in part will depend on how well Mr. Pruitt thinks EPA can defend any new rule under the inevitable legal challenges from the environmental left.

But repealing the regulatory overreach of the Obama Administration is the first crucial step that is already paying dividends in less economic uncertainty and more confidence in the reliability of the future electric grid.

See the article here.

EPA Formally Moves to Repeal Major Obama Power Rule

Via The Hill:

The Trump administration formally proposed to scrap the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule for power plants.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed the notice Tuesday, arguing that former President Barack Obama’s 2015 rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

He previewed the action Monday at a coal equipment business in Kentucky, framing it as the end of the “war on coal.”

The action formally starts implementing a top campaign promise from President Trump and a request that the fossil fuel industry, business community and Republicans — including Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general — have had for years.

It also begins to tear down the main pillar of Obama’s aggressive second-term climate change agenda, which sought to use executive authority to fight climate change after Congress failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation.

“The Obama administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far with the CPP that the Supreme Court issued a historic stay of the rule, preventing its devastating effects to be imposed on the American people while the rule is being challenged in court,” Pruitt said in a statement.

“We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate. Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”

Environmentalists and Democrats have pledged to fight the rollback, and at least two Democratic state attorneys general have promised to sue the EPA to preserve the rule.

See the article here.

‘War on Coal is Over’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“The war on coal is over,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. He said no federal agency “should ever use its authority” to “declare war on any sector of our economy.”

For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two-dozen attorney generals who sued to stop President Barack Obama’s push to limit carbon emissions. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also challenged the rule on behalf of the Mountain State.

Area lawmakers applauded the Trump administration announcement.

“After eight years of radical environmental policies from the White House, we now have a president focused on bringing coal jobs back,” U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said. “President Trump promised to fight for our miners and our way of life, and he is keeping his word. The Obama administration used this rule to pick winners and losers at the expense of West Virginia’s jobs. I will continue to work with President Trump on solutions that will move West Virginia forward, create more jobs and return the EPA to its core mission.”

“For years, the Obama administration waged a war on coal and issued heavy-handed regulations to pick winners and losers among energy industries,” U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., added. “In West Virginia, our coal miners, their families and entire communities felt the blow of that misguided approach to energy production. It’s refreshing to see how committed the Trump administration is to pursuing a true all-of-the-above energy policy, and Administrator Pruitt’s announcement is another sign that America’s energy strategy is headed in the right direction. “

“From the very beginning, I said the Obama Power Plan was blatant and unlawful federal overreach,” Morrisey said. “I was humbled to have led the state-based coalition that defeated the Power Plan in court through an unprecedented stay at the Supreme Court and am excited that the Trump administration is taking the final step to kill this terrible, job-killing regulation. I believe these actions will help lead to a rebound for coal and will make lives better for coal miners and their families.”

Pruitt rejects the belief of scientists that man-man emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.

In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply, a Hazard, Kentucky, company that sells coal mining supplies. The store’s owners have been forced to lay off about 60 percent of its workers in recent years.

While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs are never coming back.

“A lot of damage has been done,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “This doesn’t immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”

Obama’s plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states.

Even so, the plan helped drive a recent wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which also are being squeezed by lower costs for natural gas and renewable power, as well as state mandates promoting energy conservation.

Trump announced earlier this year that he will pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement.

“This president has tremendous courage,” Pruitt said Monday. “He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do.”

Environmental groups and public health advocates quickly derided the decision as short sighted.

“Trump is not just ignoring the deadly cost of pollution, he’s ignoring the clean energy deployment that is rapidly creating jobs across the country,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

See the article here.

EPA Moves to Repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan Coal Regs

Via FOX News:

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that the Trump administration is moving to scrap the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature regulatory program to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Pruitt made the announcement at an event in Hazard, Ky., casting the previous policy as unfair.

“That rule really was about picking winners and losers,” Pruitt said. “The past administration was unapologetic, they were using every bit of power, authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers on how we pick electricity in this country. That is wrong.”

He said that on Tuesday, he will sign a proposed rule to formally withdraw from the plan.

“It is right for this administration to say the war is over,” Pruitt said.

The decision comes after President Trump in late March ordered a review of the controversial program, which was put on hold more than a year ago by the Supreme Court amid legal challenges from, among others, Pruitt himself.

The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants by having states meet certain targets. Supporters see the plan as a critical plank in efforts to curb global warming, but critics contend it would kill thousands of jobs and take direct aim at the struggling coal sector.

The move to officially nix the program was expected, following Trump’s vow to end what he calls the “war on coal.” Pruitt, however, can likely expect a new wave of litigation from the other side of the debate, as environmentalist groups and allied Democrats are sure to challenge the rollback.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune threatened such a court fight shortly after Monday’s announcement.

“Trump can’t reverse our clean energy and climate progress with the stroke of a pen, and we’ll fight him and Scott Pruitt in the courts, in the streets, and at the state and local level across America to protect the health of every community,” he said in a statement, calling the move “one of the most egregious attacks ever on public health, our climate, and the safety of every community in the United States.”

Brune said the EPA is “legally required to limit dangerous carbon pollution.”

The Clean Power Plan is hardly the only Obama policy being challenged or reversed by Trump. Just last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services rolled back much of the ObamaCare requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage.

Bloomberg first reported that the administration would propose rescinding the Clean Power Plan, by arguing it exceeded federal law. The next step reportedly would be to ask for public comment on how and whether to curb carbon emissions from these power plants.

See the article here.

Better Late Than Never

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

It is unfortunate for the nation as a whole, not just for energy-producing states, that former President Barack Obama’s war on coal and affordable electricity is being ended after years in which it was pursued with attack-dog tenacity and yes, viciousness. Better late than never, however.

“The war on coal is over,” announced Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday. He explained he plans to sign an order overriding the Clean Power Plan, which the Obama administration had viewed as the killing blow in its offensive against coal mining and use of the fuel at power plants.

Throughout his eight years in the Oval Office, Obama and the EPA used dozens of tactics in their overall strategy. They ranged from irrational limits on mining itself to new restrictions on power plant emissions. Meanwhile, they pumped billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to so-called “alternatives” including solar and wind power.

Millions of Americans, many of whom do not live in coal states, are paying higher electric bills because of Obama’s vendetta. Entire counties in coal states such as West Virginia and Ohio have had their economies devastated.

Many utilities began shutting down coal-fired generating stations in anticipation of new EPA rules. As some in the coal industry have pointed out, mines that once supplied those power plants will never reopen.

In addition, families and businesses that once benefited from low-cost electricity generated at those stations are stuck with higher-priced power generated from other fuels.

Still, Pruitt’s order, backed by several other pro-coal actions by President Donald Trump, is important. It may save a few coal-fired power plants and a few miners’ jobs.

It also allows the nation to pursue an “all-of-the-above” energy policy instead of wiping one of our most abundant resources out of the strategy.

Our nation has made enormous strides in cleaning up the air, water and soil during the past couple of decades. There may be more we have to do.

But it was clear early in Obama’s presidency that the rationale behind his war on coal was personal preference and special interest politics, not scientific necessity. Obama had decided to wipe out what he felt was a “dirty” industry, and he was determined to make that happen.

He very nearly did, in terms of using coal to supply electricity. It is never too late to correct a mistake, and that is precisely what Pruitt is doing.

See the article here.

Pruitt, Perry Move to Boost Coal

Via The Washington Examiner:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will sign his proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan on Tuesday, he said Monday morning in the coal-mining state of Kentucky.

He will lay out the financial gain of killing the Obama administration’s climate rules for the coal industry.

“Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers,” Pruitt said.

The plan, which required states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2030, has been on ice since February 2016, when the Supreme Court blocked it as it worked its way through the courts. He said the withdrawal of the plan would come on Tuesday. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from more than two dozen states and over 100 industry groups challenging the Obama-era rules in September 2016, but has not ruled on the case.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed rule to give the industry incentives for the reliability it provides to the electric grid is working its way through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at a fevered clip.

Those two moves by the Trump administration would provide a major, two-pronged plan to boost coal-fired power plants.

See the full article here.

EPA Document Proposes to Eliminate Clean Power Plan ‘In Its Entirety’

Via Brietbart:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to repeal the agency’s Obama-era climate change program, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), “in its entirety,” according to a document obtained by Breitbart News.

The 43-page document, titled, “Repeal of Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stations Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” details how the EPA plans to repeal CPP through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). This version of the document obtained by Breitbart News remains subject to change through inter-agency review.

The agency contends that the EPA, under former Administrator Gina McCarthy, exceeded its authority to regulate carbon emissions as stipulated by the Clean Air Act. The document proposes to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, and then suggested that they might release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that will reflect a more thoughtful and modest approach to regulating air pollution given the EPA’s limited statutory authority.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March ordering a review of the Clean Power Plan as well as other environmental regulations. Instead of Obama’s stifling energy regulations, the Trump administration will promote policies that favor American “energy dominance.”

The Obama administration designed the Clean Power Plan to lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels. Conservatives widely viewed the Clean Power Plan, along with the Paris Climate Treaty, to be part of Obama’s “war on coal.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt criticized the Clean Power Plan earlier this year, calling the regulation, “unlawful.” Pruitt said, “This is an effort to undo the unlawful approach the previous administration engaged in,” he said of the president’s executive order, “and to do it right going forward with the mindset of being pro-growth and pro-environment.”

Myron Ebell, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) director of Energy and Environment programs and Trump administration EPA transition chair, argued that the Clean Power Plan remains illegal and would do devastating harm to the average American. Ebell said, “In particular, we applaud his action to begin withdrawing the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules, including the so-called ‘Clean Power’ Plan. These rules, which are clearly illegal, would raise electric rates for consumers significantly and do immense economic damage to the heartland states where U.S. manufacturing is now concentrated.”

The EPA document declares that they are “proposing to repeal the CPP in its entirety.”

The EPA contends in the document, under former Administrator Gina McCarthy, exceeded its statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to force states and power plants to comply with the Clean Power Plan’s regulation to lower carbon emissions.

Over 150 interested parties sued the EPA, including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and three labor unions sued the former EPA administration in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the CPP was unconstitutional. A bipartisan group of 34 Senators and 171 members of the House filed an amicus brief arguing that the CPP was illegal and skirted Congress’ authority to legislate on environmental issues.

In February 2016, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the CPP pending further review. On August 8, 2017 the court issued an order holding the case in abeyance for a 60-day review and directed the EPA to file status updates at 30-day intervals.

In March, President Donald Trump issued an executive order which the document cites, which affirms the “national interest to promote clean and safe development of our Nation’s vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.”

The Executive order also directed the EPA to “immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind, those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law.” Subsequently, the EPA conducted a review of its environmental regulations, including the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The EPA contends that their initial review of the CPP “raised substantial concerns that the CPP is not consistent with the policy articulated in Section 1 of the Executive Order.”

The EPA explained, “For example, numerous States, regulated entities and other stakeholders warned that the CPP threatened to impose massive costs on the power sector and consumers; invaded traditional areas of state regulation over the mix of energy generation within their borders, departed radically from prior regulatory practice and longstanding reading of the statute; and did not adequately ensure the national interest in affordable, reliable electricity, including from coal generation.”

The EPA contends in the proposed rulemaking that the EPA’s ability to “revisit existing regulations is well-grounded in the law.” The document cites Chevron U.S.A. v. NRDC, Inc.National Cable & Telecommunications Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Services, and the Clean Air Council v. Pruitt cases to argue that the agencies have broad discretion to reconsider agency regulations at any time.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) contains a cost-benefit analysis that examines repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The EPA estimates that repealing CPP would provide up to $33 billion in avoided compliance costs in 2030.

EPA Administrator Pruitt’s Scott decision to eliminate Obama’s Clean Power Plan serves as part of President Trump’s agenda to unravel Obama’s environmental legacy and pursuean America First policy of “energy dominance.”

In May, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The president said, “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.” Trump cited that the Paris Climate Accord alone could cost America 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025. Similarly to the Clean Power Plan, Obama acted unilaterally without the consent of Congress and the American people to implement his climate agenda through the Paris Climate Accord.

Now EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who was one of the first Attorneys General to sue the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, can start to repeal one of Obama’s hallmark environmental programs.

EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman said in a statement to Breitbart News, “While we can’t comment on the authenticity of the document, what we can say is that the Obama Administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far that the Supreme Court issued a stay – the first in history – to prevent the so-called ‘Clean Power Plan’ from taking effect. Any replacement rule that the Trump Administration proposes will be done carefully and properly within the confines of the law.”

See the article here.

National Mining Welcomes Repeal of the Costly Power Plan

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn today issued this statement following reports of the administration’s plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan:

“As reported, Administrator Pruitt will signal a decisive break with past policies that have used regulation of doubtful legality to circumvent the will of Congress, usurp States’ authority and raise costs on American consumers.

“Repealing this Obama-era rule would close a chapter of regulatory overreach that set standards without regard to the steep costs or availability of technology necessary to meet them. The Clean Power Plan represented an unlawful attempt to transform the nation’s power grid. It would have destroyed additional baseload power assets, leaving our economy more vulnerable to reliability concerns and higher costs with trivial environmental benefits.

“Unplugging the plan would spare further loss of high-wage employment. By saving an estimated 240 million tons of annual coal production, the administrator’s action helps to safeguard more than 27,000 mining jobs and almost 100,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain.

“A far better approach to achieving environmental improvement will rely on sound legal rules and proven technologies that can sustain the impressive reductions in emissions achieved over the past decades. Such an approach consistent with EPA’s basic mission will restore the important balance between costs and benefits that have been missing from federal regulatory policies.”

See the release here.

Two Power Plays Show Leadership

Two Power Plays Show Leadership

October 6, 2017

After eight years of federal regulations weighing heavily on coal, we have now had eight months of reasonable federal regulatory relief. And Trump’s critics are crying foul.

In the past week, two bold attempts to bring energy policy back towards the neutral zone have been greeted with near hysteria.

First, Secretary Perry’s request that FERC issue a rule directing unregulated markets to assess a “reliability” valuation for baseload power plants drew scorn from competing fuels. A transparent sop to coal, they say. This from a renewable fuels industry kept off life support by production tax credits and mandated minimum markets.

The “Chutzpah of the Year” quote goes to the head of the wind industry association, who admonished Congress this week with this whopper: “You want to allow the markets to compete and evolve and not pick one fuel source over another.”

Some Perry critics ask: Where’s the reliability crisis to justify this request? Note the irony in this faux outrage. When climate activists get that same “where’s-the-crisis” question from skeptics of costly emission reduction regulations, they say there isn’t a crisis today but there will be one tomorrow unless we take prudent action now to prevent it.

(more…)

eport: EPA to Propose Elimination of Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Via Breitbart.com:

According to a document obtained by Reuters, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will propose to eliminate Obama’s infamous environmental Clean Power Plan (CPP) regulation.

The report, if confirmed, would signal the Trump’s administrations’ first step towards eliminating Obama’s environment rule intended to curb power plants’ carbon emissions.

The EPA document, which was distributed to members of the environmental agency’s Regulatory Steering Committee, said that the EPA “is issuing a proposal to repeal the rule.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March ordering a review of the Clean Power Plan as well as other environmental regulations. Instead of Obama’s stifling energy regulations, the Trump administration will promote policies that favor American “energy dominance.”

The Obama administration designed the Clean Power Plan to lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels. Conservatives widely viewed the Clean Power Plan, along with the Paris Climate Treaty, to be part of Obama’s “war on coal.”

Twenty-six states challenged the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in court after the Obama administration launched the rule in 2015. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the rule and set a deadline for this Friday, ordering the EPA to send a status report on how it plans to proceed on the Clean Power Plan.

The report details how the EPA intends to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which would gather input from industry officials and interested parties on how to revise or rescind the CPP.

