Archive for November, 2009

What coal means to the U.S. workforce

Did you know that the coal industry employs people in four primary groups – coal production, coal transportation, power generation and power plant suppliers? Furthermore, the coal industry provides jobs to construction workers building new plants or retrofitting existing plants, as well as to researchers and scientists who are developing new clean coal technologies like carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

To put that in perspective, consider the number of mining jobs alone in the United States: more than 81,000.

In addition to direct jobs associated with coal, other jobs are created because of access to low-cost energy. A recent study found that energy costs are second only to labor costs for a business, and coal-based electricity provides the affordable energy we need to create American jobs and get the economy back on track.

At one-third of the price of most other fuels, it’s easy to connect the dots from an affordable energy source to steady, reliable jobs.

How much coal does your state use to generate electricity? Find your state on the map and see how your state’s use of coal correlates to energy prices. You might be surprised at the impact coal-generated electricity has on your community…


CCS is a good investment

In a blog post from today, Grist reporter David Roberts’ argument that “we’re going to burn the coal anyway” is a bad reason to invest in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). His rationale? The technology is “not a low-cost alternative” and “not a modification of existing infrastructure.”

His last two points are accurate, but those seem to be no reasons to abandon efforts to leverage CCS technology.

In the long term, we need to take a look at the cost/benefit analysis, and, yes, CCS is going to be expensive. Even a study last month from the International Energy Agency said that businesses and governments will need to invest at least $2.4 trillion by 2050 to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and store it underground. However, the upside will be once CCS is commercially deployed: It could cut carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent while limiting cost increases.

That’s one reason ACCCE is urging the federal government to partner with the private sector to help drive down the costs of commercial deployment.

In fact, many energy companies with clean coal projects – such as American Electric Power’s Mountaineer project in New Haven, W.Va. – have requested federal stimulus funding to ensure more efficient generation of electricity from coal.

And research groups are urging the government for financial assistance. Last week, Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Susan Hockfield told Bloomberg News that the lack of government investment in energy research is increasing the risk to national security and hindering the creation of breakthrough technology.

Researchers, scientists and engineers are working to perfect the science behind the technology to ensure we have enough energy to meet future demand.

The fact is, we rely on coal today and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future – a point Roberts acknowledged in his blog post. And that’s reason enough for us to continue investing in CCS technology to help reduce emissions even further.

The facts: Coal meets U.S. energy needs

It’s a fact: America’s electricity demand is growing. Almost everything we do around our homes requires electricity, be it surfing the Internet, watching television, toasting bread or washing clothes. If your family is like our friend Venita McCellon-Allen’s, you’re plugging more things in every day – laptops, Blackberries, cell phones and all of the other devices that are part of our modern lives.

And according to the EIA, this trend will continue: electricity demand is expected to increase by 26 percent from 2007 to 2030.

As that demand rises, we will continue to rely on coal to generate the majority of our energy. As the source of nearly half of America’s electricity, coal provides the affordable baseload power that keeps our country humming along 24/7. And don’t forget, we have more coal within our borders than any other country in the world – enough to last more than 200 years at current consumption rates.

That’s why we need to continue to support the development and deployment of the next generation of clean coal projects. These technologies will allow us to continue to use our most abundant fuel and protect our planet at the same time – and that’s a win-win situation.

MIT making waves in CCS research


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been in the news a lot lately. Last month, President Obama delivered a speech on clean energy at the university. And last week, MIT president Susan Hockfield told Bloomberg News that the federal government needs to invest more in energy research.

We’re likely to hear more about MIT in the coming months. It’s a crucial time for energy innovation, and the university is at the forefront of some of the latest technological breakthroughs in clean coal technology.

At MIT’s Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies Program, researchers have been focused on developing carbon sequestration from the technical, economic and political perspectives since 1989.

According to the program’s Web site, “Interest has been increasing in the carbon sequestration option because it is very compatible with the large energy production and delivery system now in place” and is a way to help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Its current research projects – sponsored by energy companies such as BP, StatoilHydro and Siemens – include strategies for implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS), policies for promoting CCS innovation and costs of commercial deployment.

