Archive for February, 2012

Innovation is Essential in Energy

On Tuesday, President Obama hosted the second White House Science fair, celebrating students with outstanding science, technology, engineering, and math projects. As students and scientists across the country are introducing new or different technological methods in their fields, innovation is also key in developing a successful energy portfolio for the United States.

Clean coal technology allows power plants to use America’s most dominant resource while increasing the operational efficiency and reducing emissions. The science is complex, but worth the work.

Just take a look at the Texas Clean Energy Project—a plant that when it’s completed, will be one of the cleanest coal-fueled power plant in the world. CPS Energy, a utility in San Antonio, has already agreed to purchase approximately 200 megawatts of power from this plant—that’s going to impact thousands of home who will receive affordable, stable power from this coal plant. And, on top of that, the plant will be receiving $450 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative.

Innovation is essential in developing these new techniques to better use our energy resources. Click on the diagram below to learn more about clean coal technology.


Myth vs. Fact: Coal, Clean Air and Jobs

Myth 1: We have to choose between coal and a clean energy future.

Two days ago, we released a study showing that the 60 million households earning less than $50,000 a year now devote more than 20 percent of their family budget toward energy costs, nearly double what they spent just ten years ago.

But some who want America to stop using coal, one of our most abundant and affordable sources of energy, are trying to push the myth that we have to choose between coal and a clean energy future. But here are the facts when it comes to our investments and results of clean coal technologies:

  • Our Investment: Coal-fueled power plants have already invested almost $100 billion to significantly reduce emissions without new EPA rules, and will invest $125 billion through 2015 to reduce emissions.
  • Our Results: In the last 40 years, investments have lead to (1) reduced emissions of three major air pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) by nearly 90 percent per unit of electricity generated, (2) mercury emissions being reduced by more than 60 percent, and (3) hydrogen chloride emissions being reduced by nearly 90 percent by 2015.
  • Our Energy: These reductions in emissions come while nearly tripling the use of coal for electricity in that same time period, with population up 48 percent and GDP up 209 percent.

Myth 2: EPA regulations can save and create jobs.

Others who want America to move “beyond coal” are pushing the myth that utilities and other industries can retain all of the employees of the coal plants and other business they are shutting down as a result of new EPA regulations. But here are the facts on jobs and those EPA regulations:

  • Job Loss vs. Gains: When looking at how EPA regulations affect employment, it’s important to look at the cumulative effects of those rules. When NERA conducted the analysis of four proposed EPA regulations back in September, they took into account sectors that would gain jobs or lose jobs: “[S]ectors that would gain jobs account for about 55,000 added jobs per year on average, and sectors that would lose jobs account for about 238,000 fewer jobs per year on average.”
  • Total Net Jobs Lost: In total, these proposed rules would lead to a net employment loss of 1.65 million jobs from 2012 to 2020.

As Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) recently said, regulations and policies that effectively make it impossible to use coal-fueled electricity as part of a balanced energy portfolio are “irresponsible.”


Manufacturers Can’t Afford Harmful EPA Regulations

The folks over at the National Association of Manufacturers point out that EPA’s new regulations put the job and economic growth that is needed in their industry at risk:

[T]he reliability of our power grid is put at risk by the EPA’s regulations. Manufacturers are looking for certainty and regulations such as Utility MACT will only increase energy costs and cause them to at times wonder about the reliability of their power grid. Manufacturers consume one-third of our nation’s power and need access to all sources of energy.

An “All-of-the-Above” approach to energy should include everything including clean coal, manufacturers can’t afford increasing energy prices at a time when they are trying to recover, hire and create new jobs.

You can read the rest here.


Utility MACT’s Impact on Energy, Jobs and Manufacturing

In his State of the Union address two weeks ago, President Obama said that he wants an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. But his new and proposed regulations from the EPA could make it impossible for new coal-fueled power plants to be built in the future.

That’s what Ralph Roberson, president of an air quality consulting company that provides services to utilities and industrial companies, said at a House Energy & Power Subcommittee hearing today on the Utility MACT rule, arguing that EPA’s new rules prevent Americans from building new power plants fueled by one of America’s most abundant and reliable domestic resources:

“In essence, EPA has adopted standards that prevent the country from building new coal-fueled units … Electric utilities have always relied on a diverse set of resources as a means of insuring against the uncertainty of the future. Coal has always played a prominent role in utility resources portfolios because it is a domestic fuel and, over the long term, has proved to be reliably available at stable and predictable prices. Banning new coal-fired EGUs would represent a significant shift in U.S. energy policy and the way utilities have planned their portfolios, with potentially significant consequences for electric ratepayers.”

Dr. Anne Smith of NERA economic consulting reminded Subcommittee members that although EPA and others claim that jobs can be created by Utility MACT, one has to take into account the net employment impacts of these rules. And job losses are significant:

“[T]he net impact to U.S. workers in 2015 will be a reduction in worker income that is equivalent to about 200,000 full-time jobs. The net impacts are largest in the period around 2015, but remain a net negative through 2035. These estimates of total worker income impacts are net of (i.e., include) the increases in demand for labor to implement the electric sector’s compliance projects. The vast majority of the reduction occurs in the services and non-energy manufacturing sectors, which have to absorb the higher natural gas and electricity prices induced by the MATS Rule.”