Industry sources expect the EPA to release the proposal to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan as early as the end of this week.

Janet McCabe, a senior EPA official under Obama, said that an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking could take years. McCabe said, “It certainly will draw the process out.”

Conservative groups have urged the EPA to eliminate the CPP without replacing the climate rule, while industry groups want a replacement of the rule to give industry groups regulatory certainty and avoid potential lawsuits from environmental groups.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt criticized the Clean Power Plan earlier this year, calling the regulation, “unlawful.” Pruitt said, “This is an effort to undo the unlawful approach the previous administration engaged in,” he said of the president’s executive order, “and to do it right going forward with the mindset of being pro-growth and pro-environment.”

See the article here.

Rick Perry Urges FERC Protect Coal, Nuclear Power Plants

Via The Washington Examiner:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry prodded the nation’s grid regulator on Friday to pick up the pace on an administration proposal to ensure nuclear and coal power plants are adequately compensated for the resilience they offer the power grid.

Perry sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a proposed rule on that matter that he wants the commission to approve swiftly to ensure a diverse energy mix exists.

“A reliable and resilient electrical grid is critical not only to our national and economic security, but also to the everyday lives of American families,” Perry said in a letter accompanying the rule. “A diverse mix of power generation resources, including those with on-site reserves, is essential to the reliable delivery of electricity — particularly in times of supply stress such as recent natural disasters. My proposal will strengthen American energy security by ensuring adequate reserve resource supply and I look forward to the Commission acting swiftly on it.”

Typically, the energy secretary doesn’t send draft proposed rules to the FERC, and in this case, the commission already has a proceeding underway on price formation. But administration sources say FERC has been too slow and it is within Perry’s discretion to give the nation’s grid regulator a nudge even though it is an independent arm of the Energy Department.

Perry argued that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria underscore the need for FERC to act swiftly to approve new rules that would ensure the nation has electricity that can remain functioning during disasters.

The need for FERC to propose regulatory fixes to help economically ailing coal and nuclear power plants was made last month in a major grid study that Perry issued, which explained the administration’s priorities for the electricity grid. The study showed that nuclear and coal plants are being economically challenged by the low cost of natural gas, which is making gas-fired power plants the top electricity producer in the country.

FERC oversees the wholesale electric markets that compensate power resources based on the lowest cost resource. The low-cost energy gets access to transmission first, so it can sell into the market. This is done under the Federal Power Act to preserve fair and reasonable rates for consumers.

Under the proposed rule, FERC would direct the large electricity operators it oversees to prepare pricing mechanisms that compensate power plants for the specific ways they help stabilize the grid. For example, a power plant’s ability to contribute power during a flood or extreme cold should be considered to ensure those characteristics remain part of the grid to stave off blackouts or widespread failures.

Neil Chatterjee, the current Trump-appointed chairman of the commission, told lawmakers last month that “the commission is fuel neutral” but will “evaluate the attributes of fuel sources to see what values they provide and if there is a demonstrated need for reliability whether those things can be compensated.”

The coal industry applauded the effort on Friday, and used Perry’s rule proposal to prod the commission for swift action.

“We urge FERC to act swiftly on this important proposal,” said Hal Quinn, the president of the National Mining Association. “Secretary Perry’s action today is a long-overdue and necessary step to address the vulnerability of America’s energy grid.”

Quinn explained that Perry is invoking his authority under the law to ask the commission “to take decisive steps to arrest the premature retirement of power plants capable of providing American consumers with reliable and affordable electricity.”

“By acting on the Secretary’s proposal, FERC can appropriately value the importance of reliable and resilient fuels that ensure baseload power, the mainstay of our nation’s grid, is available at all times,” he said. Baseload refers to power plants that can supply the minimum amount of electricity 24-hours a day to keep the grid up and running without disruption.

Perry announced a separate action to help move along the development of new nuclear plants with conditional commitments of up to $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to the owners of the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. The power plant’s designer, Westinghouse, had filed for bankruptcy earlier in the year, placing the project’s future in jeopardy. It is one of just a handful of new proposed nuclear projects in the country.

“I believe the future of nuclear energy in the United States is bright and look forward to expanding American leadership in innovative nuclear technologies,” said Perry. “Advanced nuclear energy projects like Vogtle are the kind of important energy infrastructure projects that support a reliable and resilient grid, promote economic growth, and strengthen our energy and national security.”

See the article here.

Trump’s Path to Global Coal Dominance Picks up at UN

Via The Washington Examiner:

The Trump administration may gain an ally at the United Nations for its pro-fossil fuel agenda to build cleaner coal power plants globally.

President Trump often touts his support for clean coal technology, and even though he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate change agreement, his administration still wants to use the U.N. in ways that help implement its agenda to export more U.S. energy and expertise abroad.

One of the more supportive areas is the U.N. Economic Council on Europe’s Committee on Sustainable Energy, which is looking for ways to support electricity from fossil fuels through its Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels working group.

The clean electricity group looks for ways to make coal plants more efficient and push technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is committed to keeping fossil fuels in the global energy mix, recognizing that coal and other fossil fuels make up more than half of the energy consumed in Europe alone.

Most of the U.N. group’s goals would dovetail surprisingly well with Trump’s agenda for coal. Energy Secretary Rick Perry talked up the administration’s support for carbon capture technology last week at clean energy conferences around Washington, saying the goal is to export U.S. innovation abroad and expand the market for American coal expertise.

The administration is “aware of this effort within the [United Nations],” said Barry Worthington, chairman of the U.N. Cleaner Electricity Production working group. “I would say the Department of Energy is very engaged” with the U.N. Economic Council on Europe’s sustainability committee.

Worthington is also the executive director of the U.S. Energy Association, a large umbrella group that represents the energy industry on the World Energy Council. The group serves as a bipartisan advisory organization representing 150 members across the U.S. energy sector, from large Fortune 500 companies to small energy consulting firms.

Worthington is gearing up for this month’s 13th annual meeting of the Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels in Geneva.

“It’s a group of experts on clean power production and we’re going to make an effort in the next month, or so, to develop recommendations or criteria for consideration by financial institutions looking at financing coal and other fossil facilities,” Worthington told the Washington Examiner.

The criteria will assist in getting large financial groups such as the World Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to consider coal plants in the list of power plants it will support, Worthington said. The World Bank has had a bias against coal plants at the Obama administration’s insistence, which the Trump administration has been trying to reverse.

Worthington said it’s “one thing to reverse a policy and say we’ll finance coal plants, but then you reject the first dozen that you see.” The standards will help to demonstrate how the technology is cleaner and more efficient than past coal plants.

“We would try to develop some sort of rational criteria that financial institutions can use because there is just so many different circumstances,” he said. “If you were in Europe, for example, looking at replacing an existing coal plant with a new coal plant you might be looking at one set of circumstances. If you are a developing country, and you’re going to electrify an area that hadn’t been electrified at all, there may be different performance levels that you want to use,” Worthington said.

“For example, you may have an efficiency criteria, you may want to have a certain efficiency rating, you may want to have an emissions limit, you may want to have a criteria that relates to water,” he said.

That is an area where the Department of Energy could assist. The department “has the expertise that’s needed to understand from a technical standpoint what kinds of things you want to have a criteria for,” Worthington added.

The Trump administration announced in July that it was changing the rules for financing energy projects worldwide, reversing the Obama administration’s restrictions on fossil fuel projects under the World Bank and other global investment institutions.

The Treasury Department in its guidance said the U.S. would “promote universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy, help countries access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently, and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources.”

It also called for the U.S. representatives of the World Bank and other multinational financial institutions to vote for projects that “support development of robust, efficient, competitive and integrated global markets for energy.”

The guidance eliminated the “anti-coal guidance issued under the previous administration,” according to Luke Popovich, vice president for external communications at the National Mining Association. “NMA wholeheartedly approves of this since the previous Obama-era guidance called for an end to virtually all U.S. support for overseas coal financing,” he said.

“This is a complete turnaround from the previous guidance that precluded U.S. support for overseas coal financing and implemented a key section of former President Obama’s Climate Action Plan,” Popovich said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

Worthington said the Trump administration is also making U.S. agencies that handle overseas energy investments more supportive of coal, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and others.

“Then at the same time, the United States would use our role in the international finance institutions to cause them to also reverse their ban, or prohibition, or bias, against financing coal plants,” he said. “That would be the World Bank, the whole World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and so forth.”

The Asian Development Bank “never developed an anti-coal, anti-fossil policy. They continue to finance coal plants,” Worthington pointed out. The U.S. and China will hold a joint clean coal meeting in West Virginia in November to share notes on carbon capture and other clean coal technologies that both countries have been funding for years.

The Trump administration also wants to use its standing in the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, since the Obama administration sent $1 billion to the fund before Trump announced June 1 the U.S. would withdraw. The fund is meant to collect money from large developed nations to help fund projects in poorer nations affected by global warming.

Many scientists blame fossil fuels for changing the temperature of the Earth, resulting in potentially catastrophic consequences such as ocean acidification and more severe drought.

Environmentalists issued a report last week that said the fund’s independence to carry out its climate directive is being threatened by its closer ties with the World Bank and other large multinational financial institutions. The group said the green fund is beginning to slip from its targets to support climate adaptation strategies by relying on the big banks for moving money to projects.

See the article here.

Trump and the End of Obama’s Bitter ‘War on Coal’

Via The Hill:

What a difference presidential leadership can make, for good or ill, for an industry’s fortunes.

Before he was elected president, Barack Obama promised to bankrupt coal companies, and after eight years of his administration’s anti-energy policies, that pledge turned out to be one of the few promises he kept. Obama imposed regulations limiting coal mining near streams and on mountain tops, allowed cities to block the expansion of coal export terminals and rail lines, and enacted limits on carbon-dioxide emissions, including many that were not justified by any reasonable calculation of human health benefits. His policies contributed to massive job losses in coal country, the premature shuttering of vital coal-fired power plants, and were a factor in profitable coal companies being forced to file for bankruptcy.

As a candidate for president, Donald Trump promised he would enact policies that would end the “war on coal” launched by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, halting or slowing the loss of jobs related to coal mining and coal-fired power plants, and he is doing just that.

Coal’s virtue is its reliability and abundance; America has a coal supply beneath U.S. soil that could last 200 to 400 years. While many coal-fired power plants have closed because they are unable to compete with low-cost gas-fired power plants, dozens of coal-fired power plants and mines were shuttered prematurely under Obama due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, policies Trump has started to reverse.

For instance, in its first use of the Congressional Review Act under Trump, Congress halted a so-called “Stream Protection Rule” imposed by Obama that would have threatened over one-third of the nation’s coal-mining jobs. The Interior Department’s own reports show the rule was unnecessary, since coal mines have virtually no offsite impacts and lands are being restored successfully under existing federal and state regulations.

Trump also issued two “Energy Independence” executive orders affecting coal. One ended a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land and the second declared federal agencies should no longer consider speculative climate change impacts when implementing federal contracts, issuing permits, or formulating planned uses of federal lands.

At Trump’s direction, EPA is in the process of reviewing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, and the expectation is the Trump administration will rescind or significantly reshape its limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from existing and new power plants.

Trump’s early energy actions have paid job dividends in coal country. The Department of Labor reported mining jobs in America grew by 11,000 in March and by another 7,000 in May. In June, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the United States had since the beginning of 2017 added more than 50,000 jobs throughout the coal supply and use chain.

Additionally, under Trump’s leadership, the first and second largest coal companies in the United States, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, which had been forced into insolvency in part by Obama’s climate policies, emerged from bankruptcy. And in June, Corsa Coal Company opened the Acosta Mine, the first new coal mine to open in the past six years.

In early September, Paringa Resources announced it was building a new coal mine in Kentucky, which it expects to begin producing coal in mid-2018. Paringa is also constructing another mine, which will begin producing by early 2019. In an interview on FOX Business News, Parinaga’s CEO, Grant Quasha, credited the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back regulations on coal production and use for helping him secure the funding needed for the project.

“All we had to do was raise the money,” Quasha said. “On the back of the Trump administration coming into the Oval Office and ending the war on coal, we were able to successfully raise approximately $40 million worth of financing in the Australian equity markets to help build out this mine.”

The coal industry has also benefitted from a boom in coal exports since Trump took office. U.S. coal exports to Europe have risen by 70 percent compared to the first quarter in 2016, while exports to Asia have risen by approximately 50 percent. Driven primarily by the growth in exports, coal production in the United States has increased by 14 percent since December 2016, and revenue at publicly traded U.S. coal companies grew by 19 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period one year ago.

I have no love for coal — nor for any other particular source of energy, for that matter. I don’t think coal should be subsidized, but I also don’t think it should be discriminated against by the government, which uses harmful regulations that raise electric bills but do nothing to protect human health or the environment.

Americans should have access to reliable, relatively inexpensive energy sources that can power the conveniences that make modern life modern. Coal’s virtues are its domestic abundance, relative affordability, and reliability as a source of fuel — characteristics solar and wind power just can’t match, even though they continue to receive massive subsidies from the government.

One day — probably long after I’m dead — other ways to generate electricity will arise that, like coal and natural gas, are cheap and reliable. When that occurs, coal and natural gas will likely fade into history, as they should under those circumstances. Until then, three cheers for coal and the coal industry’s nascent recovery!

Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

See the article here.

Energy Supply for Our Citizens Must Transcend Politics

Via The Morning Consult:

The number of coal and nuclear power plants that have closed in recent years could power tens of millions of homes. In April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry asked for a report on whether continued closures pose a threat, and whether the markets are adequately compensating the resilience benefits these “baseload” or “always on” power plants provide. Energy supply is critical, especially in emergency circumstances. We need the most secure and reliable generation we can provide.

The DOE report is in, and it shows we have work to do: “Recent severe weather events have demonstrated the need to improve system resilience …  [L]ow average wholesale energy prices, while beneficial for buyers of wholesale electricity, represent a critical juncture for many existing baseload generation resources and their role in preserving reliability and resilience. . . . Markets need further study and reform to address future services essential to grid reliability and resilience.” The reference to “severe weather events” was even before Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as severe cold weather is every bit as challenging.

As soon as the study was first announced, the political lines were drawn. “Rick Perry Thinks You’re Stupid,” screamed the headline of a Sierra Club article, claiming the study was “attempting to stop the renewable revolution.” Advanced Energy Economy wrote, “Though off base from the start, we can only expect that such a study, with its apparently predetermined result, will lead to policy action that will attempt to harm” wind and solar energy.

Let’s be clear – this study was about keeping the lights on. Its analysis was long overdue, even though much of the information was gathered during my tenure as assistant secretary of fossil energy in the first term of the Obama administration. Our information raised concerns that purposely were not made public at that time because it would have exposed flaws with regulations the Environmental Protection Agency ultimately imposed on CO2 emissions. That lack of forthrightness in government should disturb us all.

Since it’s impossible to store electricity in society-sized amounts, we need power generators that can run all the time. Coal and nuclear can run on demand to serve this need. So also can other power plants – natural gas, hydropower, geothermal and others.

But over recent years we have seen a steady decrease in coal and nuclear power and a rise of less reliable sources like wind and solar thanks to government incentives and tax credits. Wind and solar do sometimes produce more power than we need, but not nearly enough at other times. Ability to produce on demand is a fundamental pillar of the power system, but the country continues move away from sources that can do so without addressing the market and economic needs of “always on” baseload generators. That is a long-term formula for disaster.

The shale revolution has made gas plentiful and inexpensive. It certainly helps, but there are limitations. Some states have banned fracking. Many do not have pipeline infrastructure to deliver gas, and have created roadblocks and barriers to building gas pipelines. And unlike coal and nuclear, gas cannot be stored on site, making it more vulnerable to supply disruption and market variability. Should anything happen to those pipelines, there must be a way to secure fuel from elsewhere.