The Web site has a comprehensive list of links to CCS organizations and regional partnerships, an interactive map of CCS projects around the world and, in case you would ever need it, a CO2 Thermophysical Property Calculator.

The Facts: On world stage, coal is U.S. strength


As economic development in China and India soars – along with their energy appetite – so does worldwide competition for energy, making it ever more important that we use our domestic resources as efficiently and judiciously as possible.

We’ve talked before about the plethora of energy options available to us, including renewable sources such as solar and wind. They both have their strengths – and they both have their weaknesses. For all their potential, these sources currently aren’t reliable enough to provide the always-on security that we need.

That’s why coal-generated electricity is so important.

Consider this fact:

•With more than 250 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves, the United States has more coal than the Middle East has oil.

We are fortunate to have the energy resources that so many others don’t. We have enough coal to power America’s homes and businesses at current rates for more than 200 years.

We have enough coal to power our schools, our hospitals, our streets and our ball fields. We have enough coal to provide America with the energy security it needs—now and well into the future.

Thank you, veterans

As we celebrate Veterans Day today, we wish to express our gratitude to veterans – both past and present – who have served their country with such dedication. Our thoughts are also with our current military personnel serving both here at home as well as oversees and your family. Your sacrifice is to be admired.

And in honor to our veterans and current military personnel and in observance of Veterans Day, the Behind the Plug blog will remain closed for the day.

Siemens to partner with Tenaska on $3.5 billion Ill. project

Siemens Energy Inc. has been chosen to provide the coal gasification technology at Tenaska’s 730-megawatt Taylorville Energy Center in Christian County, Ill., a news release reports.

Taylorville will be one of the nation’s first commercial-scale plants to use both carbon capture and storage and integrated gasification combined cycle technology.

If successful, the $3.5 billion facility could capture and store at least 50 percent of carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise enter the atmosphere.

Siemens’ gasifier technology would convert coal into substitute natural gas, which could be used for generating electricity or sent along into the interstate pipeline system.

We’re especially excited to hear about Taylorville’s progress because we had a chance to learn about the project in June, when we visited Tenaska’s headquarters in Omaha, Neb., for the 2009 America’s PowerSM Factuality Tour.

Our team learned that Taylorville will use state-of-the-art technologies to eliminate most of the sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury emissions while considerably reducing emissions of nitrogen oxide.

The project is important to the local community because, as we reported on the Factuality Tour, the plant will run on Illinois coal, presenting the state with an opportunity to reinvigorate its coal industry while stimulating the economy of central and southern Illinois.

To find out more about Taylorville, watch the video above and be sure to check out the rest of the content on our Factuality Web site.

The facts: Coal-generated power equals affordable electricity in the U.S.

As leaders from around the globe prepare to convene next month in Copenhagen for the U.N. Climate Change Conference to consider how to best use our energy resources in the coming decades, let’s take a moment to consider how critical coal is to our energy future.

In addition to being our most abundant domestic energy source, coal is also our most affordable fuel. Here’s why it must remain a part of our energy future:

•Coal generates electricity at about one-third the cost of other fuels.

Twenty-three of the 25 power plants in the U.S. that have the lowest operating costs – and therefore provide power to their consumers at the lowest prices – are fueled by coal, according to an electric power industry journal.

•Coal prices are expected to fluctuate between $1.40 and $1.50 per million Btu (in 2004 dollars) through 2030, based on forecasting by the Energy Information Administration. Meanwhile, the EIA predicts natural gas prices of $6.26 and petroleum prices of $7.61 per million Btu for the same time period.

•Generating electricity in 2025 using carbon-capture technology will be equal to today’s cost of new power generation without carbon capture, according to the Department of Energy.

As world leaders attempt to forge an agreement that seeks to reverse the effects of climate change while at the same time providing the energy dependability that millions count on, these facts indicate that coal must be part of the solution.

Let us know what you think.