Posts filed under Affordability

Leaders Convene to Discuss Future of Energy at ECO:nomics

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.


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

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.


Rising Energy Costs are Straining Families’ Budgets

A recent report concluded what many American families already understand all too well – energy costs in the U.S. are on the rise. Since 2011, real energy costs for middle- and low-income families have increased by an astounding 27 percent. These costs are rising quickly, while real incomes have declined.

We rolled out a new hub on our website last week that features interesting facts that puts rising energy costs into terms to which we can all relate.

For example, the average American family will spend $479.33 per month on energy costs in 2014. That’s enough to buy 61 rotisserie chickens or 121 gallons of milk. Aside from necessities like food and housing, this year’s average energy cost total is enough to cover the cost of a kitchen remodel, or tablets for an entire elementary school class.

These figures highlight how energy is competing with other basic needs like housing, food and healthcare within families’ budgets. Sadly, as energy costs are projected to increase, families will see little relief in the near future.

The problem of high energy costs will only be exacerbated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as it sets overreaching carbon emissions regulations for power plants. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for coal-fueled power plants promises to increase energy costs by placing a de facto ban on the construction of any new coal plants. By eliminating an affordable resource that offers reliable, baseload power to the electricity grid and that supports thousands of jobs across the country, EPA is setting our communities up for higher energy prices with no relief in sight.

By limiting our nation’s energy costs through the use of a diverse, affordable energy mix, we can lighten the burden on our hard-working families.

Check out the new site to learn more and see how you can take action to protect affordable power derived from coal.

 


Confirming What We Already Know

If you read the Wall Street Journal yesterday, you probably noticed a full-page ad featuring EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy telling Americans to “suck it up” over skyrocketing electricity bills. While we agree, skyrocketing bills are coming your way, that ad didn’t come from us. It came from a group called Environmental Policy Alliance who launched a new site epafacts.com yesterday to call attention to little issues at EPA like transparency and secret science, as well as what the true cost Americans will bear as a result of its overreaching regulations.

The Environmental Policy Alliance is not alone in wanting to know more about what goes on behind the closed doors at EPA. In fact, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has weighed-in on the matter and is opening a full investigation on the EPA decision-making process relating to the agency’s consideration of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies as it relates to creating greenhouse gas emission standards for new power plants. The letter to Administrator McCarthy specifically mentions how section 111 of the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to impose emission standards using carbon capture technologies that have been “adequately demonstrated” which does not legally include those that are federally funded. A plant that we are quite familiar with, the Kemper County facility in Mississippi, is federally funded, has the CCS technology and is a great starting point but is not ready to be duplicated for many reasons.

The House Energy investigation as well as the site epafacts.com confirms what we already know: EPA’s regulations are far too stringent and will be destructive to our way of life. By continuing on their rampage of taking coal out of the mix, energy costs for families will continue to rise, forcing some to make the unbearable choice to keep the lights on or put food on the table. In addition, coal-fired plants around the country are facing retirements that will result in jobs lost and an unreliable grid that can’t deliver power when it’s needed most.   Thankfully, our legislators are starting to listen, and hopefully will put a stop to EPA’s overzealous regulations which ultimately will inflict much pain without any real gain. If you haven’t already, visit eparegscostjobs.com and send a comment to McCarthy’s EPA and stand up for affordable, reliable power and American jobs.


U.S. House of Representatives Takes Important Step in Curbing EPA Overreach

Good news coming out of Capitol Hill today if you are a supporter, like we are, of sound energy policy that works to ensure Americans have continued access to affordable and reliable electricity. H.R. 3826 “The Energy Security and Affordability Act,” sponsored by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) passed the U.S. House of Representatives today, marking greater action from Congress in the fight against EPA overreach.

The Energy Security and Affordability Act is a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation that requires greater transparency for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rulemaking process and safeguards against the agency’s overzealous standards for both new and existing power plants.