That’s exactly why we must keep coal and nuclear in the “all of the above” energy mix. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the overseer of grid reliability, reports, “The rapid changes occurring in the generation resource mix and technologies are altering the operational characteristics of the grid and will challenge system planners and operators to maintain reliability.”

I believe CO2 plays a role in climate change, but controlling its output cannot be the exclusive definition of environmental responsibility. We have to be honest about both environmental considerations and the necessity of power sources that can produce energy on demand.

Now that DOE has studied, the government must act. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has jurisdiction to oversee wholesale electricity markets and can help ensure that we make power increasingly environmentally responsible through technology while investing in solving all of the challenges that comprise reliability.

DOE has thankfully invested in and embraced the analysis and has the opportunity to influence and direct agencies such as FERC to act. Our public good demands that action.

Charles McConnell is executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative and previously served as assistant secretary of energy under former President Barack Obama from 2011-2013.

See the article here. 

Advancing Coal Technologies

Advancing Coal Technologies

September 27, 2017

From all the news coverage it’s getting, National Clean Energy Week appears to be a carefully kept secret, trumped by NFL protests, a Senate primary and Puerto Rico’s dystopia. That’s a pity. Exciting things are happening in clean energy technologies and the global market they serve.

Renewables understandably get star billing in this discussion, but maybe the more important but surely overlooked developments are occurring in the fossil energy sector.

Start here in the U.S. Thanks to scrubbers and other combustion technologies, U.S. coal plant emissions have plummeted 91 percent since 1970. Not because we’ve used less coal; over the same period (1970-2016) coal use climbed by almost 40 percent. So, fewer emissions from an abundant, reliable and affordable source of power.

We’re on the cusp of more dramatic reductions. For example, the Prairie State Energy Plant in Marissa, Illinois bristles with advanced technologies that remove 85 percent of NOx, 98 percent of SO2, 90 percent of mercury and 99 percent of PM. All the while using less coal per generated electron thanks to much higher plant efficiency.

(more…)

Attitude Shift from US Government Gives Coal Sector Hope

Via Platts:

The US coal industry has hope for its future where a year ago there was not any, according to Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association.

Speaking Tuesday at the S&P Global Platts Coal Marketing Days Conference in Pittsburgh, attendees highlighted the improved relationship with the federal government, rather than any major policy changes, since the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.

Raney said the Obama administration launched a “war on coal” in 2008 that crippled the West Virginia coal sector, leaving 60% of the state’s production in bankruptcy and causing production to drop to a 40-year low.

“I don’t know if we’ve totally survived it or not but we’re a hell of a lot closer than we were before November 8,” he said, noting the date of Trump’s election.

Raney said the appointment by Trump’s administration of several government officials with ties to the coal industry to prominent mining and energy policy roles should also prove helpful.

David Stetson, Chairman of Alpha Natural Resources, was more cautious in his evaluation of the new president’s impact, but agreed cooperation from the regulatory environment has improved.

“We have seen some movement back to what I would consider a normal working relationship with the authorities,” said Stetson.

Speaking on the sidelines, an Alaskan miner told Platts, “you could see the change in tone at the federal agency within two months [of Trump’s inauguration]. We had an application approved that had just been sitting there for two years to broaden our mining operation.”

Moving forward, Raney called for the government to incentivize plant upgrades and introduce a requirement for power plants to have at least 30-60 days supply of coal to ensure mine production.

He also suggested there should be more support for domestic rare earths production, as China’s dominance in the space could become a security question. The same argument has been used by US steel producers to call for a section 232 order to limit imports of steel.”

See the article here.

Warmed Again by Coal

Via The Washington Times:

Gentlemen, start your thermostats. Ladies, too. The Obama war on coal, which cost Hillary Clinton the vote in once-reliably Democratic West Virginia, is over. Maybe the war on nuclear energy, too. Americans might soon heat their homes without choosing between the warmth and food and medicine.

It’s not quite a “so long, solar” moment, but common sense on energy is clearly making a comeback, summed up in the headline in The New York Times, “Under Trump, Coal Mining Gets New Life on U.S. Lands.” The White House is looking for ways to encourage more mining, too — not less, as in the Obama years — on the nation’s federally managed land. Beyond that, the U.S. Interior Department is looking to reduce the size of some of these federally managed properties and national monuments. This would restore more private investment in mining.

The pro-coal movement is already having a good effect. About 85 percent of the nation’s coal on federal lands is extracted from the Powder River Basin, which runs through Montana and Wyoming. President Trump intends to roll back moratoriums on new coal leases on these lands.

Exports of coal has fallen steadily over the past eight years, falling from 28 million short tons in 2013 to 12 million short tons in three years later. Since the Trump inauguration, coal exports have surged to 22 million short tons, a remarkable increase in just eight months.

“For the past eight years,” said Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, told Congress, “we’ve had a fair amount of environmental overreach from the Obama administration and that has contributed, we believe, to the majority of coal retirements that have happened in the past.”

Those “retirements” have led to increased electricity costs for consumers. The average American’s electric bill rose 11 percent under Mr. Obama, according to government data cited by the Daily Caller.

West Virginians suffered most. The average West Virginia homeowner watched electricity costs rise from 7.27 cents per kilowatt-hour in November 2008 to 11.72 cents in 2016 — a 62 percent increase. Customers in Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Nebraska experienced rate increases of 40 percent or more during that time. Overall, 42 states and Washington, D.C., watched electricity costs spike during the Obama years.

“We are all affected by this constant regulatory quagmire,” says Bill Cadman, vice president of Whiting Petroleum, which drills mostly on leased public lands. But maybe under the new administration, not so much. The cold months are coming, and lower power and light bills will warm everyone.

See the article here.

Coal CEO Says Trump Made New Mine Possible

Via Fox Business News:

Paringa Resources is taking the rare step of building a new coal mine in the U.S., as the Trump administration rolls back regulations on the struggling industry.

The coal company is building a coal mine in Kentucky and expects to begin producing coal in mid-2018. It will construct another mine that’s scheduled to be in action by early 2019.

In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on the FOX Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria,” CEO Grant Quasha said President Donald Trump pushed the project over the goal line.

“All we had to do was raise the money,” he said. “On the back of the Trump administration coming into the Oval Office and ending the war on coal, we were able to successfully raise approximately $40 million worth of financing in the Australian equity markets to help build out this mine.”

The Poplar Grove Mine will produce nearly 3 million tons of thermal coal for a local power utility. The Cypress Mine will provide an estimated 3.8 million tons following its construction, according to Paringa Opens a New Window.. The mines are located in the Illinois Basin, a coal-producing basin that stretches across parts of Indiana and Kentucky.

Paringa is hiring 200 people over the next 12 months to support Poplar Grove. Quasha said the company plans to hire another 300 people for its second mine.

Coal production in the U.S. has decline in recent years under pressure from new regulations imposed by the Obama administration and low prices for natural gas. Paringa is betting on a turnaround. Quasha believes natural gas, which is trading around $3 per million British thermal units, will rise to $4. He also sees international demand improving through 2030.

Quasha also expects the coal industry to continue reaping the benefits of President Trump’s regulatory reform for years to come. By rescinding coal rules through the Congressional Review Act, future administrations must go through Congress to seek a renewal of Obama-era regulations.
See the article here.

The Coal-Terminal Debate: A View From Japan

Via The Seattle Times:

It has been more than six years since Japan suffered the devastating earthquake and tsunami that triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The world is well-aware of the massive destruction caused by this unprecedented natural disaster. Perhaps less well-known is that the disaster also radically changed Japan’s energy options.

Japan lacks meaningful domestic natural energy resources and consequently imports 96 percent of such resources. Nuclear energy was seen as a viable way to be more self-sufficient in meeting our energy needs. But Fukushima changed all that with the ensuing suspension of nuclear power generation and loss of public support. Despite a concerted national effort to deploy additional renewable resources, the loss of nearly one-third of power generation capacity was difficult to replace. We were suddenly more reliant than ever on imported fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Today, we are one of the world’s top importers of coal. It is a major, indispensable source of energy in Japan for electricity. Our economy and society depend on it as a stable, reliable energy source. A stable energy supply is also a matter of national security. In a region that is becoming increasingly unfriendly and unstable, this has never been a harsher reality.

Coal has always been an important part of Japan’s energy mix, but this dependence increased dramatically after the Fukushima disaster. In fact, Japan is currently building two new advanced technology gasification-based coal plants in the Fukushima area — called “the Fukushima Revitalization Project” to ensure energy security and revival of local economy.

To stabilize and secure our supply, Japan is highly interested in importing coal from the United States, a trusted ally and reliable trading partner. We do not import any appreciable energy resources from the U. S. today. As major trade partners with Washington state, we see the proposed Millennium terminal in Longview as a solution in meeting our energy, national-security and economic-growth needs.

Japan is committed to honoring its Paris Climate Accord commitments. We all recognize that coal is a major source of greenhouse gases, but it is also one of the world’s most accessible, abundant and reliable energy sources. The 2016 International Energy Outlook concludes that coal will remain the second-largest energy source worldwide until 2030. World coal consumption is projected to increase by more than 20 percent by 2040. Knowledgeable and responsible energy planners, economists and humanitarians agree that this reliance on coal is a reality that will not change for decades.

There is a viable path forward with coal: reducing emissions through advanced coal technologies and more efficient consumption. By significantly reducing CO2 emissions from coal, we can move the needle in the right direction as we also work to bring new technologies online.

Japan is a global leader in aggressively pursuing high-efficiency/low-to-zero-emission technologies for generating electricity from coal. This includes some of the most technologically advanced coal-fired power generation plants in the world. We also want to import the highest quality coal possible to optimize our substantial investments in coal technology infrastructure.

Coal shipped through the Longview terminal is Powder River Basin coal. Due to its unique qualities, this coal is the most suitable fuel for the highly efficient gasification-based technologies we are developing at Fukushima and elsewhere. Japan needs a reliable supply of high-quality coal to support economic growth and national security while also meeting our stringent environmental requirements.

The Millennium project brings substantial benefits to Longview and the state of Washington — and it also offers Japan a sound solution to its pressing energy-security challenges.

The Japanese people are already warmly familiar with such Pacific Northwest icons as Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft — and, of course, the Seattle Mariners. Millennium represents a mutually beneficial opportunity to further extend our trade relationship and friendship with Washington state, and encourages people in Fukushima Prefecture with a brighter future.

Shozo Kaneko is a fellow of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has recently retired from the faculty of the University of Tokyo.d

See the article here.

What Happens When the Coal and Nuclear Plants Close?

Via The Houston Chronicle:

When future policy makers go back and study the U.S. energy industry in the 2010s, one of the defining trends will be the sudden decline of coal and nuclear plants.

Whether this is the beginning of a great new era of American energy or a disaster in the making is the subject of much debate.

And now add another voice to the mix, as the research firm IHS Markit warned in a report released Tuesday that the shift away from coal and nuclear is likely to leave the U.S. grid overly reliant on natural gas and renewable forms of energy and prone to more expensive and volatile electricity prices than we currently enjoy.

“Over the last three years, the problem only seems to have gotten worse,” said Lawrence Makovich, chief power strategist at IHS and the study’s lead author.

The report is funded by the trade groups U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute – groups that have a lot at stake in what the power grid becomes in the decades ahead.

What Makovich sees is a confused energy market with criss-crossing and contradictory incentives for carbon-free energy that favors wind and solar energy through tax incentives but does not do enough to incentivise carbon-free nuclear.

The study comes as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission weighs whether to take action to keep afloat a raft of nuclear plants in danger of closing in the years ahead. A report by the Department of Energy last month put the majority of the blame on the flood of cheap natural gas due to the fracking boom and recommended changes to the power market to help the coal and nuclear sectors.

“Our study is saying there is a clear economic argument behind making these additional  interventions because we’re not dealing with a clear market operating without distortion,” Makovich said. “You have favored technologies.”

See the article here.

Coal-fired Power Plants

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., has introduced a welcomed measure in the U.S. House of Representatives that could help in further boosting coal’s future.

The legislation would allow a coal-burning power plant or related facility to retrofit or upgrade without meeting new environmental emission standards. Under the proposed measure, the plant or facility would only have to show an improvement in efficiency with less pollutants.

“That would allow some of those folks who have aging coal facilities to retrofit without a big expense,” Griffith told the Daily Telegraph last week. “It would still cost money, but not nearly as much. They only have to show that it (emission standards) would be better than they were.”

 That way, rather than being forced to shut down, a plant or facility could stay open. And the plant could continue to use coal.

Griffith believes the measure will pass the Republican-controlled House and will be supported by President Donald Trump.

Under the Obama administration, a number of coal-fired power plants that provided good-paying jobs were forced to close as a result of unrealistic and overly stringent federal regulations. The Trump administration has since rolled back a number of those burdensome rules.

 Still, in many cases, the damage is already done. A good example was the coal-fired power plant in Glen Lynn, which was forced to close in 2015.

Griffith says he would also like to see a certain percentage of Appalachian thermal coal, which is used in power plants, set aside as a reserve in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack that would impact the natural gas supply or the supply of coal from western states.

That’s a good idea.

We welcome the ongoing efforts of Griffith, and other congressional Republicans, to boost coal production. The industry is rebounding, and this helps our regional economy. Every new job that is created in the coal and related service industries strengthens our region.

See the article here.

An Argument Out of Touch with Today’s Coal Mining Industry

Via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The Sept. 10 Forum article “The War on Coal Communities: Strip Mining” is out of touch with today’s coal mining industry. Its author fails to acknowledge that the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act of 1977 is not a one-size-fits-all program. Each U.S. mine has detailed plans on how the mined land will be restored — which must be then approved by the government.

The piece devotes much of its time to describing techniques that “started in earnest during the 1940s” but ignores that mining has changed significantly in the 80 years since. Technological advancements, higher industry standards and increased state and federal oversight have contributed to a safer, cleaner responsible industry that cares about the communities in which its employees live and work. Further, mountaintop mining accounts for less than 0.6 percent of coal mining today and continues to be on the decline.

Coal continues to be an important source of electricity. The public deserves an accurate picture of how the industry has changed and advanced to ensure environmentally responsible, affordable and reliable energy for all.

HAL QUINN
President and CEO
National Mining Association
Washington, D.C.

See the article here.

Poll Shows Voters Want a Diverse U.S. Energy Grid

Eighty-five percent of American voters agree that the U.S. should act to protect the diversity of its energy grid to minimize potential impacts from natural disasters like the devastating hurricanes that have struck the U.S. and the Caribbean in the past several weeks, according to a new poll by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA).

On the supply side, Hurricane Harvey disrupted natural gas production and impacted operations of several pipelines. Even before Irma made landfall in the continental U.S., nuclear power plants across Florida began to shut down.

During and after the hurricanes, damages to infrastructure were catastrophic, with millions expected to be without power for weeks. The U.S. Department of Energy has already announced $50 million in grants to support research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the nation’s critical energy infrastructure.

“With millions of Americans in the dark from Texas to Florida, the U.S. government and the American people acknowledge a need to do more to secure America’s energy grid,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “One way to address potential supply challenges is to utilize a mix of different fuels, including coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewables. Diversity in the energy market minimizes disruptions when any one fuel source is challenged. At the same time, we need to invest in our infrastructure and support the advanced technologies that make all energy sources as efficient as possible.”

The poll was conducted September 7-11, 2017, of 1,975 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-2 percent.

See the press release here.

Pennsylvania Coal Production Up by 20 Percent from 2016

Via Trib Live:

Pennsylvania continues to mine about a fifth more coal this year than it did last year, according to the Energy Information Administration’s weekly coal production report.

