Archive for April, 2013

McConnell Champions Coal with New Legislation

On Monday, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) unveiled new legislation that would require the EPA to expedite the process for coal companies seeking permits to open new mines, as covered by the Associated Press. U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) plans to introduce similar legislation in the House next week.

McConnell’s “Coal Jobs Protection Act” is a promising step in protecting the coal industry from what he asserts is EPA action beyond its “scope of authority” by making the permitting process for coal mines more burdensome, The Hill noted.

“Coal is a vital part of my state’s economy, and a vital part of America’s energy portfolio,” McConnell said. “The EPA’s attack on this important Kentucky industry hampers the growth of jobs, and it especially hampers the growth of small business — the greatest engine of job creation.”

McConnell clearly recognizes the importance of coal in keeping our nation’s economy strong, providing good jobs to hard-working Americans, and preserving access to affordable and reliable energy. In his own state of Kentucky, over 4,000 coal industry jobs have been lost – a drop of nearly 30 percent – prompting action through this new legislative measure.

Clean Coal Tech of the Week: Coal Gasification

Integrated coal gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) plants power many communities throughout the country.  This clean coal technology converts coal to a synthetic gas that is then combusted in a combined-cycle system, one of the most efficient in commercial use today, meaning more energy and less emissions from coal-fueled power plants.

IGCC can achieve thermal efficiencies that exceed 40 percent, thus emitting as much as 30 percent less carbon dioxide.  IGCC plants also have very low SO2, NOX, particulate matter, and mercury emissions – making them some of the cleanest plants in the United States – using our nation’s most affordable and abundant domestic fuel resource – coal.

Among the plants that will be using IGCC technology is the Edwardsport Station in Indiana, which is expected to begin commercial operation by the middle of this year.  “The 618-megawatt IGCC facility will be one of the cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the world.”

In North Dakota, Basin Electric Power Cooperative owns and operates a plant employing gasification technology.   The Great Plains Synfuels Plant – the cleanest energy plant operating in the state – is “a model of how coal can be used to produce energy in an efficient and environmentally responsible manner.”

In Kemper County, Mississippi, Southern Company is building a 582-megawatt transport integrated gasification (TRIG) plant that will deploy technology to capture 65 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the plant, using the state’s four billion ton reserve of lignite coal.

Just another way clean coal technologies are powering our energy future.

Statement from Mike Duncan in Commemoration of Earth Day

In commemoration of Earth Day, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity president and CEO Mike Duncan released the following statement:

“By 2015, more than 90 percent of U.S. coal power plants will have installed clean coal technologies and other advanced emissions controls. This unprecedented investment is leading to cleaner air, while preserving the affordable electricity generated by coal. The coal industry is proud of these accomplishments and looks forward to newer technologies to improve the lives of all Americans.”

Coal Gasification: Versatile and Clean Way to Produce Coal-Based Electricity

Coal Gasification is the process of converting coal into synthetic “natural” gas by a process using incomplete combustion to create carbon monoxide (CO). The CO is transformed into a substitute natural gas through chemical interaction with a catalyst for use as a fuel or further processing and concentration into an industrial feed stock or liquid fuel.

The Department of Energy states that coal gasification offers one of the most versatile and clean ways to convert coal into electricity, hydrogen, and other valuable energy products. Gasification, in fact, may be one of the most flexible technologies to produce clean-burning hydrogen for tomorrow’s automobiles and power-generating fuel cells. Hydrogen and other coal gases can also be used to fuel power-generating turbines, or as the chemical “building blocks” for a wide range of commercial products.

The capability to produce electricity, hydrogen, chemicals, or various combinations while eliminating nearly all air pollutants and potentially greenhouse gas emissions makes coal gasification one of the most promising technologies for energy plants of the future.


The Cost of Los Angeles Prematurely Replacing Coal-Based Electricity

In a story from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, a city watchdog has attached a large price tag to the city’s initiative to move the city away from coal-based electricity.

According to the article, “Fred Pickel, the ratepayer advocate at the Department of Water and Power, said Monday that eliminating coal from the utility’s power mix ahead of a state-mandated deadline is projected to cost more than $600 million. What that could mean for ratepayers’ electricity bills is unclear, he said.”

At a meeting of the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee on Wednesday, Pickel said he would urge city officials to look for ways to lower the costs. “The question is, can we do this cheaper?” he said.

Two coal plants currently provide nearly 40 percent of the city’s energy. Under the new plan, the city would supplant most of that with power produced by switching to natural gas.

