Archive for April, 2014

Protecting Our Electricity Grid

Last week, I penned a response to National Journal’s “Energy Insiders” on the important topic of securing America’s electricity grid. While we certainly must protect our grid from cyber and physical attacks, we must also be concerned about another critical threat to the grid: power outages and electricity shortages due to reliability.

FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller has been vocal recently about these impending energy shortages. At a U.S. Energy Association meeting last week, he warned that the grid will likely stay reliable during mild weather, assuming we don’t experience periods of extreme hot or cold, but this is “not a sound basis of planning,” to hope the thermometer doesn’t tip either direction. This is an important point that should not be lost and something I discussed in my National Journal response.

Here is what I wrote:

 

Grid security has become a hot topic in Washington. Unfortunately, the discussion has focused on just one aspect—cyber security—of a much broader issue. Indeed, there is another security threat to our electric grid that has been downplayed by this administration; a threat that, ironically, has a common-sense and achievable solution.

This past winter brought historically cold temperatures to many parts of the country that resulted in widespread concerns with electric grid reliability. These concerns were well founded as we saw firsthand what happens when politically driven, costly regulations are imposed on coal-based industries that exclude the use of coal from our energy portfolio.

As natural gas price spikes and infrastructure and transport concerns strained the grid, prompting fears of blackouts and brownouts, it is not surprising that utilities turned to coal to ensure the power stayed on. In fact, AEP was running nearly 90 percent of its coal plants currently slated for closure just to help meet demand for power during the coldest days.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claims that coal will “play a critical role in a diverse U.S. energy mix for years to come” and also alleges her agency is focused on protecting electric reliability. A recent study from ACCCE, however, projects that 25 to 40 percent of the nation’s coal fleet could be shuttered depending on the stringency of EPA’s forthcoming 111(d) proposal, costing consumers $13 billion to $17 billion per year in higher electricity and natural gas prices.

Administrator McCarthy and others in this administration have so far only offered misleading statements about reliability concerns, maintaining that EPA’s regulations will not impact coal usage and that the agency will work to protect and preserve reliability.

We know these claims to be untrue, as EPA greenhouse gas regulations will impose a de facto ban on new coal-fueled power plants and likely force retirements of existing plants across the country which will, in fact, cause serious reliability issues that still haven’t been addressed by this administration.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hosted a hearing on grid reliability, but no representative from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testified about these very real reliability concerns associated with the agency’s regulatory assault on coal.

Some members of the committee, like Senators Manchin and Murkowski, raised concerns about how EPA regulations play into the broader grid security issue. Unfortunately, it seems that this administration is doing all it can to quell such concerns and continue leading America toward an energy policy that wholly disregards cost and reliability consequences.

Diminished electric reliability is certainly a threat to our well-being, to our economy and to our national security. It makes America less competitive, and it puts us all in harms’ way. In order to make headway on protecting grid security, we must have a more comprehensive and candid dialogue about all the looming threats.


A common-sense approach to coal

On Friday, The Washington Times published my Opinion Editorial, “A common-sense approach to coal.” As we prepare for the EPA’s pending 111(d) greenhouse gas regulations that will place emissions limits on existing coal-fired power plants, it is critical that we analyze the potential costs to consumers and potential job losses.

ACCCE recently released a detailed economic analysis that critiques the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) carbon regulation proposal, first put forth by NRDC in December 2012 and updated in March of this year. Unfortunately, their proposal ignored a lot of costs to consumers.

You can read the study by NERA Economic Consulting here and my piece in The Washington Times here.


Recapping McCarthy’s Earth Week Tour

This week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy hit the road for a cross-country Earth Week tour. Not surprisingly, her schedule included several photo ops with environmental groups—ardent supporters of EPA’s climate change agenda—and failed to visit communities hardest hit by her agency’s regulations.

McCarthy made stops in Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee—states that all have significant coal usage, using coal to power 33%, 69% and 41%, respectively, of their low-cost electricity. If these states are forced to eliminate coal from their energy portfolios, residents would face significant job losses and staggering electricity price spikes.

In Atlanta, McCarthy joined the Hip Hop Caucus to draw attention to a common narrative among environmental groups, that minorities are disproportionately impacted by climate change. But what about the cost and reliability impacts EPA’s regulations are having on families and communities? Why is McCarthy misleading us about the true consequences and coming clean about the negligible environmental benefits these regulations will have?

It’s easy for McCarthy to preach with her cronies alongside her, in controlled environments with friendly crowds. Much like her boss, President Obama, McCarthy has embraced glitz and glamour—joining The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park on Tuesday. Unfortunately, while basking in the spotlight, she has avoided having a candid, yet critical, dialogue about the true impacts of her agency’s regulatory attack on coal.


Win a Chance to Meet Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

How would you like to meet America’s Favorite Driver and 2014 Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? We’re excited to announce our new contest where you can sign up with America’s Power and be entered to win a day with Dale Jr. and tickets to the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races in Florida this November, along with other great prizes.

The grand prize is a four-day, three-night trip for two to the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on November 15, 2014 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. The grand prize winner will have a private meet-and-greet with Earnhardt, Jr. Other great prizes include a race car hood signed by Earnhardt, Jr., a racing tire signed by Earnhardt, Jr., die-cast cars signed by Earnhardt, Jr., and hero cards autographed by JR Motorsports driver Regan Smith.

I’m very excited about this initiative as a continuation of our partnership with Earnhardt, Jr., Regan Smith and the JR Motorsports team. For the third year running, we have teamed up with these talented drivers and their crews. It has been a wonderful collaboration, just take Dale’s word for it:

“Our partnership with America’s Power has enabled us to get the word out about importance of coal as part of our nation’s energy mix, while affording me and Regan the opportunity to meet fans and supporters from across the country, including those who work in the coal industry directly,” Earnhardt, Jr. said. “It’s been a fantastic relationship and a natural pairing since so many NASCAR fans live in areas that depend on affordable energy from coal and I know firsthand as a business owner that low energy costs allow me to continue hiring and growing.”

Entries for the contest must be received no later than Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. For contest entry information, including rules and terms, visit www.AmericasPower.org/meet-dale.

Best of luck to all those who enter our contest – and thanks for supporting America’s Power!

 


Earth Month: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Visits Arkansas’ Turk Power Plant

Emissions associated with electricity generation from coal aren’t what they used to be. Between 1970 and 2012, emissions of major pollutants from coal-based power plants decreased by more than 90 percent. We’re proud of how far our industry has come and the path forward we’re helping to forge. During “Earth Month,” we’re spotlighting some of the most cutting-edge clean coal technologies in use at plants today like the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant or “Turk” in Fulton, Arkansas.

Turk is the first “ultra-supercritical” coal-fueled power plant in the United States which uses a combination of technologies to limit its environmental impact. The plant began generating electricity in December, 2012. Here are some of the ways Turk is leading the way in clean technology and community engagement:

  • Ultra-supercritical refers to the technology that creates an increase in steam cycle efficiency to effectively reduce fuel consumption, reagent consumption, solid waste, water use and operating costs.
  • Advanced combustion technology allows the plant to generate energy from low-sulfur coal that produces less greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide) than traditional coal-based plants.
  • The plant has installed a whole suite of efficiency measures that allows Turk to use less coal to produce the same amount of electricity as a traditional 600-megawatt power plant.
  • The plant also fuels the local community of Fulton, Arkansas with quality jobs, economic development and $6 million in annual school and property tax revenue.

Check out our new video with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., including his tour of Turk last year:

 

 

The coal industry will have invested $145 billion by 2016 to achieve concrete emissions reductions, and the investments won’t stop there. As coal remains our most affordable, reliable domestic energy source for years to come, we must continue to support clean coal technology through investment and balanced regulation.

 

 


Coal Doesn’t Only Fuel Electricity – Coal Fuels Jobs & Local Economies Across the U.S.

Based on what we’ve seen, it is clear that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking to create a “one-size-fits-all” solution to greenhouse gas regulations. Last September, EPA proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that place a de facto ban on new coal-fueled power plants. EPA gave no flexibility to states on the rule, prompting a lawsuit from Nebraska and widespread ire from other coal-dependent states. Their outrage stems from the fact that the coal industry fuels thousands of jobs, our affordable electricity, and power plants that invest in their communities. Coal supports more than 800,000 jobs across the country, and the more than 500 power plants in the U.S. sustain communities wherever they are located.

Dozens of states across the U.S. use a large percentage of coal-based power to generate their electricity. In 2013, EIA reported that 31 states generated at least one quarter of their electricity from coal, and 17 of those states generated at least half of their electricity from coal—an increase over 2012. The states that rely on coal are not all from one area, either. The top 10 states for coal-based generation including West Virginia, Missouri, Wyoming, Ohio and New Mexico have diverse economies and are scattered across the U.S. One thing they all have in common is that their electricity rates run below the national average.

Mining, transportation, and power generation employ thousands of Americans. West Virginia employed more than 22,000 miners in 2012. While it may not be surprising that a state like West Virginia is home to many coal miners, what you might not know that mining employs more than 7,000 workers in Wyoming and more than 5,000 in Alabama. According to a recent study in Nebraska, coal power generation and transportation supported 22,844 jobs in the state.

States also offer us great examples of the newest power plant technologies that are lauded on the global stage. If NSPS is enacted, local communities will miss out on new, cutting-edge power plants and the economic growth spurred by their construction.