The Utility MACT rule would also have devastating effects on America’s manufacturing sector because of electricity cost increases and decreased electricity reliability. As Darren MacDonald, Director of Energy for Gerdau Long Steel North America, said to the Subcommittee, only substantially changing this rule would prevent these impacts:

“The steel sector is concerned about increased electricity costs and reliability issues that may result from this regulation. This is for the simple fact that all of the compliance costs and reliability risks will ultimately be passed on to us, the consumers. Our concern is that a confluence of new EPA regulations on the utility sector over the next 5 years – capped by the Utility MACT Rule – will have a substantial impact on our direct cost of doing business … If electricity prices do not remain affordable and if electric supply is not reliable, the economic recovery can be put at risk along with it manufacturing jobs.”

Click here to learn more about how EPA’s Utility MACT rule and other regulations would impact you and your family.


Half of U.S. Families Have Seen Energy Costs Nearly Double in Past Ten Years

Minorities & Seniors Hit Hardest by Energy Cost Burdens

WASHINGTON – America’s working class and those on fixed incomes are suffering the most from increases in energy prices, according to a new study released today by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.  The study finds that more than half of U.S. households now devote more than 20 percent of their family budget toward energy costs, nearly double what they spent just ten years ago.

“When government regulations increase the cost of energy, it is America’s working class who shoulder the burden,” said Steve Miller, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.  “A typical American family is now spending almost twice as much for energy today than it did a few years ago.  For millions of Americans living on low and fixed incomes, surging energy prices mean less money for other necessities such as food, housing and health care.”

The annual assessment “Energy Cost Impacts on American Families” uses data from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze energy cost increases since 2001 for U.S. households.  Energy costs include transportation, home heating and cooling and electricity.  The findings are particularly timely in light of EPA’s newly finalized Utility MACT rule that, when combined with other pending EPA regulations, will increase electricity rates and other energy prices, especially in states that rely on coal for electricity.

“Because coal has provided about half of America’s electricity over the past decade, electricity prices have actually declined when adjusted for inflation,” said Miller.  “But new EPA regulations are making electricity and other energy sources unnecessarily expensive during a time of economic turmoil.”

The full study, “Energy Cost Impacts on American Families,” written by environmental attorney and energy economist Eugene M. Trisko for ACCCE, is available at http://www.americaspower.org/sites/default/files/Energy_Cost_Impacts_2012_FINAL.pdf.

Some of the findings include:

  • Energy costs are growing and eating up a disproportionate share of low and fixed-income families’ budgets. The 60 million households that earn less than $50,000 per year, or half of all U.S. families, will devote an estimated 21 percent of their after-tax incomes to energy, compared to 12 percent spent in 2001.
  • Energy cost burdens are greatest on the poorest families. The energy bills of families earning less than $10,000 have risen to 78 percent of their after-tax income.
  • Minority families are burdened by higher energy costs. More than 60 percent of Black and Hispanic families had pre-tax household incomes below $50,000 in 2010, compared with 39 percent for Asian families and 46 percent for white households.
  • Lower and fixed-income senior households are among those most vulnerable to energy price increases. Food, health care and other necessities compete with energy for a share of the household budget. The $31,408 median income of senior U.S. households means that half of these households depend on incomes below this level.
  • Electricity is the bargain among all consumer energy products. This is due, in part, to the utility industry’s reliance on affordable coal.  Electricity prices have increased by 51 percent in nominal dollars since 1990, while the nominal prices of residential natural gas and gasoline have nearly doubled and tripled, respectively.
  • EPA regulations drive up electricity prices. Virtually all of the residential electricity price increases over the past two decades have occurred since 2000.  These increases are due in part to additional capital, operating and maintenance costs associated with meeting clean air and other environmental standards.

Coal in State Houses

All across the country, governors from both sides of the aisle are addressing state legislators and residents reporting on their state’s goals, priorities and obstacles for 2012.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D-W.Va.) gave his State of the State earlier this year, where he touched on West Virginia’s energy policy. Tomblin made it clear that “coal is and always will be a part” of West Virginia’s future.  He also discussed plans for a $30 million clean coal technology plant to be run in West Virginia’s Kanawha County, which ultimately would create high tech manufacturing jobs for the residents of his state. Tomblin also expressed frustration at the federal government, saying that he will “continue to fight this administration’s war on coal.”

Tomblin wasn’t alone in speaking up for the coal industry, as Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell addressed the threat of EPA regulations on Virginians in his State of the Commonwealth address:

“We must continue to demand that the federal government stop the overreach and overregulation of our important job-creating coal and natural gas industries.”

As other states plan for their energy future, it’s important to remember that coal is America’s dominant energy source, and should be a factor for those states that rely on the reliable, affordable energy it provides.


Holcomb Expansion Project Means Reliable Electricity

There are those who want policies at the local, state, and federal level to move America away from coal, even though it is one of this country’s most abundant resources. But taking coal out of our energy portfolio would be irresponsible.

Sunflower Electric Power Company began its Holcomb Expansion Project in Kansas because no new baseload electricity generation had been added in the state for nearly three decades. Yet for those who want to block coal-based power plant construction projects like this, they threaten the reliability of our electricity as well as the families and job creators that depend on that energy

Watch this video from just over a year ago where I talked with then-Sunflower CEO Earl Watkins and Kansas State Sen. Karin Brownlee, both of whom emphasized the importance of coal’s role in baseload power and keeping the lights on when other sources of energy are less reliable: