Archive for June, 2011

Why Fuel Switching is Harmful to Our Energy and Economic Security

America’s energy security – our access to affordable, domestic energy sources – is closely linked to our economic security, and a national discussion over what path America should take to achieve energy security has led some to debate the idea of “fuel switching.” These regulations and laws, which would force America’s power plants to replace their use of coal with less reliable, more expensive sources of electricity, would have significant negative impacts on our economy.

What are some of those impacts?

  • More Expensive Electricity for Families, Job Creators: For working families, less money spent on electricity bills means more money for other household necessities. We need to continue providing businesses with a reliable supply of affordable electricity to get our economy back on track so we can maintain existing jobs and create millions of new ones. The cost of generating electricity from coal is one-third to one-fifth the cost of producing electricity from natural gas. If power plants are forced to switch from a stable, low-cost fuel to a fluctuating, high-cost fuel, many American families simply won’t be able to afford other household necessities they need today.
  • Job Losses: According to initial findings from the National Economic Research Associates (sponsored by ACCCE), two proposed EPA regulations on power plants would lead to 13 percent of coal-fueled electricity generation decreasing over the next five years, being replaced by more expensive sources of energy. Every job that two proposed EPA regulations on power plants would create, four other jobs would be lost, with over 1.4 million job-years being lost from 2013 to 2020.
  • Less-Reliable Electricity: Electricity is produced in baseload power and peaking power. Baseload power is the energy necessary to keep the electricity grid working around the clock to meet a constant demand. Peaking power is energy that comes on and off throughout the day, when electricity usage and energy demand goes up. Peaking power can use intermittent power sources like solar and wind that produce electricity only when there’s sufficient direct sunlight or sufficient sustained wind speed. While using renewable sources like solar and wind to diversify our peaking power is a great option when conditions allow, baseload power must use more reliable fuels such as coal, which can provide energy 24 hours a day. By reducing the place of coal as an option for baseload energy, electricity reliability could suffer.

For more facts about the coal-fueled electricity industry, and how it compare to other sources of energy, go to CoalFacts.org.


Coal’s Essential Role in American Manufacturing

President Obama visits Iowa today, to emphasize the importance of the manufacturing sector to the American economy. Iowa is home to many U.S. manufacturers, and the state gets 72 percent of its electricity from coal, giving it the 12th lowest electricity prices in the nation. The coal-based electricity industry and the manufacturing industry are closely linked, and any manufacturer small or large will tell you the role affordable, reliable energy plays in making their business profitable.

Robyn Hempfling of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is part of this manufacturing industry.  She makes high-tech circuit boards at Dynamic Manufacturing. Let Robyn share how her ability to keep people working and stay competitive depends on affordable electricity generated by coal:

In Toledo, Ohio, Olivia Albright owns a small business that takes finished manufactured products and packages them for commercial customers. All down the production chain, as Olivia explains, low-cost electricity allows business owners to focus on their employees and making a quality product.

States that use more coal to generate electricity have lower electricity rates, and businesses are drawn to those states where they know they can build strong, America-based companies. America also has more coal reserves than any other country in the world, a reliable source of energy that we can produce domestically. Find more about keeping electricity prices low for American businesses here.


Taking Advantage of Coal’s Importance, Not Diminishing It

American Electric Power recently announced that proposed EPA regulations would force the shutdown of five coal-fueled power plants and the reduction of power generation at six other power plants, further harming electricity reliability. This would go along with a net loss of 600 power plant jobs with annual wages totaling approximately $40 million. Yet, in an editorial last week, the New York Times argued that this evidence showing how proposed EPA regulations would harm our economic and energy security was “cynical.”

ACCCE President and CEO, Steve Miller, responded with a letter to the editor of the New York Times yesterday, noting that no one should be dismissive of such evidence:

[C]alling American Electric Power cynical was dismissive of the 600 A.E.P. workers who stand to lose their jobs years ahead of schedule because of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations. While a few more years on the job may not seem like much to you, I am sure that the 600 workers and their families feel differently.

Miller also points out that future legislation and regulations coming from Washington should emphasize, not weaken, coal’s role in a balanced energy portfolio:

There is a reason coal generates nearly half of our nation’s electricity: because it’s affordable, abundant, reliable and increasingly clean. We need energy policies that take advantage of coal’s importance to the United States, not diminish it.

Click here to see the initial findings from the National Economic Research Associates on negative effects these proposed EPA regulations on power plants would have on jobs and energy prices.


The Contributions of Coal to Your Life

President Obama is visiting Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh today to talk about jobs and economic growth. The Obama administration has consistently recognized the importance of coal to our economy and our energy portfolio. Back in March, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar noted that “coal is a critical component of America’s comprehensive energy portfolio” and that “it’s important that we continue to encourage safe production of this important resource.”

Have you ever taken the time to think about the significant role coal-based electricity plays in your daily life?  At our new website, CoalFacts.org, you and your friends can learn ten key facts about the coal-based electricity industry. And what are a couple of those contributions?

First, coal mining is responsible for over 550,000 jobs in America. According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers based on U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, U.S. coal mining was responsible for 154,000 direct jobs and over 400,000 indirect jobs in 2008.

Second, states that use more coal to generate electricity have lower electricity rates. This means that American families have more money to spend on other essential household items they need.

Find out where your state ranks on electricity rates and coal usage on this State Energy Map.

Coal has always had a particular importance to our standard of living, and as President Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu said back in February, “The world will continue to rely on coal-fired electrical generation to meet energy demand” and it’s “imperative that the United States develop the technology to ensure that base-load electricity generation is as clean and reliable as possible.”


