American Elephants

President Obama’s Misguided “War on Coal” by The Elephant's Child

I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.
 …………..Barack Obama, Georgetown University, June 25, 2013

FirstEnergy Corp. announced it would close two coal plants in Pennsylvania, resulting in 380 lost jobs and 2,080 lost megawatts. American Electric Power will be closing its coal-fired plant in Beverly, Ohio, with the loss of 95 jobs, and 585 megawatts of electricity.

New EPA chief Gina McCarthy said petulantly: “Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs, please?” EPA officials understand that their preferred regulatory policies will destroy coal communities. They have decided that natural gas plants are the performance standard.  Yet coal plants remain the one source of energy that produces more of this country’s electricity than any other single source.

Pennsylvania Democrats have joined the opposition to Obama’s “War on Coal.” Since he never worked in the private sector, Mr. Obama remains unfamiliar with the operations of the private economy, and how the actions of government can kill jobs even as the president makes speeches about how job creation is at the very top of his concerns. The extent to which his actions have destroyed jobs and negatively affected the economy escapes him completely.

Mr. Obama speaks of “carbon pollution” — but carbon is not a pollutant. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. We are carbon-based life forms. If we had no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we would have no food and no life on Earth.

Back in the 20th Century when everyone was captured by the idea that global warming was going to cause the oceans to rise and the planet to sizzle, it was thought that the amount of CO² in the atmosphere was the cause of increasing climate temperatures. But the temperature stopped rising, and cooled a little and CO² kept on rising. It has not warmed at all in the 21st century, and even in the 20th century the net warming amounted to about one degree — not exactly a reason to panic.

The EPA has been authorized by the Clean Air Act to see that the air and water are clean. The agency has pushed that law far past its intent. They have taken the task of keeping the navigable waters clean up the rivers to the tiniest trickle of snowmelt in a roadside ditch. Carbon is not a pollutant in the air, and it is not the job of the EPA to control the climate, nor to monitor the health of the nation. Air quality and water quality are their job.

Environmental regulations have been a major job killer. The agency does not consider unemployment — a fairly major national problem — to be one of their concerns. That is a problem.


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Environmental regulations have been a major job killer?

As always it is a little more complicated than that and no one can put any numbers to the factors so it allows everyone to put their own spin on it.

With any cost/benefit would have to asses the cost of external factors like health and depending on the ideological side you sit on and how angry you are will depend on the if you believe the science behind the numbers.

I would agree that the government is the problem. The Department of Energy helped fund research that led to the hydraulic fracturing drilling technology that has made cheap natural gas possible.

There were 17,000 coal jobs lost in 2012 and 162,000 job increase this past July in oil and natural gas.

What regulations do you want to remove?

The ones that will cut toxic mercury emissions from power plants by 90 percent, smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution by half, and soot-forming sulfur dioxide by more than 70 percent?

Click to access Upload1082.pdf

“These scenarios involve different mixes of environmental control equipment assumed required in order to reduce emissions of mercury, acid gases, SO2, and NOx. We find that 59 GW to 77 GW (for lenient versus strict scenarios, respectively) of coal plant capacity are likely to retire instead of retrofit with environmental equipment. These retirements
occur absent any future regulations restricting carbon emissions. Generally, these results are about 25 GW higher than the retirement levels we projected in December 2010 due mainly to lower expected gas prices, despite the somewhat more lenient environmental regulations we currently envision.

The questions concerning what impact the new air quality regulations will have on power prices and resource adequacy continue to be important and difficult to answer definitively. This 2012 reassessment indicates that somewhat more retirements are likely (about 25 GW) than we foresaw in late 2010. However, that change is primarily due to changing market conditions, not environmental rule revisions, which have trended towards more lenient requirements and schedules.”

Even in Coal Country, the Fight for an Industry (

“And even as American Electric Power plans to close 5 of its 21 coal-burning plants and rely much more on natural gas, it still intends to retrofit 12 plants.”

4 Reasons Coal Declines Even As Natural Gas Prices Rise: EIA (

“Efficiency: The efficiency of power generation from gas means it competes with coal even when it costs 1.5 times as much. “When the ratio of natural gas prices to coal prices is approximately 1.5 or lower, a typical natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant has lower generating costs than a typical coal-fired plant.”

Competitiveness: “For new builds, natural gas and renewables generally are more competitive than coal.”

Flexibility: “In general, combined-cycle (gas) units are considered to be more flexible than steam turbines. They can ramp their output up and down more easily, and their start-up and shutdown procedures involve less time and expense.”

Four Reasons Coal is Declining
By Scott Sklar
President, The Stella Group, Ltd & Adjunct Professor GWU

“First, is the availability of lower cost natural gas, as well as the fact that natural gas generation plants are just lower cost to build and in lower megawatt output increments. Second, as electric grids become more sophisticated, those electric utilities want options as to the variability of output of electric generation plants — and natural gas generators are easier to “dial up and down” than most other options. Third, State Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards and State Clean Air Act Implementation Plans favor high value energy efficiency, renewable energy, and natural gas in a combination of States where over 60 percent of US electric ratepayers live.”

“At today’s prices, a dollar spent on natural gas can get a utility 53% more energy than a dollar spent on bituminous coal. And that is before efficiency is taken into account. Natural gas plants are 28% more efficient than coal plants. So not only can a utility get more natural gas per dollar than coal, they can also get more energy out of that natural gas.

In addition, many natural gas plants across the country have excess capacity, meaning utilities can begin to capitalize on the economic advantages of natural gas right away without having to construct new plants”

Kevin Crapsey, Vice President of Corporate Strategy & Development at Eco Power Solutions

“Coal provides half of America’s power, so rumors of its death are premature. I expect coal to be a big part of our nation’s energy mix for years to come. But there is no reason that we shouldn’t meet the EPA’s regulations, which finally apply the environmental cost of coal-fired power to the price of electricity. With innovative technologies like multi-pollutant emissions control systems, we can keep the lights on while making coal clean.”


Comment by Mark Baird

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