Arkansas’ John W. Turk Plant has been operating as one of the cleanest, most efficient coal-based power plants in the US. This 600 megawatt “ultra-supercritical” plant uses less coal and produces fewer emissions while still providing affordable base load power to the local grid.

In Mississippi, the Kemper County Energy Facility has brought economic development to the local community through jobs, commerce and tax revenue. When it is complete, this plant will be the cleanest coal-based power plant in America.

States across America are picking up on the fact that the national energy policy put forth by EPA has failed to take into account their specific circumstances. Unfortunately, innovative plants like Kemper County and Turk will be a thing of the past. Other communities will be unable to construct power plants that create job opportunities, economic growth and tax revenue. Jobs will be slashed and states with high levels of coal-generation will be vulnerable to high prices and less reliability.

To support the economic growth and job opportunities coal provides to local communities, visit www.EPARegsCostJobs.com today.


Protecting Grid Reliability Now, So We Don’t Regret it Later

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on electric grid reliability concerns—something that was definitely necessary after a series of Wall Street Journal articles came out highlighting the vulnerability of the grid if there were to be a coordinated attack in conjunction with internal analysis from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). While those that normally contribute to the discussion of grid reliability were well represented, it was notable that EPA was absent from the hearing.

This winter was one of the coldest we’ve had in a while, and the changing temperatures all but gave us whiplash. Thanks to coal-based electricity, however, none of us truly suffered the bite of Old Man Winter as the power stayed on. The same may not be true this summer when coal-fueled plants that were running at full capacity this winter come off line due to EPA regulations. In fact, we could all be in for a rude awakening when rolling brownouts and blackouts begin this summer due to an overreliance on one fuel source that is just not capable of meeting demand in real time.

In terms of generating electricity, coal-based power has some general advantages over natural gas that are magnified under conditions like the polar vortex. Natural gas is a “just-in-time fuel”, piped in as power plants use it – so pipeline disruptions due to a drop in temperature or spike in demand impact generation in real time. Coal, on the other hand, is stock-piled at the plant and generally not subject to such disruptions. Further, the price of coal has remained historically steady, whereas the price of natural gas has been much more volatile. Moving forward, we can expect that the price of natural gas will continue to rise much more rapidly than the price of coal. EIA projects that real natural gas prices for electric power generation will increase three times more than coal over the next 20 years.

Since American Electric Power (AEP) ran about 90% of its coal plants that are set to retire in 2015 to help meet demand through the coldest days of winter, it makes you wonder why people want to eliminate the most reliable form of electricity. Further, it begs the question as to why EPA isn’t front and center at a hearing on reliability when its regulations will be responsible for all but ensuring an unreliable grid and higher electricity costs for all.

There’s still time for you to tell EPA that you want a reliable source of affordable electricity. Visit www.EPAregscostjobs.com today and make your voice heard.

 


I May Have Misheard You, Sierra Club: Did You Call Job Loss “Transitioning?”

Once again, Sierra Club is talking out of both sides of its mouth. And this time, it is to the detriment of America’s union workers. The Daily Caller released an investigative piece this week outlining the backroom strategies employed by Sierra Club in an attempt to convince union workers that shutting down existing coal plants is in their best interest. Here at America’s Power, we know that such a claim couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The recently unearthed internal Sierra Club memo details how the group “spins” job losses and economic downturn that will result from the decline of our nation’s coal industry, encouraging the group’s activists to use downright deceptive tactics in order to mislead union workers. The entire memo had an air of condescension, portraying union workers as ill-informed, uneducated and easily swayed, requiring wording and concepts to be largely “dumbed down.”

The memo from Margrete Strand, former director of Sierra Club’s Labor and Trade Program, gave very clear instructions to activists:

Don’t ever use the phrase ‘killing’ to refer to jobs, business or the coal industry… Talk about transitions, phases, and gradual changes in the way we create and distribute energy.

Don’t allow Sierra Club to be branded as simply an environmental interest group juxtaposed to the interests of workers and communities.

To set the record straight, we think it’s important to note that the Sierra Club mission to dismantle the coal industry across our nation does ignore the interests of workers and communities, plain and simple. Remember, this is the same group that celebrated the shutdown of the 150th coal plant as part of its Beyond Coal campaign. In turn, Sierra Club celebrated thousands of lost jobs and widespread economic devastation in the communities that are home to these plants.

Of course, the Sierra Club will never tell its activists—or in turn, targeted constituencies like union workers—about the industry’s $130 billion dollar investment in clean coal technology to reduce major pollutants by more than 90 percent, not to mention its pledge to spend another $100 billion over the next decade to further reduce emissions.

Sierra Club does indeed want to start a transition – a transition to an economy where electricity prices and unemployment both skyrocket due to reckless environmental activism. We should, instead, “transition” to an economy that facilitates job growth, affordable power, reliable electricity and further investment in clean coal technology.