For the week that ended Sept. 9, the state’s bituminous coal production for the year was up 20.4 percent from the same period last year, maintaining the gain it held throughout August.

Bituminous coal production since January was 35.1 million short tons compared to 29.2 million tons produced by Sept. 9, 2016, according to the agency’s data.

Year-to-date production in the Eastern Pennsylvania anthracite fields also held steady at a 9.1 percent gain from the 2016 totals. The region had mined 1.2 million tons as of Sept. 9 compared to 1.1 million in 2016.

National coal production for the year was 548 million short tons as of last week, a 13.5 percent increase from the same period in 2016.

See the article here. 

Quinn: ‘Coal is Rebounding’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

BLUEFIELD — The 22nd biennial Bluefield Coal Show at the Brushfork Armory officially kicked off with optimism this morning, welcoming 195 exhibitors to the “coal show for coal people” and to a renewed growth in the market.

“We have worked to make it a good show every year of the show,” said Charlie Peters, who has been general chairman of the event since its start in 1976.

Peters spoke at the traditional Media Appreciation Breakfast, held immediately before the ribbon-cutting to open the show.

Special guest speaker Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said the industry has been subject to “disabling” federal policies over the last eight years, but that has changed with a new administration in Washington.

“Recent federal policies under the last administration … with the regulatory burden penalized the coal industry and consumers,” he said. “Driving coal out of the market had little to do with emissions.”

All of the excessive regulations are now being reviewed and that has allowed optimism in the industry and the market place, he said.

“Coal is rebounding,” he said, citing statistics that show in an increase in the tonnage being produced and shipped overseas.

“It is providing some much needed stability that would have remained out of reach without some changes in Washington,” he said.

After the breakfast, Quinn participated in the ribbon-cutting in front of the armory to officially open the show as exhibitor after exhibitor lined the inside of the armory and the area outside the armory.

“This is a great show for the coal industry,” Quinn said.

See the article here.

EIA: Coal Production Increases Will Continue Through 2018

Via Utility Dive:

Dive Brief:

  • Coal production is up and will continue to rise through next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest Short Term Energy Outlook.
  • Coal production for August was the first month since October 2015 where production topped 70 million short tons (MMst).

Dive Insight:

EIA’s monthly outlook is a mixed bag, showing growing gas and coal production as well as rapidly increasing renewables capacity. Coal is expected to remain the top generating source through the end of next year, in part due to rising gas prices, but after that its share may decline.

The agency expects the share of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas to fall from an average of 34% in 2016 to about 31% this year. During the same period, coal’s forecast generation share rises from 30% to 31% in 2017. Looking ahead, EIA says projected generation shares for natural gas and coal in 2018 average 31% and 32%, respectively.

It’s positive news for coal, particularly along with production data.

Coal production for August 2017 was estimated to have been 74 MMst, or about 8% higher than August 2016. Production for the first eight months of this year was 14% higher than the same period last year, EIA said, and full-year production is expected to increase by 8% in 2017 and by 2% in 2018.

See the full article here.

Forest Service Backs Expansion of Colorado Coal Mine

Via The Olympian:

The U.S. Forest Service is backing the expansion of Colorado’s largest coal mine over the objections of environmentalists.

The Daily Sentinel reports that Forest Supervisor Scott Armentrout announced Thursday that that the benefits of expanding the West Elk Mine near Somerset outweighed the potential environmental threat.

The mine got initial consent to expand under a 2012 state-federal compromise for managing roadless areas but environmentalists sued, saying officials didn’t take the full environmental impact, including climate change, into account. A federal judge threw out the consent but the Forest Service took a first step toward re-allowing the expansion last year under the Obama administration by proposing that Arch Coal be allowed to build roads to facilitate the expansion.

The Forest Service will accept comments on its latest decision for 45 days.

See the article here.

America’s Electricity Supply — Better Safe than Sorry

Via Fosters.com:

Few things are more essential to the way we live than electricity. And yet few are more often overlooked than the electricity grid that supplies it. Most of us simply assume that the power needed to keep our AC going and the lights on will always be there, and at an affordable price. That may be true for now, but it may not be in the very near future.

For one thing, market forces and government regulations have combined to shrink the number of electricity-generating power plants. Nuclear energy that supplies a fifth of our electricity is struggling. Nuclear plants are financially distressed. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have stymied new construction.

Coal power plants that just a decade ago provided more than half of the nation’s electricity now generate just a third. Government regulations and booming natural gas have decimated the coal fleet.

Meanwhile, environmental activists strongly oppose building either nuclear or coal plants, believing that wind and solar power can fill the gap. But replacing the 50 percent of electricity now supplied by coal and nuclear energy won’t be easy when wind and solar power meet less than 7 percent of our current demand.

That leaves natural gas to fill the gap. Optimists reassuringly point to our enormous supplies of natural gas. Experts who just a decade ago thought we would be helplessly reliant on imported gas now fret about a glut. Thanks to fracking technology that unlocked shale gas, the U.S. will become a net energy exporter next year if not before.

And that has some experts very concerned: won’t exporting natural gas, the fuel we’re relying on more than ever, raise its price here? It will if markets respond normally. That’s because exports offer producers a new, higher-value market. Last year, U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) found its way to more than 20 different nations and the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects U.S. LNG export capacity to grow sevenfold by 2019.

Natural gas producers see a rosy future. The CEO of oil and natural gas giant Continental Resources predicts U.S. natural gas exports could reach 30 billion cubic feet per day, equivalent to exporting 40 percent of current production.

That could potentially leave U.S. consumers, especially those who are heavily reliant on natural gas for their electricity and heat, with bigger utility bills and more volatile gas prices. A 2015 study for the Department of Energy concluded that “greater LNG exports raise domestic prices and lower prices internationally.”

Costlier electricity at home becomes even likelier if coal and nuclear power are no longer available to fill the gap. The U.S. Department of Energy is so concerned it has launched a study to examine the reliability of the nation’s power grid. Its report is expected soon.

With natural gas exports surging and the EV revolution now here, the safest course is to keep our coal and nuclear plants operating. It’s a recommendation the Energy Department would be wise to make.

We are better at preparing for the future than we are guessing what it will be. But we know we will be surprised. Let’s at least lower the risk that surprises may bring.

See the article here.

Coal Critical to Power Future in Illinois

Via The Illinois Times:

Electricity is easy to take for granted. But imagine the disruption to our lives if we could not charge our iPhones that connect us to the rest of the world or flip a light switch with the guarantee that power was at our beck and call.

Power reliability, however, has been top of mind for Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry, who recently called for a report on the reliability of America’s electric grid. Because of changes brought about by federal and state policies, Secretary Perry is concerned about the health of the electricity grid. Scheduled to be published in the coming days, this report is expected to highlight the challenges that face our electricity grid, as well as provide suggestions for policymakers like me who are working to ensure that recent changes to the grid do not jeopardize reliable power in the future.

One major challenge to grid reliability already seems clear. The U.S. coal-fired electric generating power plant fleet has gradually been eroded in recent years by new regulations and other factors. Today, a third of America’s coal fleet has either retired or has announced plans to shut down, due in large part to aggressive federal rules aimed at reducing coal’s use. In our state alone, 22 coal-fired electric generating units have already shut down or announced plans to close. Illinois isn’t alone. Other states are experiencing the same disturbing developments.

Historically, the U.S. electricity grid has relied on a diverse mix of electricity sources – coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewables. This strategy relies heavily on baseload sources, like coal-fired power plants, that are capable of producing power virtually around the clock. As a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, I recognize the value of coal to our state’s energy mix and support its continued use. Today, coal provides almost one-third of our state’s electricity, helping to keep Illinois’ electricity prices more than 10 percent below the national average.

Grid operators like PJM Interconnection, which serves the Chicago area, point out that depletions to our coal fleet make the electric grid less resilient. This means the grid we all count on is less capable of withstanding events like the Polar Vortex of 2014 and natural gas infrastructure outages. On the other hand, coal-fired power plants, with their stockpile of 85 days’ worth of fuel, have dependable supplies of fuel at the ready. This distinguishes coal from other sources of electricity, like natural gas power plants, which rely on pipelines to deliver their fuel on an as-needed basis. Having robust coal supplies onsite has proven critical to protecting the reliability of the grid in recent years. In fact, coal has been one of the few energy sources capable of delivering uninterrupted power when states like Illinois have been impacted by extreme winter weather events.

In the same way that diversifying an investment portfolio reduces risk, relying on a diverse mix of electricity sources that include coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables makes the grid more stable and dependable. As policymakers make decisions about electricity sources, it is important they keep in mind the importance of the coal fleet to Illinois and the U.S.

State Rep. John M. Cabello is a Republican from Machesney Park.

See the article here.

Column: Include Coal in Energy Mix

Via The Detroit News:

Michigan will continue to need electricity produced at coal plants in the years ahead for a number of reasons. One is that while renewable energy is making large advances, it will still require coal-fired plants due to the intermittent generation of wind and solar power. Another is that nuclear energy will be a smaller source of power in the state. Finally, natural gas prices can fluctuate sufficiently that the movement to natural gas plants could be reversed at some time.

Solar and wind power are increasingly competitive with fossil fuels due to advances in technology. As an example, the price of solar panel installation has fallen by over 60 percent since 2008, from $8.82 per watt to $3.36 per watt. Solar panel efficiency has been increasing at a remarkable rate. The U.S. Department of Energy’s goal is to reduce the price of solar power to 6 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020. Moreover, Improvements in the structure of the electric utility industry in Michigan are possible that will increase the incentives for innovation and improve the renewable energy market.

However, there will still be a need for coal-fired power plants. The fact that wind and solar power are intermittent means that, for the near future at least, peak-load generating capacity from fossil-fuels must be there to meet the difference between electricity demand and generation from non-fossil fuel sources.

While the percentage of power generated by coal has declined in Michigan, coal plants still account for more than a third of the state’s energy. And it is quite possible that electricity being wholesaled into Michigan will continue to come from coal-fired generators.

Nuclear power is not likely to replace coal. Last year 28 percent of the state’s net electricity generation was from Michigan’s three nuclear power plants. But Consumer’s Energy faces the loss of 10-20 percent of its electricity due to the scheduled shutdown of the Palisades nuclear plant next year. The Michigan Public Service Commission is asking Consumers where this power is going to come from. It is likely that at least a noticeable portion will come from coal.

One of the primary reasons for the decline in coal-fired generation has been the availability of low-cost natural gas resulting from advances in horizontal drilling and fracking. Natural gas prices have fallen substantially over the past years. However, natural gas prices have recently been on the rise, up more than 50 percent in the past 14 months.

This could be the beginning of price volatility in natural gas due to increase in demand and reductions in supply. U.S. exports of liquified natural gas have been rising exponentially. Exports have increased to 253,874 million cubic feet in May of this year from 17,776 million cubic feet in January of 2000. The dramatic increase in LNG exports has been good for the U.S. economy, and it’s been important for geopolitical reasons. It has enabled Ukraine, Poland and other countries that rely heavily on Russia for natural gas to break its grip on their economies.

Additional increases in demand for natural gas are coming from the manufacturing sector. Other factors, such as growth in the use of electric vehicles could also increase demand for electricity generation and put upward pressure on prices.

Meanwhile, natural gas production declined in 2016 from what it had been in 2015. This was the first time since 2005 that natural gas production fell from one year to the next. At the same time, some states have imposed regulations on fracking that will further reduce production. So it is conceivable that natural gas prices could be increasing over the next few years increasing the economic feasibility of coal-fired degeneration.

Our nation’s transition to renewable energy is probably inevitable — technology, cost, and consumer preferences are driving us there. However, in the meantime, we still need our lights to come on and assembly lines to run, and coal will continue to be part of our energy mix.

See the article here.

Montana Coal Mine Production Up 2 Million Tons

Via the Billings Gazette:

Montana coal production is more than 2 million tons ahead of where it was this time last year, although analysts say the future is far from bright for the fossil fuel.

Most of the production is coal mined from Spring Creek, a Cloud Peak Energy mine in southeast Montana. The Montana Coal Council compiles the production numbers.

“Certainly what we’ve seen is an increase in our sales to our Asia customers primarily in South Korea and Japan,” said Rick Curtsinger, Cloud Peak Energy spokesman. “Last year by the end of the second quarter, we had shipped 200,000 tons of coal to our Asia customers. This year as of June 30, we shipped 1.8 million tons to customers in South Korea and Japan.”

Coal production is running away from a historically bad 2016 — the nation’s lowest coal production year since 1978. But the first seven months of 2017 still trails 2015 production by about 6 million tons. Montana mines produced 20.7 million tons through June two years ago.
Montana mines produced 3.36 million tons of coal in July. Almost half of the production increase came from Spring Creek Mine, said Bud Clinch, Montana Coal Council director. Nearby Decker Mine, owned by Lighthouse Resources, was the second-largest contributor. Decker production was up 155,000 tons.

“I think both Decker and Cloud Peak are because of export markets. They both have capacity at Westshore Terminal and demand is stronger,” Clinch said.

Westshore Terminal is a British Columbia coal port off the shore of Vancouver. It’s where most of Montana’s export coal is shipped.

In late 2015, with prices driven down by a glut of coal in the Asia Pacific market, Montana mines suspended exports entirely. Cloud Peak agreed to pay Westshore to reserve space, rather than ship coal at prices that wouldn’t cover the cost of delivery.

Those sluggish prices suppressed coal exports into 2016, when production was in a downward spiral until late in the year when supply tightened again and the market improved. In 2017, the growth has been steady.

“We’ve been up every month for the last five months,” Clinch said.

The only way for coal production to go from 2016 was up, said Tom Sanzillo, analyst for Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Last year was a bruising one for coal, with cheap natural gas outcompeting coal to become the dominant power source in the United States for the first time ever.

The number of coal-fired power plants because of age, non-compliance with pollution standards or both also increased.

Natural gas hasn’t gone away and the United States isn’t building new coal-fired power plants, Sanzillo said.

In the Asian Pacific, the same forces that clobbered Powder River Basin coal exports in 2016 still exist, which means coal market improvements aren’t likely to last. Cloud Peak is doing better, but the trend is still downward, Sanzillo said.

“I think they had a reasonably good half year,” he said. “A company that lost 30 percent of its market in the last couple years and gains back two points is technically doing better.”

But coal prices haven’t really returned to the heyday of 2010 and 2012, when United States mines saw good prices and potential in the Asian Pacific.

Companies have cut costs and found a way to do business with lower coal market prices, Sanzillo said. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis favors an energy future with less coal-fired power and more development of cleaner, renewable energy sources.

Curtsinger points to a recent report by SNL Analytics that indicates that plans for more coal-fired power plants in South Korea and Japan could boost demand for coal. Coal politics abroad are no less active than in the United States, SNL points out. There is political pressure to cut back on the plans to build new power plants in South Korea over the next decade.

There’s also no guarantee that South Korea and Japan will use U.S. coal to meet their needs. Just like in 2016, prices could fall and these coal buyers could be shopping elsewhere.

See the article here.

Abandoning Coal Could Mean Blackouts for U.S. Power Grid

Via Lifezette: 

There’s plenty of talk these days among energy advocates and environmentalists about the need for natural gas to replace coal as the workhorse producer for America’s daily electricity needs. And coal has undoubtedly been on the ropes in recent years, with both expanded natural gas production and a host of federal regulations cutting coal plants and closing mines. But is the quest to end coal power a sound idea? And can natural gas really supplant coal in providing nationwide base load power generation?

For years, coal produced roughly half of America’s electricity. And it wasn’t until the start of the Obama Administration that the fracking revolution began to unleash more abundant and lower-priced natural gas.