As our President and CEO Mike Duncan commented, “At a time of such political polarization, Representative Whitfield and Senator Manchin should be commended for their bi-partisan leadership in the fight against EPA’s costly, overreaching regulations.”

The leaders involved in this important bill should be commended for their common sense approach to setting limitations for agency regulations. They understand that the future of America’s energy supply is far too important an issue to draw hard lines in the sand. Congress has spoken, and they have demonstrated that the topic of greenhouse gas regulations for power plants is not a partisan issue.

Also of note this week, EPA’s extension of the comment period for New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new sources posted on the federal register. These regulations will place a de facto ban on building new coal-based power plants, which will jeopardize America’s energy future.

Your voice is important, and we need your help to advocate for our nation’s economy and all American families struggling with rising energy bills. You can join our effort by voicing your concerns to EPA today. Please visit www.eparegscostjobs.com to file comments.

 


Another Polar Vortex Highlights the Problems with Over-Reliance on Natural Gas

Milder spring temperatures may be on the horizon, but not before another cold snap sweeps the nation. This winter, we’ve seen what can happen when a polar vortex strikes: consumers are asked to cut back on electricity, our power grids are stretched to the limit and natural gas prices skyrocket. Extreme temperatures have highlighted the problems associated with an over-reliance on any one fuel source, like natural gas, for baseload electricity.

Underscoring these problems, the Washington Post reported this morning that homeowners can expect to see particularly steep natural gas bills this winter. The article reports that a typical gas consumer may see a bill of $388, a 17 percent rate increase from just a year ago.

Despite these recent, real-world examples, the president and his EPA remain unfazed and are proceeding as planned to all but ensure that America doesn’t have the affordable, reliable energy it needs to keep the lights on and businesses running.  Of course, American consumers will ultimately foot the bill for the president’s politically driven—and very costly—energy policy. And, based on recent data, we now know that low- and middle-income families are most vulnerable to increased energy costs, which often force them to choose between keeping their heat on and putting food on their tables.

The simple fact is that coal remains the most reliable, affordable energy source in America. Coal can be stored on-site and held in reserve, unlike natural gas, which is a “just-in-time” fuel that is piped in when needed and is susceptible to roller coaster prices. Using less coal, and instead relying too heavily on resources like natural gas, solar, wind and renewables, could undermine the reliability of our electric grid and threaten volatile price swings and overall higher bills for ratepayers.

It’s encouraging to see that our elected officials on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country are recognizing the dire consequences of this administration’s rulemaking—and taking action to stop it. The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing this Thursday, February 27, to discuss American energy successes, as well as electric reliability and grid issues. The hearing is very timely, since temperatures across the country are expected to drop later this week—reinforcing the sobering lessons from this winter’s cold snap.

We’ll be live tweeting from the hearing, so be sure to tune in on Twitter for updates throughout the morning. And while you’re at it, sign our petition and tell EPA that coal must continue to be a part of America’s energy future.

 


What They’re Saying: Reliability and Energy Prices

This week, we’ve seen a number of developments making energy news, and a major theme is emerging that’s shaping the conversation about the future of energy policy in the U.S.

The selection of a new chair for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, statements by energy industry experts and elected officials and an administration official telling Congress that new EPA regulations could raise electricity prices by as much as 80 percent have people talking about the reliability of our grid and energy costs.

It was announced yesterday that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been selected to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Her selection is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate, and her elevation to this position is good news for energy producers and consumers alike.

Senator Landrieu announced she will pursue an agenda that will be “inclusive, bipartisan and focused on the job creation that America needs and wants,.” She has a proven record of fighting back against EPA overreach in order to protect affordable reliable fossil fuels and works across the aisle, seeking commonsense solutions to use our most abundant resources, like coal, more efficiently and cleanly.

A leader like Senator Landrieu will be instrumental in shaping policies that keep energy prices affordable for our families and our businesses.