Protecting Coal’s Vital Economic Role in Pennsylvania

Tomorrow, President Obama will visit Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to discuss how government, industry and academic institutes can work to create jobs in established and emerging industries. Not just an industry itself, coal-based electricity and the development of advanced coal technologies has played a vital role for almost all other industries in the Keystone State.

Just last month, I met with Mike Lee, President of Lee Supply Company, Inc., a small business  in Charleroi, Pennsylvania (just 30 miles south of Pittsburgh) that distributes piping and pumping products to municipalities as well as mining, environmental, and industrial companies. Lee, who has 110 Pennsylvanians on his payroll, told us that the coal industry is nearly half of his company’s business, and that increased energy costs due to regulations hindering coal-based electricity could lead to layoffs:

Two of the EPA’s proposed regulations on power plants could have significant impacts on Pennsylvania’s economy. Recent analysis from the National Economic Research Associates (sponsored by ACCCE) shows that these proposed EPA regulations would:

  • Result in the net loss of 59,000 jobs in Pennsylvania from 2013-2020, and;
  • Increase electricity prices by as much as 17.1 percent for Pennsylvanian families and business owners.

Coal is critical to every industry in Pennsylvania that relies on affordable energy. More importantly, in order to keep Pennsylvania’s economy, and our nation’s economic well-being, on the right track, we need to make sure that regulations impacting coal-fueled power plants first do no harm to families and job creators living in states already facing serious economic challenges.


By the Numbers: How Will Proposed EPA Power Plant Regulations Affect Energy Security?

America’s abundant coal reserves – and our continued use of coal to generate electricity – promote greater U.S. energy security. The reason is simple: the coal we rely on is found right here at home, and we have a more than 200-year supply based upon today’s rate of usage. Figures from the Energy Information Administration show that electricity demand will increase over the next several decades, and coal will provide America with an indigenous energy resource to meet that need.

But two of the EPA’s proposed regulations on power plants could significantly affect our access to reliable energy. Last week, we shared four numbers with you from a new National Economic Research Associates study on those regulations and their impact on our economic security. Now, here are three numbers you need to know from that study on how these regulations would impact our energy security:

  • 48: That’s how many gigawatts of coal unit retirements would take place under these proposed EPA regulations. Forty-eight gigawatts is a staggering 15 percent of the current coal fleet. American Electric Power recently announced that the same proposed regulations would force the shutdown of five coal-fueled power plants and the reduction of power generation at six other power plants, further harming electricity reliability.
  • 13 Percent: That’s how much coal-fueled electricity generation would decrease in the next five years because of these proposed EPA regulations. This could be replaced by more expensive sources of energy, hitting the pocketbooks of American families and small businesses at a time when the country needs to create jobs.
  • 10 Percent: Electricity sector coal demand would decrease by ten percent by 2016 under these proposed EPA regulations. Even though coal is one of our most abundant domestic resources, there would be less demand for one of our most affordable sources of power.

While some try to argue that we need to switch from coal to alternative sources of energy, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) recently made the point in Politico that we need coal-based electricity to serve as a reliable source of baseload power:

Although I’ve always been a strong supporter of renewable energy, it is neither reliable nor cheap enough to provide a significant portion of this nation’s electricity. According to the Energy Information Administration’s annual energy outlook, coal will continue to provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s electricity through 2035, remaining an essential part of America’s energy future. Today, coal is irreplaceable as the energy source for nearly half of our nation’s electricity. And it is one of the greatest hopes our country has of achieving energy security in a dangerous world. The energy content of the U.S. coal reserves exceeds the energy of all the world’s oil reserves combined.

Because of these costly impacts on energy security, the EPA should make major changes to the proposed regulations before they are finalized.


CoalFacts.org – 10 Facts You Might Not Know about Coal-Fueled Electricity

Did you know that the energy in America’s recoverable coal reserves is roughly equal to that of the world’s known oil reserves? Many people don’t know this and nine other key facts about the natural resource that is so important to America. At CoalFacts.org you can see and share these surprising facts about energy in the U.S.

Take a look, and be sure to share your favorite fact with your friends, co-workers and even your elected officials.

Share CoalFacts.org with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, and tell them to learn more about one of America’s most abundant natural resources.


States Moving Forward on Advanced Coal Technologies

Yesterday, we visited a meeting of the Carbon Capture and Storage Institute in Charleston, W.Va, sponsored by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Several state legislators, industry representatives and energy analysts gathered to examine current and future CCS efforts as well as state and federal policies that will be needed to ensure its success.

We live-tweeted the meeting yesterday, and noted many important points made during the conference. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy at DOE James Wood emphasized the importance of America leading the way in CCS technology development to help the rest of the world develop similar projects. West Virginia State Sen. Mike Green (D-9th District) said that states can also lead the way in developing CCS technologies through public-private partnerships.

I had the chance to speak briefly with Kansas State Rep. Carl Holmes (R-125th District) about how CCS technology developments in his district are benefiting his constituents economically, and boosting our national energy security through enhanced oil recovery:

As Holmes points out, early investment in these advanced coal technologies brought several benefits to the Sunflower State. In fact, in a 2009 ACCCE-commissioned study, American taxpayers have seen a quick and significant return on federal investments in clean coal technologies, gaining $13 in benefits for every dollar the government invests. And another study shows that over 150,000 jobs can be created through continued investment in advanced coal generation.

The NARUC/NCSL Carbon Capture and Storage Institute is concluding its meeting today with a trip to New Haven, W.Va. to take a tour of AEP’s Mountaineer Plant where a CCS facility is up and running. Click here to see the tour I took last Fall with AEP Plant Manager Brian Sherrick.