Archive for February, 2010

What they’re saying about coal

WWJ 950 News Radio (2/24): "A total of $350,000 in federal stimulus funds awarded to Western Michigan University is being used to continue WMU's efforts aimed at developing clean coal technology that could result in a major new economic development opportunity for Michigan."

Rep. Rick Nelson (D-Ky.), WYMT News (2/24): "If you live in Louisville and you flip that switch on… you are using Kentucky coal. Without it I guess you'd be burning a candle," he said. "We need help for our coal mines and coal miners. That is our way of life for the last 100 years and I think it will be for the next 100 years."

Stephen L. Johnson, EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, Washington Times (2/25): "[T]he potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land."

WVNS (2/25): "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now says that if it regulates climate-warming emissions from stationary sources it will phase the regulation in gradually. The statement from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson came in a Feb. 22 response to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and seven other coal-state senators who sought clarification of the agency's plans. Putting into words the concerns of many, the senators wrote that the EPA's planned regulation of greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions under the Clean Air Act threatens an already weak economy. They said congressional action is preferable."

Shane’s proud to work for the coal industry

Shane Evans is a coal miner, and he’s happy to tell you about it. In fact, Shane enjoys clearing up misconceptions about the coal mining industry – especially the one that mining jobs are low-tech, low paying and unsafe. That’s because nothing could be further from the truth.

Shane is part of a high-tech operation at Arch Coal’s Black Thunder Mine located in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. As a mine dispatcher, he’s responsible for the movement of an army of people and equipment – all working to get the coal out of the ground and onto trains bound for power plants across the United States.

And the job pays well, allowing Shane and his wife to raise their family where he grew up in Wyoming – an area he missed when he took a job in sales after graduating from college.

Of course, Shane isn’t alone. According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2008 coal mining accounted for almost 7,000 good jobs in the Powder River Basin alone – and more than 86,000 nationwide.

And Shane will you tell you coal-mining jobs are among the safest around. In fact, he worries more about safety during his commute than he does at the mine. That’s because Black Thunder is going on two years without a time-loss incident. That means not one of the mine’s 2,000 employees has gotten hurt at work and had to miss time.

We could tell you more about Shane and today’s coal-mining industry, but we’ll let him tell the rest of his story. Check out Shane’s videos on to hear why he’s proud to work for the coal industry.

Clean coal can create R&D jobs

Researchers at Pump Canyon, NM Researchers at Pump Canyon, NM

Even if we retrofitted every power plant in the world with the most cutting-edge technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the continually evolving nature of energy production means there will always be ways to better use coal to produce electricity.

Because of that, clean coal technologies can generate significant employment opportunities in the coal industry’s research and development sector. Let’s take a look:

Training: In the past, the Department of Energy has awarded funding to programs that help bring site developers, geologists, engineers and technicians up-to-speed on the latest carbon dioxide sequestration technologies. If new clean coal projects are created, it’s likely there will be more training opportunities like these offered in the future.

Geology: When it comes to carbon sequestration, studying geology and permeability is the key to safely storing CO2 in the ground. As a result, geological research will be crucial to perfecting the science behind CCS.

Engineering: Because clean coal is an evolutionary term, it will expand to mean more things in the future than simply the innovations we use today. As a result, environmental and chemical engineers must continue to create, test and develop the technologies that make coal even cleaner.

Environmental policy: Policy analysts play a crucial role in making sure that the government gets the right data and recommendations on the latest scientific breakthroughs. Without their detailed reports, policymakers would not be able to make the right choices about energy and the environment.

Business and economics: Financing a project and determining its cost-effectiveness is just as important as its technological feasibility. The work of economists, entrepreneurs and investors can bring a commercial-scale clean coal project to life.

Jobs like these help ensure that innovation in the coal-powered energy sector continues – so stay tuned to Behind the Plug to learn more about other kinds of work that can be created by continued investment in coal technologies.

Make no mistake: American coal is America’s Power

On Sunday night, we all watched proudly as the U.S. men’s hockey team upset the favored Canadian team. But while the U.S. and Canada are rivals on the hockey rink, our two nations couldn’t be more closely aligned off the ice. That’s the main point behind new Olympic ads being run by the Canadian Business Council.

Now, I don’t want to start a fuss with our friends above the 48th parallel, but their ad says, “Canada is America’s largest energy provider.” The ad then goes on to say that we import natural gas, oil, and hydro-electricity from Canada … but, we have significant energy resources here at home, too. Most notably, America has the most abundant reserves of coal in the world. We have more energy in the form of coal right here in the U.S. than the Middle East has oil. And, the coal we have right here at home provides about half of the electricity American families and businesses use every day.

I’m sure that the Canadian Business Council knows this, and I’m sure that their ad takes that into account (there are only so many words you can say in 30 seconds, and it is a great ad). But in case you’re like me and watching the Olympics, you can be reminded that when it comes to energy, American coal is America’s Power.

What they’re saying about clean coal policy

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Press release (2/19): “At a time when so many people are hurting, we need to put the decisions about our energy future in to the hands of the people and their elected representatives—especially on issues impacting clean coal. EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency.”