But in tandem with increased natural gas production, President Obama issued a grab bag of federal regulations that greatly hampered coal production. A stringent rule on mercury emissions in 2012 imposed $10 billion in costs, while eliminating roughly 20 percent of America’s coal fleet. A subsequent “Clean Power Plan” in 2015 aimed at ending “carbon pollution” targeted another 25 percent of America’s coal plants. A bureaucratically complex stream rule issued in late 2016 threatened half of America’s coal reserves. And a three-year moratorium on federal coal leases further reduced the nation’s coal supply.
It’s no wonder that coal’s share of nationwide electricity generation has fallen to roughly one-third of overall power production. But alongside this solid 30 percent, natural gas now supplies another one-third of total electricity, and nuclear power a further 20 percent.
What’s particularly relevant here is the concept of “base load power.” The United States is a high-energy nation, and it depends on robust power plants to continuously meet minimum daily electricity needs. By and large, these demands are met by a sturdy coal and nuclear fleet.

Why are coal and nuclear so particularly suited to meeting base load power requirements? For one thing, both can run continually, day in and day out, to keep churning out megawatt after megawatt. Part of this ability comes from a built-in benefit of maintaining steady, on-site fuel supplies. A typical coal plant, for example, will stock up on a month’s worth of coal at a time — making it a self-contained bunker of ongoing electricity production. Nuclear is likewise self-sufficient — though admittedly more expensive than coal.

The modern U.S. coal plant is also notably cleaner than its predecessors of 30 and 40 years ago. Equipped with expensive, high-tech scrubbing mechanisms and emissions controls, newer coal-fired facilities can trap almost all of the sulfur, mercury, and particulate matter that once plagued the early cities of the Industrial Revolution.

There’s still the issue of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, though, and concerns about man-made global warming. Encouragingly, newer HELE (high-efficiency, low-emission) coal plants run at higher temperatures and pressures, generating more power and emitting less CO2 per gigawatt generated. It would be nice to see China and India — two countries currently racing to build new coal plants — adopting similar, advanced technologies.

Global warming critics have been quick to demonize coal while enthusiastically urging a brave jump into wind and solar power. Here again, however, base load power matters greatly. Both wind and solar yield only intermittent electricity (because the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine). And in such cases, grid operators can thankfully call on coal and nuclear plants to ramp up at a moment’s notice to supply fill-in power. And so, without such gap-filling assistance from coal and nuclear, the “renewable” adventure of wind and solar would inevitably lead to power shortages and blackouts in heavily taxed grids.
And this brings us to natural gas’s emerging role as the presumed steppingstone to a “low-carbon” future. Because natural gas produces less CO2 than coal, environmental advocates see it as the bridge to a “clean energy” infrastructure.

But natural gas has been prioritized for home heating in the United States. And while its share of electricity generation has risen from 17 percent in 2001 to 34 percent in 2016, there are some notable constraints against its mass-adoption.

First, in order to make natural gas the ubiquitous power producer that some envision, the United States would need to build a massive new set of pipeline and delivery systems to accommodate additional power plants. The costs of such investment alone are daunting. But unlike coal supplies delivered by rail, natural gas also remains a high-pressure commodity. The vulnerability of new pipeline systems to extreme weather events, or to malicious attack, means that any service disruptions could interrupt power delivery across wide swaths of the nation.
Natural gas also remains captive to an intricate arrangement of market sales. Grid operators continually hedge their bets in the gas market, splitting their purchases between firm and “interruptible” gas supplies. This can lead to question marks as to whether they have sufficient gas supplies coming in each day to keep power plants running. Typically, natural gas serves as a fill-in producer, supplying extra electricity as needed during peak demand. But such spotty availability would need to be fundamentally revised before the nation could shift away from coal and nuclear power production.
Overall, natural gas now serves as one of a trio of bedrock power producers for America’s electric grid. And while natural gas prices have grown more volatile in recent years — and could rise significantly as the U.S. begins to export more supplies to Europe — it supports a diversity of energy production that makes the United States an enviably affluent, safe, first-world nation.
Any rush to completely eliminate coal power and embrace natural gas as the bridge toward a renewable energy future, though, could bump into formidable obstacles. It’s admirable to aim for a cleaner energy sector, but real-world problems need to be patiently sorted out, if America is to make such a leap.
See the article here.

Study Documents Coal’s Value for Baseload Power

The National Mining Association (NMA) today hailed a new report documenting the value of coal for ensuring the reliability and resiliency of the national power grid.

The report, “The Contribution of the Coal Fleet to America’s Electricity Grid,” was prepared by PA Consulting Group for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), and documents the attributes of coal that are essential for baseload power reliability. Qualities including dispatchability, on-site fuel, voltage control and contingency reserves, concludes the report, serve the grid as a valuable hedge against weather events, price surges from energy sources and other disruptions that reduce associated risks.

The report, released yesterday, also found that over the past five years, coal-fueled power plants stockpiled an average of 82 days of bituminous coal and 73 days of subbituminous coal on site, eliminating the need for pipelines and transmission grids to deliver fuel when needed. As a result of the added security coal offers, the study advised that “retaining existing coal-fueled power plants can help insulate ratepayers against rising and possibly volatile natural gas prices.”

The report holds value for policymakers, as it underscores the Department of Energy’s concerns about grid reliability following the substantial retirements of coal based power plants and the reduced fuel diversity now available for electricity generation.

See the press release here.

VP Pence Tells State Chamber ‘War on Coal is Over’

Via The Herald-Dispatch:

Vice President Mike Pence came to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 81st Annual Meeting and Business Summit at The Greenbrier and declared, “The war on coal is over.”

Pence says President Donald Trump has rolled back many federal regulations that hurt West Virginia’s coal industry.

“President Trump has signed more laws to cut through federal red tape than any president in American history,” Pence said Wednesday. “He ordered every federal agency to find two regulations to get rid of before passing any new regulations. To fuel the great revival of American industry, President Trump has been unleashing American energy. We are already seeing results. Coal is up 19 percent over last year.”

Pence added that American businesses have created 1 million jobs since January and unemployment rates are at their lowest levels in 16 years.

“We had 3 percent growth in the second quarter, which will mean 12 million new jobs,” he said.

Pence said on Wednesday that the president has also called on Congress to fundamentally reform the nation’s tax code for the first time in more than 30 years by passing a historic tax cut.

“The president said these tax cuts are pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker and pro-American,” the vice president said.

Pence said when you cut taxes you spark growth, increase incomes and create a thriving middle class.

“John F. Kennedy proved it, Ronald Reagan proved it and President Donald Trump will prove it once again,” he said. “The bigger the cut, the bigger the growth.”

Pence says the current tax code is stuck in the past.

“It burdens American families and actually hinders economic growth,” he said. “The current tax code is 10 times the length of the Bible, but with none of the good news.”

Pence says the current tax code is too complex and costs Americans too much.

“Today taxpayers spend over 6 billion hours a year doing their taxes,” Pence said. “More than 90 percent of small businesses have to pay someone to do their taxes for them. It’s nearly impossible to do it on your own. It shouldn’t take a lawyer or an accountant to figure out how much tax you owe the federal government.”

Pence says the tax code costs the American economy $262 billion each year.

“That’s $1,000 for every man, woman and child in America,” he said. “Tax rates have been rising, too, especially on job creators. As you well know, American businesses face a staggering 39 percent, the third highest in the industrialized world … roughly 60 percent higher than our competitors around the planet.”

Pence said Trump’s tax plan is based on four principles.

Pence said Americans have always known how to spend their money better than some bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., so the plan would start by cutting marginal rates.

“We want to give working families the opportunity to keep more of their hard-earned dollars,” he said. “We are going to simplify the tax code so Americans can file their taxes by themselves on a single sheet of paper. We are going to make the tax code flatter and fairer for everyone.”

Pence says the president’s plan also calls for a cut in the corporate tax rate.

“So American companies can compete against anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world,” he said. “This will spur American investment for many years to come. Tax cuts mean more jobs and a raise for American workers. President Trump’s tax cut plan will usher in a new era of growth for America.”

Pence called on West Virginia’s senators and congressmen to support the plan.

“America needs this and West Virginia needs this,” he said.

See the article here.

Coal Uptick Boosting Show

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

The number of exhibitors for the upcoming Bluefield Coal Show continues to grow, and an increase in coal production is cited as providing a positive impetus.

Charles A. Peters, longtime chairman of the show, said the number has climbed to more than 190.

“We are happy to share that exhibitors continue to call and reserve space in the show,” he said.

The biennial coal show, hosted by the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, is set for Sept. 13-15 at the Brushfork Armory.

Joshua Cline, president and CEO of the chamber, said that the uptick in production helps make it a good time to have a coal show.

“We feel it’s important that companies come and showcase at the 2017 Bluefield Coal Show due to the rebound in the industry at this time,” he said.

Cline said that, according to coalzoom.com, weekly coal production has increased by 14.5 percent nationwide over last year with bigger bumps in West Virginia (19.8 percent), Pennsylvania (19.7 percent) and Wyoming (19.8 percent).

Exports were up 58 percent during the first quarter from last year.

Jason Bostic, with the West Virginia Coal Association, said there are two main reasons for the increase in production.

“I think it’s the improving market conditions for metallurgical coal (used in steel-making) as the economy comes out of the depression it has been in,” he said.

The other reason is the easing of environmental regulations coming out of Washington, creating a more positive environment for production.

But it’s not just metallurgical coal, he said. It’s also thermal coal, which is used to fire power plants.

“It (the uptick) is for all coal,” he said. “There has been a greatly improved amount of steam (thermal) coal leaving our shores, but it’s domestic as well.”

Bostic said as the nation’s economy “wakes up” there is an increasing demand for electricity.

“And I think we have a regulatory environment that allows us to take advantage of this,” he said, referring to the Trump Administration’s moves to reign what it terms as excessive environmental regulations from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Some of those regulations have been aimed at emission standards at coal-fired plants.

Another part of Trump’s agenda is to invest in the nation’s infrastructure.

If that plan goes through, it could be a “godsend to extreme Southern West Virginia,” Bostic said, because part of that package is the requirement of all steel used in the infrastructure to be made in the United States using domestic coal.

This region is known for its high-quality Metallurgical coal.

The West Virginia Legislature has also helped in recent years as well, he said, pointing out that legislators have made changes over the last three years on environmental and mine safety regulations.

“Those changes have lifted otherwise pointless costs off the industry so we have a better chance of competing in the market,” he said.

Bostic said in the aftermath of previous problems that would pop up on occasion in the mining industry in the state, new regulations were written.

“After every single crisis in mining or a specific problem, instead of dealing with it on a case-by-case bases, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wrote a whole new set of regulations for that one incident,” he said, adding that the result was a layering of regulations that were too restrictive and costly to the industry, and they were regulations that did not exist in any other state.

“We call it West Virginia only standards,” he said, and that is a problem legislators have been working to fix.

All of this adds up to positive news for the industry.

“Now, more than ever, the industry must come together and businesses must support one another in this industry and region as we settle into the new economy,” Cline said.

Cline also said that Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, will be the guest speaker at the Media Appreciation Breakfast on Sept. 13 at the armory and provide a further analysis of the industry.

See the article here.

Coal is On the Upswing

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

Few analysts think coal will ever return to the dominant position it once held in the nation’s power generation and world energy market, but one industry player believes all indications are the coal industry has turned the corner and will continue to attain a position of strength going forward.

“It’s coming back. We’re off the canvas, that’s the way I’d put it,” said Luke Popovich Vice-President for External Communications with the National Mining Association during Monday’s MetroNews Talkline. “We were on the canvas a couple of years ago. Now we’re of the canvas, standing upright, and punching back. There is clearly a sense of encouragement in the air and greater confidence than we’ve had in years.”

A recent Department of Energy report concluded coal’s biggest demise in recent years was the revolutionary production levels of natural gas, but also acknowledged the regulatory environment hit coal at the same time and staggered the industry. Popovich viewed the DOE’s report as accurate and a fair portrayal of what has happened. But, he said almost everyone who looks at the nation’s energy market today believes natural gas is poised for a price surge, which would greatly strengthen coal’s position, especially in the domestic market.

“No one’s expecting coal to come back to 51 percent of the market or anything close to that,” he said. “But we’ve got a big supply chain we’re still able to support. We’re still very important to the grid. We’re still a third of the electricity generation in this country.”

Liquefied Natural Gas is gaining market share overseas. Construction of four new terminals to handle LNG in the United States, which is presently distributed through one terminal, has Popovich and other industry officials confident the demand for natural gas outside the U.S. borders will greatly rise in the next two years.

“If investment follows and these four LNG terminals are built, we can expect to see a lot more gas going off shore,” said Popovich. “Presumably, that would have an impact on supply and demand here in the United States and give coal even more headroom in the future.”

Coal exports have jumped in recent months, ironically to some European nations which had shunned coal in recent years.

“Even in countries who were turning their nose up at us for burning coal,” said Popovich. “Particularly in China and India, we’re seeing more coal, steam and metallurgical, for building out grids and providing electricity.”

Subsidies for alternative energy are also a stumbling block for coal and other forms of energy according to Popovich. Despite those, he said looking forward, coal is more stable and poised for growth in the next few years for a couple of reasons.

“We don’t have a government that’s seeking our destruction through regulation,” he said. “Number two, I don’t see and I don’t think most analysts see gas prices staying as low as they have been.”

The forecast appeared to have coal pulling even with Natural Gas by next year or possibly slightly outperforming gas in the domestic energy makeup.

See the article here.

Old King Coal May Rightly Be Merry Again

Via The Wall Street Journal:

It is refreshing to see an assessment (“Coal Makes a Comeback,” Review & Outlook, Aug. 17) recognizing that policy matters greatly, especially when it distorts energy markets. The Obama administration rules on mercury emissions from power plants, for example, had little to do with mercury, and everything to do with shortening the economic life of reliable-baseload coal power plants. Most of the costs—almost $10 billion annually—related to emissions the Environmental Protection Agency admitted posed no harm to public health.

The Trump administration’s prompt attention to reset the regulatory framework for coal has indeed instilled confidence that will allow the industry to perform to its true potential. Those who continue to deny the impact of regulatory policy ignore data from the Energy Information Administration showing that dismantling the Clean Power Plan will preserve 240 million tons of annual coal production. This also means saving tens of thousands of high-wage jobs at coal mines and throughout the coal value supply chain.

Coal serves a major role in ensuring our nation’s energy security through a lower cost, more diverse and reliable electricity supply. The prospects of achieving American energy security are dim without fully leveraging the nation’s largest single energy resource—coal. They are nonexistent when politically motivated policies are used to obstruct energy supplies.

See the article here.

Coal’s Comeback

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

The anti-coal movement and its advocates in the previous administration in Washington tried their best to snuff out the industry and, in the process, ruin the livelihoods of miners and destroy communities.  President Obama’s executive orders and his EPA’s regulatory stranglehold nearly brought coal to its knees.

When confronted with allegations of their “war on coal,” the response was that market conditions and competition from abundant, clean burning natural gas were actually the reasons. Clearly, the gas boom has been a huge factor, but a funny thing has happened since Obama left office and the regulatory boot has been lifted off of coal’s throat—it’s coming back.

The National Mining Association reports, “From the 2nd quarter of 2016 to the same period this year, coal production rose almost 17 percent.” The biggest jump has been in the production of steel-making metallurgical coal from Central Appalachia, where 57 mines have opened (or reopened) in the last fiscal year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that coal will move slightly back ahead of natural gas this year as the leading energy source for electricity generation (coal 32%, natural gas 31%).

Coal exports are on the rise, up 60% for the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to EIA.  European leaders may publicly denounce the Trump administration for pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, but down at the loading docks massive amounts of coal are coming onshore.

“Exports (of U.S. coal) to France increased 214% during the first quarter of this year amid a nuclear power plant outage,” reports the Wall Street Journal.  “Other European countries like Germany and the U.K. are utilizing U.S. coal to stabilize unreliable renewables and make up for electric capacity lost from the shutdown of nuclear plants.”

