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

Posted by Elizabeth Jennings at 1:10 pm, April 15, 2014

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?”

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 11:57 am, April 10, 2014

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.

 


My Day at Kemper with Dale Jr.

Posted by Elizabeth Jennings at 10:36 am, April 09, 2014

Last week, I was able to take advantage of an extremely unique opportunity: to go visit the most talked about coal plant in the country, the Kemper County Energy Facility. If that wasn’t enough, I got to escort Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the two-time Daytona 500 Champion, on the visit.

When we arrived at Kemper, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had only seen one coal plant before in West Virginia, and even from far away it seemed absolutely massive. I couldn’t even imagine what the most up-to-date facility could be like. After getting a safety briefing, we put on our hard hats and neon vests and went to see the plant.


When we were walking around, I wondered about the light colored rock beneath my feet and I soon discovered that it was lignite coal. Mississippi alone has more than 4 billion tons of lignite, and lignite accounts for over half of the world’s coal reserves. Kemper’s 6,000 employees help convert the lignite to gas through a gasification process called TRIG technology. TRIG essentially forms a chemical reaction where the lignite turns into a synthesis gas, while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury (carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by at least 65% when using TRIG technology.) While Kemper is criticized for its cost overruns, it’s not uncommon when dealing  with a never-been-done  project of this magnitude. Over time, facilities like Kemper (after deemed commercially viable) will be cost-efficient and produce more electricity at a lower capital cost compared to other gasification technologies. Another benefit? The captured carbon from Kemper will be  transported to a facility more than 60 miles away to be used for enhanced oil recovery.

Among carbon capture and storage (CCS), Kemper has other environmentally-friendly components. For instance, the plant is a zero liquid discharge facility which basically means that any water they use to generate electricity, doesn’t go back into nature. They even have an agreement with a neighboring city (Meridian, Mississippi) for the majority of its overflow to be funneled to the 90 acre reservoir on-site.

It was amazing to see how excited the plant workers were when they found out that Dale Jr. was on site. It was such a great surprise for all of them, and so wonderful to hear the responses they had to show their appreciation for him supporting coal-based electricity. Dale Jr. loved seeing his fans, and his fans loved seeing him. I was speaking with his girlfriend, Amy, and she was telling me about their visit to CONSOL’s Enlow Fork plant last year and how interesting it was to learn about not only the plant and the mines, but the people that dedicate their lives to ensuring we have the power we need. She was equally as excited to see Kemper and learn about the technology behind it.

On my visit, I met several people who had been on-site since day one of construction and are still there several years later, its operations are the focus of American energy’s future. There are 6,000 hard-working Americans at Kemper that take a lot of pride in their work and how far they have come.   I can’t wait to see this amazing plant come on line in the fall and to continuing to learn more about the coal-based industry – and to my next plant tour with Dale Jr.!


Leaders Convene to Discuss Future of Energy at ECO:nomics

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 3:59 pm, April 04, 2014

This week, the Wall Street Journal hosted its ECO:nomics business forum in sunny Santa Barbara, California. Several CEOs and business leaders gathered together to discuss America’s energy and environmental future. How do we meet our ever-growing electricity needs, while also reducing emissions? Many leaders agreed: coal is here to stay, and we must utilize clean coal technology.

Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, reiterated the importance of coal-fueled power to support our electrical grid. Utilities like AEP depend on coal, a reality that was evident during the recent ‘polar vortexes’ and throughout the frigid winter. Around 90% of AEP’s coal plants currently slated for closure was brought online to help meet demand and power through the coldest days. As Akins told ECO:nomics attendees, we need coal backing up our electricity grid because “no one likes the lights to go out.”

Akins was followed by Peabody Energy Corp. CEO Gregory Boyce. Boyce and Akins carried a similar message: coal is critical and will be an integral part of our energy mix for years to come. It is the largest source of electricity generation in the U.S. and the fastest-growing source around the world. Boyce noted that Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK are all increasing their imports of coal, and Asia has been steadily increasing its use of coal, as well.

Coal-fueled power is electrifying communities across the globe and can bring power to all those who need it most, Boyce explained. Given Boyce’s commentary at the conference, it’s not surprising that Peabody is leading a global effort to help promote coal’s role in eradicating poverty through its newly launched Advanced Energy for Life campaign.

Both Boyce and Akins stressed the importance of further developing clean coal technology. In the words of Nick Akins, “progress is being made but not enough.” Boyce pointed out that building new clean coal plants is an opportunity to decarbonize. They both agreed that coal must be a major part of our future energy portfolio to ensure reliability, while also limiting emissions with advanced technology. But, if EPA continues with its crusade against coal-based electricity, the future of clean coal technology will be effectively quashed.

Instead we should support advanced technologies and maintain low-cost, reliable power for our communities through the use of America’s most abundant source of energy – coal.


The People “Behind the Plug”

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 2:25 pm, April 01, 2014

America’s coal industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers in the United States. If you were to trace your electricity all the way from your electrical socket back to the mines that extract the coal, you would encounter a diverse group of skilled workers and learn some interesting facts along the way.

For instance, in 2012, the average U.S. coal miner was 44 years old and earned more than $80,000 annually. This is far higher than the average annual wage across the country. Also of interest, coal miners receive specialized training that allows them to do their jobs well and to do them safely.

Coal is mined in 25 states and is responsible for more than 800,000 jobs right here at home. Around one-third of these jobs are directly tied to coal mining, while two-thirds represent indirect jobs. When a mine shuts down, it unleashes a domino effect of lost jobs, lost hours and lost wages for all those workers who support our electricity generation—from start to finish.