Fuel switching is an interesting approach for Los Angeles considering clean coal technology enjoys majority support among California voters. It is especially noteworthy that this support is broad-based, encompassing majorities of Republican, Democratic and voters declining to state a party affiliation. Given that the most important issues to California voters are “jobs and the economy,”voter sentiment that the state’s energy policies have made it less competitive should be a red flag to Sacramento legislators.

In a recent survey of California voters, nearly 57 percent answered yes when they were asked “Do you support or oppose developing new clean coal power plants in California?” When asked the question, “Do you think that California’s energy policies have made the state more or less competitive?”, more than 43 percent answered yes. And particularly telling is the fact that nearly one-quarter of California voters feel that the state’s energy policies have made the state far less competitive.

These numbers are in stark contrast to comments recently made recently by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he announced that the city will become the only city in America that won’t get any electricity from coal by the year 2025.

Coal-based electricity is one of the least expensive, most reliable means of producing electricity, and it’s a central part of the American energy portfolio. Not only that, coal has a long history of providing energy to Americans.

America has depended on the reliable and abundant coal that comes from our land and powers our lives for more than a century. With the energy in America’s coal reserves being roughly equal to the world’s known oil reserves, it’s clear that coal should continue to be a reliable source of electricity for all of us.

New Innovations in 21st Century Coal-Based Electricity

A recent story from Power Engineering International says that GE Power & Water developed a new innovation aimed at assisting coal-fueled power plants in further reducing their emissions.

The article states, “The air-filtration media technology involves bi-component felt media for construction of fabric filters used in coal-fired boiler baghouses. There continues to be a pressing demand for further innovations in clean coal technology, as the fossil fuel continues to show resilience as an energy source, despite the continuing progress towards renewable energy.”

Over the last several decades, the coal-based electricity industry has invested billions to clean the air, and the results are that emissions of major pollutants from coal-fueled power plants have been reduced by nearly 90 percent per unit of electricity generated.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal will continue to account for the largest share of electricity generation through 2040. And the International Energy Agency reports that even though coal demand growth has slowed in the U.S., coal’s share of the global energy mix is still rising, and by 2017 coal will come close to surpassing oil as the world’s top energy source.

Coal-Based Electricity and the EPA Nominee

In a US Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s pick to lead the EPA, told a Senate panel on Thursday that coal will remain important in the U.S. energy mix and that if confirmed that she will be flexible in applying new pollution rules for coal-fueled power plants.

“Coal has been and will continue to be a significant source of energy in the United States, and I take my job seriously when developing those standards to provide flexibility in the rules,” McCarthy said.

According to a story from Reuters, “Republican Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, among others, quizzed McCarthy about the economic impact of its rules on states that rely on coal as a primary energy source, and about her feelings toward job losses when coal plants close.”

Barrasso said rules that prevent new coal plants from being built and would potentially shut down existing coal plants are already causing “chronic unemployment” in Wyoming.

“I haven’t heard yet any plain statements from EPA –hopefully we will today from this nominee – about the negative health impacts and lives lost from chronic unemployment caused by the EPA policies,” he said. “This is a serious health epidemic and it seems to go unnoticed by the EPA. How many more times will an EPA administrator pull the regulatory lever that will allow another mining family to fall through the EPA’s trap door of joblessness, poverty and poor health,” he said. “Are coal miners no longer heroes to the nominee and the EPA? These people are heroes and they deserve better than they’re getting from the EPA,” Barrasso said.

Coal is mined in 25 U.S. states and is responsible for more than 760,000 jobs in the United States. Wyoming is the largest coal-producing state, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

EIA Projects Coal Generation Gains

In an article from yesterday’s Power Magazine, the magazine states that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that coal generation will gain in 2013 due to the rising price of natural gas.

According to the article: “The increasing cost of natural gas relative to coal is expected to increase coal’s share of total generation from 37.4% in 2012 to 39.9% in 2013, according to the EIA April release of its Short-Term Energy Outlook.

Though that would leave coal’s percentage below its 42.3% share in 2011, it indicates that gas may not be on an inevitable path to overtake a significantly greater share of the generation pie.”

Just today, a dedication ceremony was held for the John W. Turk Plant in Arkansas. The 600-megawatt coal-fueled plant began commercial operations in December 2012 and is one of the cleanest, most efficient coal-fueled plants in the United States, and the first of its kind in operation in the United States.

EIA figures also show that coal consumption will increase both domestically and internationally to meet rising electricity demand during the next several decades, providing the U.S. and other countries with indigenous energy resources.