Coal mining makes up the largest share of West Virginia’s severance tax collections and the boomlet is easing pressure on the state’s finances. Coal severance collections for the state rose from $191 million in FY 2016 to $211 million in FY 2017.  This fiscal year should be even better.  Add in the resurgent natural gas industry and the state’s budget challenges become more manageable.

More importantly, the increased demand for coal means more miners are getting paychecks.  Additionally they can again feel proud of their work and have some optimism about the future rather than serving as props for the greens who assuage their conscience with a “hate-the-coal-but-love-the-miner” doctrine.

Coal will never return to its once dominant energy position in this country, but no one expects that. The reasonable argument has always been to tamp down the overzealous anti-carbon crowd and let coal, gas, renewables and other sources compete on a level playing field to meet the country’s critical energy needs.

As the Wall Street Journal opined, “The bigger story is that there’s still demand for U.S. coal if regulators allow the energy markets to work.”

With apologies to Mark Twain, rumors of coal’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

See the article here.

NMA Applauds Energy Department’s Assessment of the Electric Grid’s Resilience

The National Mining Association’s (NMA) president and CEO Hal Quinn comments on today’s release of the Department of Energy’s “Staff Report on Electricity Markets and Reliability” that assesses the resilience of the nation’s electric grid:

“The National Mining Association applauds the department for its timely analysis of the nation’s power grid and the recommendations it proposes for ensuring its continued strength through a combination of energy sources. We commend Secretary Perry for his leadership in beginning this important but long overdue conversation about the future reliability and resilience of our electric power system.

“Among other findings, the report notes that ‘regulations and mandates’, in addition to market forces, have accelerated the closure of a substantial number of baseload power plants. More than 68,000 Megawatts of coal-based power have been retired as of this summer.

“As the report notes, many states and regions bear an increased risk from the destruction of traditional base load power and the resulting diminution of grid resilience. States facing the greatest risk are heavily industrialized states in the Midwest. Unless adjustments are made, the report warns that potential harm to the grid may impact its resilience in the face of disruptive events.”

See the press release here.

DOE Study: Coal, Gas, Nuclear Critical to Power Grid ‘Resiliency’

Via Cleveland.com:

The U.S. Department of Energy is recommending new federal market policies be created to recognize that old coal and nuclear power plants as well as new gas plants are critical to the stability — and resiliency — of the nation’s electric grid.

The DOE is recommending the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission work with grid managers such PJM Interconnection, which controls the high voltage grid in 13 states including Ohio, create new market policies that give credit to the stability it has determined that old coal and nuclear plants provide for the grid.

FERC has already begun such a review and has been deluged with thousands of pages of recommendations from not only the industry but environmental groups as well.

Requested by President Donald Trump in April, the study notes that many old coal plants and some nuclear plants have been closing, not only because of the environmental policies of the previous administration but also because existing competitive markets favor the lowest priced power.

The DOE’s staff, with an assist from scientists and engineers in federal laboratories, took four months to pull together a massive review (187 pages) of  the impact of current market policies and new technologies such as wind and solar power have had on the nation’s electric grid.

The main conclusion, buttressed by a new focus on grid resiliency, or the ability keep operating despite unanticipated catastrophes, is that old “baseload” coal and nuclear power plants are crucial and must be kept operating.

That finding is certain to draw the attention of the wind industry, which has previously announced that during the “polar vortex” of January 2014, its wind farms kept operating while many coal, gas and some nuclear plants were forced to shut down.

The DOE’s conclusion also mirrors the complaints of utilities such as FirstEnergy, heavy with coal and nuclear power plants, which have trouble competing against gas and wind.

Finally, the study also pays homage to President Trump’s executive order that environmental rules be relaxed in an “all of the above” energy approach to make the nation energy independent, not really an issue in power production. The study does not directly mention “climate change,” even as a threat to grid stability.

The DOE’s conclusions will probably not do much to brighten the immediate outlook of coal mining companies whose businesses have been wrecked by the closing of hundreds of coal plants. Those old plants cannot be restarted.

Released late Wednesday night, the study immediately drew praise from industry associations and sparked criticism from environmental groups, which have made strong arguments for renewable technologies, especially as their power prices have fallen.

This report is not worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Kim Smaczniak, an attorney with Earthjustice, a law firm that represents environmental groups across the country.

“Study after study – including an earlier draft of this very report – has set the record straight: states are forging ahead toward a clean energy future with rapid growth in renewables, and energy that remains reliable and affordable, while generating less pollution,” she said in an email.

“Rather than embrace the progress we’ve made and move full steam ahead with the transition to clean energy, the Trump Administration is burning tax payer dollars on a report on “baseload” power – an antiquated code word for coal and nuclear – to conjure up false attacks on clean energy.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute, the chief lobbying organization for the nuclear power industry, found the report just right.

“The U.S. Department of Energy’s electric grid study reaffirms our view that nuclear energy is a key and necessary contributor to a clean, reliable and resilient electric grid, which now is more important than ever,”said Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of NEI.

“Today electricity markets do not properly credit nuclear energy for the numerous benefits it delivers, forcing plants to close years before the end of their useful lives and compromising grid reliability and resiliency in the process,” she added.

And the Edison Electric Institute, an association representing investor-owned utilities, “commended” the DOE for its work.

“While we are still thoroughly reviewing the study, EEI has long advocated that our customers are best served by public policies that promote a balanced and diverse energy mix, which includes both traditional and renewable energy sources, and that also recognize the vital role 24/7 energy sources play in sustaining a secure, reliable, and resilient energy grid, said Tom Kuhn, the institute’s president in a statement.

“Whether to limit impacts from inevitable storms or natural events or to prepare for malicious cyber or physical attacks, supporting a resilient energy grid is an investment in national and economic security,” he added.

The Natural Resources Defense Council declared the study “schizophrenic.”

“DOE’s grid study reads like a schizophrenic attempt to support outdated, uncompetitive, and highly polluting power plants,” said NRDC attorney John Moore in an email. “DOE Secretary Perry appears determined to mold America’s transmission grid around support for fossil fuels, but the facts in his own report don’t back up that approach.

“The recommendations ignore renewable energy’s contributions to a reliable electricity system.

“They also include misguided proposals to gut environmental rules for coal and nuclear plants, and to pay fossil resources for reliability services that DOE hasn’t demonstrated are necessary. DOE and Secretary Perry should be focusing instead on accelerating the growth of clean energy rather than creating barriers.”

The Advanced Energy Economy, an association representing advanced, clean and renewable energy, found it significant that the report put blame for the demise of coal and nuclear on gas, rather than wind or solar. But it disagreed with the study that the old coal and nuclear plants are crucial.

“We are glad to see that DOE recognizes that changes in the grid are primarily the result of low-cost natural gas, not policies supporting renewable energy. But this report seriously overstates the challenges associated with new energy resources. It also implies that certain power plants now losing out in the marketplace make an irreplaceable contribution to reliability and resilience, which is not the case,” said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, in an emailed statement.

See the article here.

Coal is Making a Genuine Comeback

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Neither the dead nor the living read their obituaries.

And it looks like the U.S. coal industry isn’t reading its obituary — because it isn’t dead. As recent months have made clear, reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.

From the second quarter of 2016 to the same period this year, U.S. coal production rose almost 16 percent. And the number of new mines in Central Appalachia that produce metallurgical coal used in steelmaking rose from 155 to 212 in the year ending in June, according to Argus Coal.

Offshore demand for U.S. metallurgical coal has soared by 60 percent this year. In fact, the U.S. is exporting more of its world-leading supply of coal to every major region, including the EU, where shipments are up by more than a third over 2016.

Nuclear plants are struggling in the UK and in France, creating surprisingly strong demand for U.S. coal. And steam coal exports to Asia, where power grids are still growing, have doubled.

Here at home, coal is holding its own. The U.S. Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) recent short-term forecast projects coal to narrowly edge out natural gas for power generation this year, as it has most every year before 2016.

That year was an anomaly, when gas grabbed 34 percent of the market, pushing down coal’s share to 30 percent and fueling not only power plants but predictions of the coming coal collapse.

But the gas inventory glut that dampened gas prices last year is waning, leading EIA to project coal’s continuing recovery next year, narrowly winning the market share rivalry with gas in 2018. With each energy source claiming about a third of the market for electricity generation, nuclear power growth stagnant, and wind and solar power at under 10 percent of the market, America’s power grid still relies heavily on fossil fuel generation.

We can attribute part of the nascent coal revival to the unshackling of myriad regulations that drove coal plants into retirement and forced down production.

But Darwinian logic actually explains much of the revival. Producers that survived both the brutal stress test from shale gas and federal regulations have squeezed costs out of their operations.

This positioned the U.S. to become more than a swing supplier for offshore markets. EIA analyst Elias Johnson recently told Reuters that it’s possible “the U.S. will become more of a primary player in the global coal trade market.”

If exports are the key to coal’s longer-term revival, it may not be coal exports but the growing export of natural gas. That may lift energy prices enough to sustain coal’s rally and help consumers.

Hungry for better prices abroad, both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and piped gas to Mexico and Canada could affect the energy game — if not change it completely.

Even though LNG costs, including shipping and liquefaction, double the price of U.S. gas in Europe, the low cost of shale production makes our basins competitive with Russia’s. The cheap gas that tormented U.S. coal miners may soon be Gazprom’s headache instead.

A 2015 EIA report concluded that in every scenario “greater LNG exports raise domestic prices and lower prices internationally.” Already, analysts expect U.S. natural gas prices to climb steadily, and EIA sees $3.00 prices for a million BTUs rising to $3.29 next year.

That could be just the beginning.

While LNG potential has been restricted by infrastructure, it may not be for long. The sole American LNG terminal, Sabine Pass, may be joined by four others on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts by 2021 that already have permit approvals.

Last week Continental Resources’ CEO Harold Hamm told The Financial Times to expect gas exports to triple over the longer term, eventually taking 40 percent of current domestic production.

The bottom line, asks energy expert Robert Walton of Utility Dive, is “whether the shipping of natural gas to global markets will impact U.S. consumers?”

It’s a good question, with no certain answer.

What is certain is that keeping more coal plants in operation will reduce the risk to households and businesses.

See the article here.

Pennsylvania Coal Company to Open Second Mine Since Trump Took Office

Via Fox News:

The chief executive of Pennsylvania-based Corsa Coal Corp. said Sunday the company is opening a second coal mine since President Trump took office, declaring “the war on coal is over” and attributing the growth to the president’s economic policies.

“I think it’s a direct link,” company CEO George Dethlefsen told Fox News, pointing specifically to Trump’s efforts to deregulate the U.S. economy and a “very strong market” for steel.

“The steel industry is undergoing a real Renaissance,” he said.

Dethlefsen also said the Trump administration’s plans to improve the country’s infrastructure and tax code should further help the U.S. economy.

The first Corsa Coal mine to open since Trump took office in January is roughly 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and is expected to generate as many as 100 new jobs.

Renovations on the second mine, shuttered five years ago, will start next month with a projected reopening in early 2018.

Trump has made reversing the decades-long decline in coal mining the central tenet of his environmental policy — blaming federal regulations aimed at curbing planet-warming carbon emissions for job losses in the industry.

The revival of the industry was one of Trump’s main talking points while on the stump last year and helped him win over working-class voters in Pennsylvania’s coal country.

See the article here.

Coal Industry Says It’s Back, Lauds ‘Unshackling’ Of Obama-Era Regulations

Via The Daily Caller:

The coal industry is making a comeback, the National Mining Association says, in part because the Trump administration is “unshackling” the industry of “myriad regulations” from the Obama presidency.

“Attribute part of the nascent coal revival to the unshackling of myriad regulations that drove coal plants into retirement and production down sharply,” reads an NMA blog post published Wednesday.

The Trump administration has rolled back Obama-era environmental regulations. Coal exports abroad are up 60 percent over last year, and analysts expect the U.S. will burn more coal to generate electricity than natural gas.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board also says the industry is on its way back. “Not long ago liberals hailed the demise of coal as inevitable while the Obama Administration strangled the industry with regulation,” the board wrote in a Wednesday editorial. “But don’t look now, Tom Steyer, because coal is showing signs of a revival and breathing economic life into West Virginia.”

The Trump administration moved relatively quickly to rescind Obama administration regulations critics said hampered the coal industry. That includes rescinding the several major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations targeting coal power, including mercury rules and the Clean Power Plan.

But NMA says the coal industry itself has become leaner in the past few years. Major coal producers have emerged from bankruptcy in the past year after losing money hand over fist to low-cost natural gas.

“But it’s Darwinian logic that explains most of the revival,” reads the NMA blog post. “Producers that survived the brutal stress test from both shale gas and federal regulation squeezed costs out of their operations, positioning the U.S. to become more than a swing supplier to offshore markets.”

While repealing regulations helped, larger market shifts played a larger role, according to NMA.

“In fact, the U.S. is exporting more coal to every major region, including the EU, where shipments are up by more than a third over 2016,” reads NMA’s blog post. “Nuclear plants are struggling in the UK and in France, creating surprisingly strong demand for U.S. coal. Steam coal exports to Asia, where grids are still growing, have doubled.”

Earlier this year, Cloud Peak Energy CEO Colin Marshall predicted a record year for coal exports.

“There is already a revival in exports compared to this time last year, but that wasn’t due to Trump,” Marshall told Axios in April, attributing export growth to increasing demand in China and South Korea.

However, Trump may deserve some credit for rising exports to China, which has been relying more on U.S. coal for steel production after the country banned imports of North Korean coal.

China had been lax on enforcing the North Korean coal sanctions, but customs officials ordered North Korean cargo ships loaded with coal to turn around the day after Trump launched a missile strike against Syria’s Assad regime.

The coal export boon may be short-lived, according to analysts. The Energy Information Administration projects total coal exports this year will be 17 percent above 2016 levels, but projects exports to only grow one percent in 2018.

See the article here.

Coal Makes a Comeback

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Not long ago liberals hailed the demise of coal as inevitable while the Obama Administration strangled the industry with regulation. But don’t look now, Tom Steyer, because coal is showing signs of a revival and breathing economic life into West Virginia and other coal states.

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy proclaimed in 2015 that coal “is no longer marketable.” She planned to be the lead undertaker. The Obama Administration worked tirelessly to fulfill her mission and may have succeeded had Hillary Clinton become President. “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of work,” the 2016 Democratic nominee famously promised.

Yet the Trump Presidency seems to have lifted animal spirits and coal. Weekly coal production has increased by 14.5% nationwide over last year with even bigger bumps in West Virginia (19%), Pennsylvania (19.7%) and Wyoming (19.8%). Exports were up 58% during the first quarter from last year. Apparently coal can be marketable if regulators let it be.

The Obama Administration first targeted coal consumption with rules on mercury emissions and ash disposal that would have made it next to impossible to build a new coal-burning power plant. Then came the 2015 Clean Power Plan that would have forced the existing fleet of coal plants into early retirement.

Finally, the Obama anti-coal warriors sought to shut down coal’s export potential. Thick-seamed coal on federal land in the Powder River Basin overlying Wyoming and Montana is relatively clean-burning and inexpensive to mine. The Obama Interior Department suspended new coal leases on federal land last winter and then reassessed royalty payments—thereby reducing investment and profitability. In December came the coup de grâce: Interior’s stream rule usurping state authority over permitting.

President Trump has called a cease fire to his predecessor’s “war on coal.” In February he signed a resolution repealing the stream rule under the Congressional Review Act. The Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan in February 2016, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is dismantling the power rule as well as the ash and mercury rules. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has re-opened leases and rescinded the royalty revaluation.