Opinion, Journal Sentinel (2/20):
"Declining manufacturing employment, especially in places such as
Wisconsin, should prompt lawmakers to take steps to shore up this
national asset. Increase infrastructure spending on targeted projects
including a new smart electric grid system, mass transit, roads,
bridges, broadband, nuclear energy and clean coal technologies. The
nation's infrastructure is crumbling, which hurts U.S. competitiveness
and manufacturers in particular. Investing in infrastructure creates
jobs directly in construction and manufacturing."

Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo, WHAS11 (2/21):
"So jobs is the foundation. Louisville is the economic engine of
Kentucky, so obviously this is going to be of utmost economic
importance for any U.S. Senator."

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), The Register Herald (2/22): “I was working very hard, every step of the way, to try to improve the [climate] bill from the perspective of our coal industry and our consumers in West Virginia,” he said. “So I’m working responsibly through the whole process to try to improve the bill from the perspective of the people I’m honored to represent. The improvements were made. Then the oil industry came out against the bill. They felt it was too coal-oriented. They called it a ‘pro-coal’ bill.”

National Journal (2/22): A draft bill crafted by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and circulated around the Hill last week proposes a national "clean energy" production mandate that would include not only renewables but also nuclear energy and "clean" coal. Graham's plan is more robust than similar provisions included in legislation last year.

New York Daily News (2/22): "And they praised [Gov. Paterson’s] efforts to bring jobs to the area, especially the development of so-called clean coal technology.
'He supports us … we're going to support him' said Mike Hess, 46, a member of the Boilermakers Local Union 7."

The Dallas Morning News (2/22): "Texas has about 102,000 megawatts of generating capacity from all sources. Natural gas and coal combined for about 85 percent of Texas' generation in 2008, followed by nuclear with 10 percent, wind with 4 percent, and all other renewables, including solar, with just 1 percent."

Opinion, Grand Junction Free Press: "Since climate legislation stalled in Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to circumvent the legislative process and pass rules to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. The EPA's proposed plan is an attempt to control the economy. Virtually every person and every business emits carbon dioxide and the EPA is attempting to use the Clean Air Act to control it all. Under the EPA's rules, if a business emits more than the limit on carbon dioxide, it would be required to obtain a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit to build or a building."

Odessa American, News release (2/22): "Projects [Ector County Commissioners Court Candidate Drew] Crutcher looks forward to assisting with include Summit’s Texas Clean Energy Project, a planned 400-megawatt plant that will capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide it produces."

Our response to Pearlstein’s comment in The Washington Post

In response to Steven Pearlstein’s column in today’s Washington Post, Lisa Camooso Miller offered the following comment:

“You’re right when you say natural gas is a more expensive fuel than coal. According to EIA data, natural gas prices averaged over the period 1999-2008 have been almost four times more expensive than coal. During the first ten months of 2009, the price of natural gas was more than double the price of coal.

“But you missed EIA projections that expect natural gas prices to increase by 78 percent between 2010 and 2030. By comparison, coal prices are projected to decrease by 8.5 percent over the same period. It will be hard to convince consumers to absorb the higher cost of natural gas.

“The U.S. has abundant supplies of coal. First, at the current rate of consumption, the U.S. is capable of meeting domestic demand for coal for 234 years. Second, the U.S. has enough natural gas to last for less than 70 years, based on government figures. The U.S. might use up these gas supplies even faster.

“Independent experts have raised concerns that replacing coal with natural gas to generate electricity could create the same kind of dependence on liquid natural gas imports from other regions, such as the Middle East.

“Today, coal provides nearly half of the electricity Americans rely upon, which is roughly one-third the cost of natural gas. In the future, coal plants can meet the nation’s electricity needs and reduce carbon emissions by using advanced technologies that are being developed right now.”

Recent remarks to the NYT

Earlier this month, Bob Herbert penned a column in the New York Times regarding China’s progress in energy technologies entitled, “Watching China Run.”

I recently responded through a letter to the editor. I wrote that Mr. Herbert reiterated a point that I’ve been making for some time now: America needs to invest in new energy technologies. They will help us improve the environment, create new jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.

Mr. Herbert failed to point out that China is currently using record levels of coal, in addition to alternative energy sources, to fuel their surge in manufacturing.
Furthermore, the demand for energy has grown exponentially and will continue to grow as developing countries become more competitive. The only way to meet that growing need is to employ all of our available resources.

And that includes coal—a reliable, abundant and affordable source of electricity. With the help of technology, coal can position America as a leader in clean energy.

Read the full letter and share your thoughts here in the comments.

What they’re saying about energy policy

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), The Hill (2/16): “Rather than additional regulations, we need additional refineries, clean coal and nuclear power plants, as well as ethanol, biodiesel, wind and solar investments. Expanding our energy portfolio and undertaking responsible conservation efforts are both important parts of a comprehensive American energy policy that lowers costs for consumers and businesses.”

President Obama, Sun Times (2/17): “But in order to truly harness our potential in clean energy we’re going to have to do more, and that’s why we’re here. In the near term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions about opening up new offshore areas for oil and gas development. We’ll need to make continued investments in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies, even as we build greater capacity in renewables like wind and solar. And we’re going to have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in America.”

President Obama, API (2/17):
“Whether it’s nuclear energy, or solar or wind energy, if we fail to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, then we’re going to be importing those technologies instead of exporting them.”