Unfortunately, Senator Landrieu’s commonsense approach isn’t the only thing shaping the future of energy policy.  The EPA and the Obama Administration are still pursuing new regulations that could cause an enormous price increase for energy consumers across the country.

Dr. Julio Friedmann, the deputy assistant secretary for clean coal at the Department of Energy, told members of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations yesterday that EPA’s plan to require Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology for all new coal plants could raise wholesale electricity costs by as much as 80 percent.

Dr. Friedmann’s statements confirm what we’ve long known to be true: CCS is still a developing technology.  It’s not yet a commercially viable option, and requiring new coal plants to install CCS will lead to higher energy prices for businesses and families.

As new regulations make it more costly to operate coal-fueled power plants, the continued retirement of these energy sources is likely to increase the probability of rising electricity prices and supply disruptions.

With the record low temperatures we experienced this January, we’ve seen an increased demand for energy.  What we learned last month is that without the power generated by coal, electric reliability is called into question. Additionally the price of other energy sources, like natural gas, can spike when people need it the most.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) highlighted the need to keep our energy mix diverse in response to this year’s extreme weather:

“Our reliance on installed, dispatchable power generation during extreme weather serves as a shining example of why diversity of baseload capacity is necessary to secure grid reliability. “

When we needed it the most, Americans turned to the power generated by coal to keep our lights on and our homes warm.  But with coal plants continuing to retire, what will happen when those units are no longer available?

In her comments on protecting the energy sources on which we rely, Sen. Murkowski expressed how tenuous our current policy direction is:

“What happens when that capacity is gone?  Maybe we won’t have cold periods like we’re seeing next year [and] we’ll be OK.  But what kind of policy is that?  A hope and a prayer, that’s not how we need to be operating here.”

We cannot afford this administration’s overreliance on a more narrow fuel source portfolio that excludes coal.

We can’t stand by as government agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) deals with the issue of reliability by allowing PJM to offer power prices that exceed the market cap of $1,000 per megawatt hour.

Actions like those undertaken by FERC set a dangerous precedent that places the burden of increased electricity costs on ratepayers, rather than prompting a critical examination of the energy and environmental policies coming from the White House.

Politically motivated agendas should not be undermining America’s access to affordable, reliable energy at the expense of family budgets and businesses’ bottom lines.

 

 

 


Out of Touch at the EPA

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “out of touch.”

Yesterday, speaking to a group of labor advocates, McCarthy predicted that this administration’s environmental regulations on new power plants and the forthcoming regulations for existing plants will create new opportunities for employment.

As she was making her statement, however, Gallup published its Economic Confidence Rankings, which shows major coal states are gravely concerned about their economic future.

The Gallup index, which ranks the 50 states and Washington, D.C. based on their views of  “current U.S. economic conditions and their perceptions of the economy’s direction,” listed West Virginia, Wyoming and Kentucky as three of the four least economically confident states.

These major coal producing states view the EPA’s efforts to regulate coal out of our energy mix as a major threat to their local economies, and with good reason.

“Kentucky and West Virginia, because of the nature of our economies, are going to be hit the hardest,” said Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett.

Bissett went on to note that the opposition to these new regulations in coal producing states isn’t a partisan issue: “Where we’ve lost more than seven thousand direct coal mining jobs… is in our eastern Kentucky coal fields, which is a heavily Democratic area.”

Bissett’s comments stand in strong contrast to the EPA’s McCarthy who has been emphasizing the high level of stakeholder involvement in the lead up to the existing power plant rule.

We’re not sure what McCarthy considers to be a high level of stakeholder involvement or who she thinks important stakeholders are. Clearly, however, they are not the coal communities and families that will be most impacted by EPA’s NSPS regulations as she didn’t even bother to visit them during EPA’s so-called listening tour.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell captured the reality of these regulations perfectly:

“The real tragedy here is that those claiming to be fighting for the poor are not only making things worse in places like Eastern Kentucky, they’re deliberately ignoring the voices of those who live outside their comfortable Beltway cocoon.”