Kentucky alone saw a 40 percent drop in coal-based employment between July 2011 and July 2013. Additional jobs were lost in the second half of last year. Bill Bissett, Kentucky Coal Council president, recently told us that in Eastern Kentucky, seven thousand direct mining jobs have been lost. Yet, as staggering as this figure may sound, it fails to include the thousands of other jobs that are in jeopardy—not only indirectly tied to mine operation and power generation, but also from businesses that depend on affordable power from coal.

These skilled, well-paying, American jobs are vanishing before our eyes due to President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overzealous actions to regulate carbon emissions, irrespective of the real-world costs. .

A recent report by the Nebraska Public Power District concluded that coal transportation and power generation, contribute $1.4 billion in labor income and more than 22,800 jobs in Nebraska. It’s hard to fathom how President Obama and his EPA can claim that their rules won’t uproot American jobs or cause economic harm when we know firsthand that the opposite is true.

It is readily apparent that the EPA and environmental groups continuously ignore the collateral damage of their climate agenda. Help us protect American jobs, America’s economy and America’s energy future today by filing a comment with the EPA.


A Day with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 1:37 pm, March 27, 2014

Last week, I had the fun privilege of spending the day with our partner and NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. As a small business owner, Dale Jr. appreciates the importance of affordable energy. His businesses, JR Motorsports and Whisky River rely on affordable coal-based electricity to prep his cars and serve his customers. Without reliable, low-cost power from coal, which comprises more than half of North Carolina’s energy portfolio, the future of businesses like Dale Jr.’s could be jeopardized.

During our visit, Dale Jr. sat down with Dave Green, a mine rescue captain with Alpha Natural Resources to learn more about the cutting-edge safety technologies being used by companies like Alpha, which have taken impressive strides to improve safety in the coal production process. It was a great conversation and we look forward to sharing it with you in June.

Dale Jr. also conducted a number of radio interviews, including:

But aside from “talking shop,” we were able to have some fun too. On set, Dale Jr. took photos with #7 driver Regan Smith’s America’s Power car, in his own fire suit and even with Killer, his adorable bull dog:

All in all, it was a great day and we look forward to continuing a fantastic partnership with Dale Jr. and JR Motorsports – and hopefully seeing Dale win the Sprint Cup this year!

Stay tuned in the coming months for more from our day with Dale Jr.


New Study Reveals Billions in Costs, Lost Jobs Under NRDC’s Carbon Regulation Proposal

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 12:03 pm, March 25, 2014

This week, we released a detailed economic analysis of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) carbon regulation proposal, first put forth by NRDC in December 2012 and updated last week.

The newest version of NRDC’s proposal ludicrously asserts that its plan to reduce CO2 emissions from existing power plants would carry no costs at all and would actually spur numerous benefits. Worse yet, the NRDC proposal recommends a system-based approach (also known as “outside-the-fence”) that is essentially a cap-and-trade program. Our analysis, performed by leading research firm the National Economic Research Associates (NERA), clearly demonstrates that NRDC left out some critical facts including the $13 to $17 billion-per-year price tag for consumers and the millions of jobs America stands to lose under its proposed policy.

Our economic analysis further projects the NRDC proposal would cost consumers a total of $116 to $151 billion during the period of 2018-2033. And, retail electricity prices would increase by double digit percentages in as many as 29 states.

Over this same time period, net job losses could total as many as 2.85 million. NRDC projects net job gains in the thousands, but only in the years 2016 and 2020.

NRDC also asserts that gas-fired generation would increase by 2 percent. Our economic analysis found that natural gas-fired generation would increase by 8-16 percent to keep up with demand, while rates would simultaneously increase by as much as 16 percent.

The results of our economic analysis reveal that the NRDC proposal is, in fact, all pain with very little gain. And the proposal’s failure to mention the many potential consequences, like cost increases and job losses, suggests that the group is ignoring reality in order to drum up support for its impractical plan. A more reasonable approach to greenhouse gas regulations would offer more flexibility and would focus on measures that can be taken at power plants to reduce their impact, while maintaining dependable, low-cost, coal-based electricity.

Here at America’s Power, we support an “inside-the-fence,” source-based approach that bases emissions reductions on measures taken at existing power plants. This would include many improvements power plants can make to their facilities that improve efficiency, remove emissions and more. Being able to implement measures at individual generating units is a common sense approach to working with utilities and achieving significant emissions reductions and environmental improvements. Let’s work together to craft a solution that works for our consumers and for America’s energy future.

Join us in asking the EPA to set common sense policies and to protect American jobs today.


Real People, Real Stories

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 12:41 pm, March 20, 2014

Communities across America – from New Hampshire to Arizona, Alaska to Florida – all depend on low-cost coal for electricity. Energy is not a regional issue, nor is it a partisan issue; it is everyone’s issue. American families and businesses alike depend on affordable electricity to power their daily lives.

Throughout the years, America’s Power has had the chance to meet real Americans in real communities across the country who have shared their stories with us. Sitting down at their kitchen tables, walking through their communities and visiting their businesses, we’ve witnessed firsthand how policy made in Washington, D.C. impacts these men and women. We’ve spoken with a wide array of stakeholders, including parents, small business owners, manufacturers, corporate leaders, community leaders, and more.

These are real people telling their personal stories. They aren’t glamorous or staged; they are honest and candid. As the fight to protect affordable energy from coal against onerous regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues, it seems President Obama, EPA Administrator McCarthy and others in the administration have no interest in hearing the perspectives of those they represent—and those who will bear the greatest burden of their policymaking.

Since Washington won’t visit these communities, we’re sharing their important stories in our “Real People, Real Stories” video series.

 

 

Stand with these Americans by voicing your opposition to EPA policies that jeopardize affordable, dependable electricity from coal.