Meanwhile, coal is becoming more competitive as a fuel source relative to natural gas, whose price has risen 63% since March 2016 amid an expanding market. The Energy Information Administration says the U.S. will be a net exporter of natural gas this yearGrowing pipeline networks have boosted gas exports to Mexico and are providing new domestic outlets for gas trapped in the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Pipeline export capacity to Mexico is expected to nearly double by 2019. Several interstate pipelines are under review to deliver gas to the Midwest, eastern Canada and Gulf Coast for export. Liquefied natural gas exports have increased six-fold in the last year, and five new terminal projects are expected to be completed within three years. While coal and natural gas compete as electric power fuels, they can both prosper if energy markets expand.

This is all horrifying to the climate-change lobby, but they might note that U.S. coal exports are rising to countries that claim climate-change virtue. Exports to France increased 214% during the first quarter of this year amid a nuclear power plant outage. Other European countries like Germany and the U.K. are utilizing U.S. coal to stabilize unreliable renewable sources and make up for electric capacity lost from the shutdown of nuclear plants. First-quarter coal exports were up 94% to Germany and 282% to the U.K. Et tu, Angela Merkel ?

Coking coal used to make steel is also currently a hot commodity, and its price can soar whenever a storm hits Australia and shuts down mines as one did this spring. Metallurgical exports to China rose 357% during the first quarter. As much as Mr. Trump denounces China’s overproduction of steel, U.S. coal miners are benefitting.

The bigger story is that there’s still demand for U.S. coal if regulators allow energy markets to work. The Energy Information Administration in June projected that U.S. coal power generation will increase by 13% by 2025 “as the existing fleet of coal-fired generators can be more fully utilized and fewer coal-fired generators are retired.” With the Obama Clean Power Plan, the EIA had forecast a 2% to 16% decline.

Coal production will likely never return to its heyday of decades ago. Recent bankruptcies that have made coal companies leaner and more competitive also mean that fewer workers are needed to produce the same output. But even the current modest rebound is helping coal states.

During the first quarter, West Virginia (3%) ranked second in the nation in GDP growth after Texas (3.9%), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. New Mexico, another heavy mining state, came in third (2.8%). Mining resurgences began in West Virginia, Kentucky and New Mexico last summer after the Clean Power Plan was stayed. After plummeting last year, Wyoming and Montana’s mining industries grew during the first quarter.

Two or three quarters of economic data don’t make a long-term trend, but all of this is still good news for coal states that have experienced two years of little or negative growth and years of political assault.

See the article here.

Coal, the Comeback Kid

Coal, the Comeback Kid

August 16, 2017

Neither the dead nor the living read their obituaries. Coal isn’t reading them because it isn’t dead.From the 2nd quarter of 2016 to the same period this year, coal production rose almost 17 percent. The number of new met mines in Central Appalachia rose from 155 to 212 in the year ending in June, said Argus Coal.

Offshore demand for U.S. met coal has soared by 60 percent this year. In fact, the U.S. is exporting more coal to every major region, including the EU, where shipments are up by more than a third over 2016. Nuclear plants are struggling in the UK and in France, creating surprisingly strong demand for U.S. coal. Steam coal exports to Asia, where grids are still growing, have doubled.

Here at home, coal at least for now is holding its own. EIA’s recent short-term forecast has coal narrowly edging out national gas for power generation this year, as it has most every year before 2016. That year, an anomaly, gas grabbed 34 percent of the market, pushing down coal’s share to 30 percent.

But the gas inventory glut that dampened gas prices last year is waning, leading EIA to project coal to continue its recovery next year when it narrowly wins the market share rivalry with gas. With each energy source claiming about a third of the market, nuclear power’s growth stagnant and renewables sans hydropower at not yet 10 percent of the market, baseload power still relies heavily on fossil energy.

(more…)

New FERC Chairman to Focus on Coal, Nuclear Plants

Via The Washington Examiner:

Coal and nuclear plants must be compensated properly for the reliability they bring to the electric grid, the newly appointed head of the nation’s grid watchdog said Monday.

“I believe that generation, including our existing coal and nuclear fleet, need to be properly compensated to recognize the value they provide to the system,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee on the agency’s podcast.

Chatterjee was appointed to be the federal agency’s chairman last week after being confirmed by the Senate. The appointments of Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, another Republican commissioner, restored the quorum that the agency had lacked to be able to function for the last six months. He said the backlog of work at the commission has created a lot of “consternation” among lawmakers and others, and he means to tackle that as his first priority.

The backlog includes pipeline approvals and other oversight that the commission conducts for the nation’s energy infrastructure.

Grid reliability will be a top focus during his chairmanship, which will last until President Trump’s nominee to head the commission, Kevin McIntyre, is confirmed by the Senate in the fall.

“I’m also committed to the resilience and reliability of our electric system,” Chatterjee said. “These are essential to national security. And to that end, I believe baseload power [plants] should be recognized as an essential part of the fuel mix.” Baseload plants such as coal and nuclear provide electricity around the clock to meet demand.

The coal and nuclear industries want the commission and the regional grid operators that it oversees to enact rules that provide market-based incentives based on the attributes that their power plants provide to the grid. For coal plants, that would be a stable source of reliable electricity. For nuclear plants, it would be both their zero-emission attributes and reliability.

The coal and nuclear sectors have faced increased competition from natural gas power plants in recent years, making them less able to compete in the electric markets. Low natural gas prices have put pressure on a number of more expensive energy resources because the markets that FERC oversees promote the lowest cost resource.

“You know, I’m a Kentucky native. I’ve seen firsthand throughout my life how important the contribution coal makes to an affordable and reliable electric system,” said Chatterjee, who served as chief energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before joining FERC.

“Last year, coal provided over 80 percent, 80 percent, of the electricity in Kentucky,” he said. “As a nation we need to ensure that coal, along with gas and renewables, continues to be part of our diverse fuel mix. I’m also looking forward to following the president’s charge to create jobs and stimulate economic growth through infrastructure.”

Chatterjee said he believes FERC will play a major role in Trump’s infrastructure plan. “I believe working through the backlog, especially evaluating the infrastructure projects before the commission, really could help spur economic development,” he said.

See the article here.

Trump’s EPA Will Rewrite Another Obama-Era Rule That Could Shutter Coal Plants

Via The Daily Caller:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt notified challengers the agency would begin the process of revising a regulation critics say could force more coal-fired power plants to shut down.

Pruitt sent a letter to the Utility Water Act Group and Small Business Administration on Friday notifying them of the decision. That letter was filed in federal court on Monday. EPA also asked the court to delay the case.

“After carefully considering your petitions, I have decided that it is appropriate and in the public interest to conduct a rulemaking to potentially revise (the regulations),” Pruitt wrote, according to The Associated Press.

Pruitt told utilities in April EPA would consider rescinding “Effluent Limitations Guidelines” for coal-fired power plants in response to a petition from Utility Water Act Group. The rule forces utilities to install more equipment to treat wastewater for mercury and other toxic metals.

Environmentalists opposed EPA’s move to undo the regulation, saying it would imperil water quality.The Obama administration finalized the rule in 2015 and it went into effect in January 2016. Utilities have challenged the rule’s legality in court.

“Power plants are by far the largest offenders when it comes to dumping deadly toxics into our lakes and rivers,” Thomas Cmar, a lawyer with Earthjustice, told TheAP.

“It’s hard to believe that our government officials right now are so beholden to big business that they are willing to let power plants continue to dump lead, mercury, chromium and other dangerous chemicals into our water supply,” Cmar said.

Utilities, on the other hand, say the rule is too costly and would end up forcing more coal plants to prematurely retire.

UWAG argued in its petition the rule would “cause negative impacts on jobs due to the excessive costs of compliance – which were grossly underestimated by EPA – and regulatory burdens forcing plant closures.”

EPA estimated the rule would cost utilities $480 million to install new wastewater treatment equipment, but would yield $500 million in public health benefits.

However, UWAG argued EPA underestimated the rule’s costs and withheld records about the rulemaking from utilities who would have to comply with the rule. UWAG estimates the rule could cost up to $2.5 billion a year.

See the article here.

Coal Looks to Make a Comeback in State

Via The Daily Sentinel:

Coal production is swinging back up in Colorado and 2017 could end up being a year with 1 million more tons produced in the state than in 2016, Colorado Mining Association President Stan Dempsey said Wednesday.

The improvement in the outlook for coal coincides with a change of administrations in Washington, D.C., Dempsey said, noting that while President Donald J. Trump has been criticized for legislative failures, he has taken strides to reduce regulatory burdens on coal and other industries.

Trump has “done a tremendous amount of work and Congress has done a tremendous amount of work to improve the prospects” of coal and other industries, Dempsey said during the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s energy briefing at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Reversal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was particularly helpful, Dempsey said.

“The Clean Power Plan was designed to put the coal industry out of business,” he said.

Dempsey declined to draw a direct connection between the change of administrations and increased Colorado coal production, but said, “The boot is off our throats from the Obama administration.”

Colorado produced more than 12.5 million tons of coal in 2016 and miners in Colorado had produced nearly 4.9 million tons of coal by the end of April so far this year, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

Efforts by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to establish Coal Community Zones in locales suffering from coal mine closures, such as Delta and Moffat counties, are appreciated, Dempsey said.

“Perhaps this could have been avoided,” though, he said, had the Obama administration not moved against the coal industry with the Clean Power Plan, a moratorium on coal leasing, requirements that projects account for a “social cost of carbon,” and other mineral-valuation and stream protection rules.

“We aren’t blowing the tops off any mountains in Colorado,” Dempsey said.

See the article here.

Coal to Dominate US Electricity Market Over Next Two Years

Via The Washington Examiner:

U.S. coal production will see a sustained boost over the next two years due to increased use at power plants and a rise in exports, according to the federal government’s latest energy projections.

“U.S. coal production is getting a boost in 2017 from higher coal exports and more coal-fired electricity generation,” said Howard Gruenspecht, the Energy Information Administration acting administrator, as he released the agency’s latest short-term energy outlook for the month of August on Tuesday.

“Coal-fired power plants are expected to be the leading source of U.S. electricity for the next two years, as the cost of coal is expected to rise by less than the cost of natural gas and renewable generation continues to grow,” he added.

The latest outlook showed coal’s power plant output will rise from comprising 30 percent of the nation’s electricity output last year to nearly 32 percent in the second half of 2017.

That could put coal ahead of natural gas power plants that have dominated the market over coal in the last few years.

The only problem is that electricity demand is expected to drop going for the third year in a row, according to the report. But for now, it looks like natural gas power plants will take the biggest hit from waning demand, mainly because natural gas prices are rising and milder temperatures will reduce the need for electric cooling in the fall compared to a year ago.

“U.S. electricity generation is expected to decline in 2017 for the third year in row, as forecast milder temperatures in the third quarter compared to the same period a year earlier reduces electric cooling demand,” said Gruenspecht.

Nevertheless, Gruenspecht is confident that coal production will continue to remain high even with electricity demand dropping. Strong demand for U.S. coal exports overseas has a lot to do with that. Coal exports rose 60 percent in the first five months of 2017.

The rate of exports is supposed to “slow in the coming months,” the agency said. But it will still be 17 percent higher than it was in 2016.

“The increase in coal exports contributes to an expected 58 [million short tons (MMst)] (8%) increase in coal production in 2017,” according to the EIA short-term outlook. “In 2018, coal production is forecast to increase by 10 MMst,” or 1 percent.

Natural gas will also benefit from increased demand for exports over the next two years, the report showed.

“U.S. natural gas production growth is expected to accelerate over the next two years with growth rates over 2% in 2017 and over 5.5% in 2018,” said Gruenspecht. “Forecast record natural gas production in 2018 coincides with an expected rise in electricity generation from natural-gas fired power plants and a 23% increase in U.S. natural gas exports.”

Meanwhile, renewable energy is also expected to see significant gains. “U.S. wind power, which provided 6% of total U.S. electricity in 2016, is expected to have a 9% generating capacity increase this year and another 16% in 2018,” said Gruenspecht.

See the article here.

West Virginians Get the Last Laugh

Via The West Virginia Record:

President Obama and his bureaucrats laughed at the citizens of West Virginia and our representatives for eight years as they waged their wicked war on coal (on behalf of other energy interests, foreign and domestic), but who’s laughing now?

We are, and so is U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins.

“Make no mistake: The Obama administration and his EPA have declared a war on West Virginia coal and West Virginia coal jobs, and Logan County’s Spruce No. 1 mine is just one target,” Jenkins said two years ago when he cosponsored Rep. David McKinley’s thrice-introduced bill to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from retroactively vetoing valid permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“This week we will join together with the House to send President Obama and the EPA a strong message: No more attacks on coal. No more attacks on domestic energy. No more attacks on the people who produce energy.”

That’s what Jenkins proclaimed later that year on the eve of two bipartisan votes to repeal the EPA’s limits on emissions from existing plants and block its rules on emissions from new plants.

“Coal jobs provide a true, living wage that support a family,” Jenkins told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last year at a House Subcommittee hearing on the EPA budget. “Coal jobs also come with really good benefits. . . . But not anymore. The bankruptcies of our country’s largest coal companies have left pensioners and widows desperate for help. And because of your actions, West Virginia now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the entire country.”

That was then, and this is now.

“This budget supports the EPA’s core functions without furthering the radical environmental agenda we saw under the Obama administration,” Jenkins said just recently about the bill he helped write on the Interior Subcommittee, a bill that cuts EPA’s 2018 funding by more than half a billion dollars.

He who laughs last, laughs best.

See the article here.

Trump Administration Hails Deal to Export Coal to Ukraine

Via The Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Monday hailed a Pennsylvania-based company’s deal to supply coal to Ukraine in preparation for winter heating needs, saying it would bolster a key U.S. ally often threatened by Russia.

The deal, potentially worth about $79 million, calls for Xcoal Energy and Resources to ship 700,000 tons of thermal coal to Ukraine to heat homes and businesses. The first shipment is expected to leave the Port of Baltimore next month at a cost of $113 per metric ton.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said U.S. coal “will be a secure and reliable energy source” for Ukraine, which he said has been “reliant on and beholden to Russia to keep the heat on. That changes now.”

The U.S. “can offer Ukraine an alternative, and today we are pleased to announce that we will,” Perry said, calling such deals “crucial to the path forward to achieve energy dominance” for the U.S.

President Donald Trump has vowed to revive the struggling coal industry and has cited increases in U.S. coal exports as evidence the strategy is working. The Energy Department said in July that coal exports have risen sharply in 2017 amid increased demand in Asia and Europe, but are still below capacity.

 The deal comes amid increased tensions in U.S.-Russia relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin says the U.S. will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia in response to new sanctions against Russia. Congress approved those because of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the coal deal will allow Ukraine to diversify its energy sources ahead of the coming winter, noting that Russia has restricted some natural gas deliveries to Ukraine and other neighbors in a bid to “choke off opposition to its ambitions.”

Perry was recently fooled by a pair of Russian pranksters impersonating the prime minister of Ukraine. Topics on the mid-July call included coal exports. Perry met with Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, in June.

See the article here.

A Much-Needed Study of Our Electrical Grid is Coming Soon

Via The Washington Examiner:

The dependability of our energy supply is essential to our way of life. Many, especially those who lived through the energy crisis of the 1970s, understand this well when it comes to vehicle fuels like gasoline.

But the public often doesn’t think about the reliability of our nation’s electrical supply, even though that reliability is just as critical to our nation’s economy.

When to Step Back and Let Employees Solve Major ‘Fire-Burning’ Crises
Watch Full Screen
Fortunately, there are those who are focused on keeping the American electric supply reliable. As a former commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a key part of my job was to regulate our nation’s wholesale electricity markets and protect the reliability of our interstate electric grid.

Recently, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for a report on the reliability of our power grid. In doing so, he indicated he wanted to ensure the nation’s electric grid continues to provide the reliable power Americans have come to expect. It’s a timely topic, and like many people, I’m looking forward to the final report. Our nation’s electric grid is undergoing some of the most profound changes since its inception, so it’s natural that the secretary would ask for an assessment of the electric system and recommendations to head-off any potential problems.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in how the nation generates its electricity. Thanks to America’s shale gas revolution, a plentiful supply of affordable natural gas has changed the economics of electricity generation. Generation from natural gas fired plants has displaced other plants like coal and nuclear units. Intermittent resources like wind and solar power, supported by tax incentives, have become a more significant part of the electric system as well. In sum, we are asking our grid to be more flexible and resilient during a time when the generation mix is changing rapidly.

The Polar Vortex of 2014 is a good example of why Perry’s requested report is important. For many Americans, the polar vortex was a nuisance; a blast of artic air that reminded us how cold North American winters can be. For those of us who were involved with the operation and regulation of the nation’s electric utilities, it was more noteworthy.

My former agency, FERC, along with the nation’s grid operators, conducted a hindsight analysis of the Polar Vortex, and what we found was concerning. Generators that the system expected to be available when electricity demand was highest too often were not available. Much of the generation fleet that saved the day during periods of high demand were the traditional “dispatchable” generation units, like coal and nuclear. These resources have made up the backbone of the electric grid for decades, but are being marginalized in the evolving resource mix.

We were fortunate not to have had major reliability problems during the Polar Vortex. The grid and consumers dodged a bullet, but it was a red flag reminder to not take electricity for granted. And while we have not had a repeat of the Polar Vortex, merely hoping for mild winters is not a realistic long-term strategy for securing the grid.

More light will be shed on these issues when the DOE releases its report. However, some truths are already known, such as the fact that a fair number of the traditional units that were critical resources during the Polar Vortex may not be around for the next harsh weather event. While new resources have come into the mix in the interim, every resource brings with it its own unique operating characteristics, and we cannot simply assume the grid will work as it always has when we encounter our next “stress test.”

The only way to gain the necessary knowledge about our emerging grid’s resiliency is to ask questions. I am glad Perry is exercising leadership so that we can thoughtfully address potential problems before we have a blackout, rather than waiting to ask those questions after it is too late.

Tony Clark is a Senior Advisor at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP. From 2012 to 2016, he served as a Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

See the article here.

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.

Guest Commentary: Clean Coal Part of Broad Fuel Portfolio

Via The News-Gazette:

Our demand for electricity will continue to increase, notwithstanding improved energy efficiency. This is because we continue to find more and more uses for electricity, including our constantly increasing use of computers and other electronics and the greater number of electric vehicles on the road.

A responsible policy for generating this electricity must include diverse fuel sources. Currently, we are experiencing a big push for wind and solar, and although welcome from an environmental point of view, these are intermittent and can be relied on only to supplement more traditional and dependable sources of electricity.

We are currently heavily dependent on natural gas as a fuel, primarily because of its low price but also because it emits half the carbon when burned as does coal. As we see periodically, though, low prices are often temporary, which is why our fuel sources need to be diversified.

How does coal fit into this plan? New technology has basically eliminated particulate emissions, including harmful sulfur and mercury, from new coal plants, and since these plants are more efficient, less coal is needed for a given amount of energy. To complement this, we need to develop other new technologies to capture the carbon-dioxide emissions when coal is burned. In this way, we can have more diversified fuel sources, and, because of our huge domestic coal reserves, we will be more energy self-sufficient.

There is reason to be optimistic that new technology can result in clean coal. Consider what fracking and horizontal drilling have done for the oil and gas industry. Given the track record in the U.S. of researching and developing new technologies, if we put some resources into clean coal research, we should anticipate a substantial payoff.

It is difficult for any one coal company to undertake the necessary research because they will be unable to capture most of the benefits of this research as it will spill over into the rest of the industry. Consequently, in situations like this, government research is necessary, perhaps in partnership with the industry. This should be a priority both for the government and for the industry.

There may well be additional benefits from this research. If the carbon dioxide can be captured, there may be uses for it for, among other things, petrochemicals and plastics, as well as uses we cannot anticipate today. More research is needed here, too. This would turn a negative into something valuable and would help to offset the cost of carbon capture technology. Such new technology could also benefit other fossil fuels, including natural gas and oil, when they are burned to generate electricity.

We have relied heavily on coal to generate electricity in the past, and by supporting more research, we can rely on clean coal in the future. This protects us with diverse fuel sources to generate electricity, not overly relying on one fuel source, and it helps us gain energy independence and security by relying more on our huge domestic reserves of coal.

Stanford L. Levin is professor emeritus of economics at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He has previously served on the Illinois Commerce Commission and consults in the U.S. and abroad on energy issues.

See the article here.

Trump Vows ‘Energy Dominance’

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

The Trump administration said Thursday it is taking steps to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as President Donald Trump continues to push for U.S. “energy dominance” in the global market.

The Interior Department is rewriting a five-year drilling plan established by the Obama administration, with an eye toward opening areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans that now are off-limits to drilling.

It’s one of six initiatives that the president unveiled Thursday in hopes of generating more energy exports and jobs.

“The golden era of American energy is now underway,” Trump said in a Thursday speech at the Energy Department.

“And I’ll go a step further: The golden era of America is now underway, believe me. And you’re all going to be a part of it in creating this exciting new future.”

U.S. oil production has boomed in recent years, and exports of oil and natural gas are surging, primarily because of improved drilling techniques such as fracking that have opened up production in previously out-of-reach areas. Trump has pledged to ramp up production further, withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement because of the limitations that it could have placed on the burning of fossil fuels.

While Trump has promised that the initiative will create millions of jobs, the energy sector employs fewer workers than it did a decade ago despite the recent boom. The Labor Department said there are 655,300 jobs in mining coal and extracting oil and natural gas, down from a peak of 1.18 million jobs in 1981.

As the administration celebrated a self-proclaimed “energy week,” Trump said more steps are needed to “unleash” domestic reserves and remove government regulations that could prevent the U.S. from achieving global dominance in energy.

Trump and other officials say they are confident the country can pave the path toward energy dominance by exporting oil, gas and coal to markets around the world, and promoting nuclear energy and even renewables such as wind and solar power.

The president said Thursday that his administration has also approved construction of a new petroleum pipeline to Mexico. The State Department said it had issued a permit to NuStar Logistics for the construction and operation of the New Burgos Pipeline, which would have the capacity to deliver 108,000 barrels a day and would cross the U.S.-Mexico border near Peoitas, Texas.

Trump suggested the pipeline would run beneath the wall he intends to build along the U.S. southern border to limit illegal immigration, human trafficking and drug smuggling.

“And that will go right under the wall, right?” Trump said.

He said that Sempra Energy signed an agreement to negotiate the sale of natural gas to South Korea and that the Energy Department is approving two applications to export natural gas from a Louisiana terminal. His administration will also perform a complete review of nuclear energy policy and seek to address barriers to financing coal plants overseas, as well as opening up offshore drilling.

Trump signed an executive order in April to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, reversing restrictions imposed by President Barack Obama. Trump has also pushed to revive U.S. coal production after years of decline. Coal mining rose by 19 percent in the first five months of the year as the price of natural gas edged up, according to Energy Department data.

A report released in January by the Energy Information Administration said the country is on track to become a net energy exporter by 2026, although the White House said Tuesday that net exports could top imports as soon as 2020.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said increased offshore drilling could provide more than enough revenue to offset an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog in national parks.

“There’s a consequence when you put 94 percent of our offshore off limits,” Zinke said in a speech this week. “There’s a consequence of not harvesting trees. There’s a consequence of not using some of our public lands for creation of wealth and jobs.”

See the article here.

How Strong is America’s Power Grid?

Via The Montgomery Advertiser:

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 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.

NMA Applauds President’s Energy Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. mining industry applauded the administration’s bold emphasis on creating a robust market for all sources of domestic energy that the president highlighted in his energy speech today.

“A strong energy industry is a goal that will benefit all Americans and is achievable without diminishing the significant environmental protections that Americans rightfully expect,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn.

As an example, Quinn cited the repeal of needless and costly regulation on coal that will allow U.S. consumers to benefit from the world’s largest coal supply. The Clean Power Plan (CPP), recently proposed for rescission by the administration, illustrates the impact of regulations on energy production.

Under the Energy Information Administration’s latest reference case, U.S. coal production will climb “significantly higher” without the constraints of the CPP, rising from 740 million short tons last year to almost 900 mst by 2025. The resulting 280-million-ton annual increase throughout this period could support the addition of 25,000 high-wage miners and ensure households and businesses have a more reliable supply of affordable electricity. Meanwhile, advanced technology is driving emissions reductions, with new coal plants today emitting up to 90 percent fewer emissions than those they replace.

U.S. coal exports, projected to rise this year to more than 71 mst, also serve the needs of the estimated 1.1 billion people in emerging economies who today lack access to affordable electricity. Every million tons of coal exported supports 1,320 jobs throughout the U.S. economy paying an annual average of more than $90,000. For further information on U.S. coal exports, click here.

The nation’s basic industries will benefit from a supply-side energy policy that promotes all energy sources. “U.S. mineral and metal mining is one example of an energy-intensive industry operating in a high-cost environment that is better able to compete in global markets with lower and less volatile energy costs,” Quinn said.

Quinn expects additional priorities for energy de-regulation may be identified next month from Energy Secretary Perry’s assessment of the impact of regulatory policies on baseload power.

See the press release here.

OPINION: Trump’s Energy Plan will Make America the New Saudi Arabia

Via The Hill:

This past week, President Trump renewed his promise of an era of American global energy dominance. It’s an achievable goal and a quintessential “America first” theme that Trump should keep playing.

Trump recognizes what almost all his critics choose to ignore: we are entering an age of American energy renaissance that will last not just years, but many decades. While the left keeps placing bad bets on expensive and unreliable green energy, Trump has a more robust and realistic strategy to make the United States the 21st century Saudi Arabia. We are well on our way getting to that goal given the continuing story of the shale oil and gas explosion.

Here are some facts to think about. Since 2007 America has increased its oil and gas output by 75 percent with most of it coming from North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Since 2015, when Republicans and Congress passed a law ending the oil and gas export ban, the U.S. has exported more than 150 million barrels of crude.

At the moment, natural gas is the disruptive energy source that is blowing away the competition. This is good news for America because we have far more natural gas than anyone, with perhaps the exception of Saudi Arabia. This has the looks of something big. The U.S. has by far the cheapest natural gas and are very capable of replacing the Middle East and Russia as primary suppliers to Europe and Asia.

Thanks in part to Trump’s energy vision, we are now building liquefied gas terminals that will lead to sharp increases in exports of our abundant natural gas. Bloomberg reports that ‎”since starting up last year, Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana — the first major facility sending shale gas overseas — has shipped more than 100 cargoes of [liquefied natural gas] overseas.”

Pipelines are necessary to make this energy future possible, and Trump is already greenlighting these projects that were delayed or killed by President Obama, who hated fossil fuels.

If we are to sprint ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to energy production, we will need to allow drilling on federal lands. We are talking about unlocking some $50 trillion of energy assets lying underneath us. Just the royalties, leases and income taxes generated from all of this energy treasure would raise about $2 trillion in federal revenue.

The liberals left coal for dead, but the remarkable comeback in coal production has proven Trump’s critics wrong. Coal production in the U.S. has risen 19 percent this year, and mining jobs are back as well. That’s a testament to Trump’s reversal of Obama-era regulations meant to bankrupt coal.

We need cheap coal to produce steel and other manufactured good in America, so coal production is basic to keeping blue collar and hard hat jobs here at home in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia.

American production of oil, gas, and coal could easily rise by $100 billion a year and by two to three times that level over time. That’s about 0.5 percent points added to U.S. growth right there. With tax reform, that brings us above 3 percent, and even close to 4 percent fairly easily.

Instead of importing $200 billion of energy every year, the US and Canada could soon easily be exporting that amount. Of course, the current low global price of oil — below $50 a barrel — has all producers struggling mightily as the world absorbs a wonderful glut of cheap energy. But the amazing American frackers are discovering new ways of producing more and more energy at lower and lower costs.

The industry that has gotten most financially flattened by low natural gas prices is green energy. ‎As long as natural gas prices stay below $3 per million cubic feet, wind and solar are as viable as cold fusion for years to come.

It is very simple: without billions upon billions of government mandates, tax credits, production subsidies, and ‎other tax giveaways, there would be virtually no wind and solar industry today in the United States.

As my Heritage Foundation colleague Jack Spencer, an expert on energy policy, puts it, “the only was solar and wind create jobs is by spending taxpayer dollars. Those aren’t real net new jobs because the government has to take a dollar from someone else to handout a dollar.”‎

What industry couldn’t create jobs if the government kept showering it with billions of dollars of free money? We’ve been stupidly doing this since the 1970s. Perhaps there will be breakthroughs that make green energy viable, but we’ve heard those unfulfilled promises now for 40 years.

No one knows where the future will take us with energy technology. Can nuclear power, for example, make a comeback? For now at least, no nation is better poised to exploit the new global age of shale energy.

Better still, this is a fortuitous outcome that won’t cost the government money — as opposed to the green energy racket — but will raise trillions of new tax dollars to fund public programs.

‎It’s a tribute to Trump’s vision and gut instincts that a real estate developer from the northeast gets that when so many so-called energy experts, including Obama, don’t.

See the article here.

The Western US’s Largest Coal Plant Has A ‘Fighting Chance’ Of Survival

Via The Daily Caller:

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke hailed the Navajo Nation’s ratification of a new lease with operators of the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S., staving off its immediate decommissioning.

Zinke said the action gave Navajo and Hopi workers a “fighting chance” to keep their jobs at the coal plant and the mine that supplies it.

Navajo Nation ratified a lease agreement with operators of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) Tuesday to extend power plant and mining operations through 2019. This gives the Department of the Interior, which co-owns the plant, and other stakeholders time to find ways to keep the NGS viable.

“Since the first weeks of the Trump Administration, one of Interior’s top priorities has been to roll up our sleeves with diverse stakeholders in search of an economic path forward to extend NGS and Kayenta Mine operations after 2019,” Zinke said in a statement.

“This Navajo Nation Council’s endorsement of a new lease gives NGS and Kayenta Mine workers a fighting chance and gives Navajo and Hopi economies a moment to regroup for the work ahead,” Zinke said.

NGS and the Kayenta mine that supplies it with coal are important sources of jobs for hundreds of Navajo and Hopi workers. The aging coal plant has struggled to compete with low-priced natural gas and mounting environmental regulations.

NGS is jointly owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Salt River Project, the Arizona Public Service Commission, Tucson Electric Power Company and NV Energy.

Utilities that own NGS voted in mid-February to divest from the plant, opting to build natural gas plants. The new Navajo Nation lease gives the Trump administration another two years to find other owners for the plant.

The Trump administration, however, could also end up buying out other NGS shareholders, or it could work to keep utilities on board. If no new agreement is reached, the plant will be de-commissioned after 2019.

Either way, it’s a hard sell given the costly environmental compliance NGS faces going forward.

NGS operators agreed with Environmental Protection Agency to shut down one of its coal generators after 2019 and add costly emissions control equipment by 2030. The plant already added $1 billion worth of environmental controls in the last two decades.

The Interior Department held talks in March to discuss a plan for NGS going forward. The agency is supposed to act in the best interest of the tribes, and officials don’t want the plant to close and put more than 800 tribal members out of work.

“Now, NGS operations can continue while stakeholders examine opportunities for a new operating partner to extend the life of the plant beyond its original 50-year lease,” Zinke said.

See the article here.