Posts filed under Affordability

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.”


Coal Keeps America Thriving

Yesterday, the EPA held public hearings on its proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new coal and gas-fueled power plants.   EPA’s proposal sets an unattainable standard based on technology that hasn’t been proven on a full-scale power plant making it all but impossible to build any future, technologically advanced coal plants in the United States.

This isn’t the right path forward for American energy policy.

The right path forward includes all of our energy resources, especially our most affordable, reliable, domestic fuel source: coal.

The president says he supports an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy, but in reality his administration is pursuing an “all but one” energy agenda.

We know how important coal-based electricity is to millions of Americans.  Energy from coal helps keep our lights on, our homes warm and our electricity prices affordable.  That’s why yesterday, as the EPA held its hearing, we circled the nation’s capital with a message for the president:

We can’t change policy by ourselves, which is why we need your help.  We’ve launched a campaign to let the EPA know that they must protect American jobs and ensure we all have the affordable, reliable power we need to fuel our lives.

Sign our letter today and tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that you deserve affordable, reliable power.

 


Businesses Need Affordable Energy

Yesterday it was announced that Big Rivers Electric Corp plans to idle two of their coal-fired power plants in Kentucky.

The news isn’t all bad though, as Marty Littrel, a spokesman for Big Rivers pointed out:

“This is a temporary thing. We have some of the lowest-cost power in the country and have made proposals to sell electricity to several other companies.”

Big Rivers produces power at some of the most affordable rates in the country. On average, its rate is 4.6 cents per kilowatt hour, well below the national industrial average of 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour.

Affordable energy is what coal provides, and it’s exactly what American businesses need. From large manufacturers to small business owners, affordable, reliable power from coal drives our economy.

What American businesses don’t need is an activist administration that is pursuing harmful regulations that will make it impossible to build future, clean coal-fueled power plants. Failure to ensure long-term, use of one of our most abundant fuel sources, will all but guarantee not only higher energy costs but also less reliable energy than what is currently provided by coal.

That’s why we need your help. We need you to tell this administration that you need the affordable power coal provides.

Sign our letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy


Why We’re All Counting on Coal

With temperatures dropping across the U.S., our families and friends are counting on reliable and affordable energy to keep them warm.

It’s no surprise that the demand for energy to heat homes is on the rise.

This week’s cold weather serves to remind us just how important it is to have reliable energy we can count on.

Other fuel sources are experiencing price spikes and strains in supplies in many areas, while the affordable electricity from coal, one of our most abundant domestic energy resources, is keeping the lights on.  Take a look at the below to see how coal stacks up against other fuel sources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This is what the Sierra Club is Celebrating

Job losses, economic uncertainty and higher energy costs for families and businesses are the real impacts of the plant closures that the Sierra Club continues to celebrate.

This week, Sierra Club officials touted their success in the planned closures of one-third of coal-fueled plants over the next 10 years.

The Sierra Club isn’t alone in their efforts. Recently proposed regulations from the EPA abandon the “all-of-the-above” energy approach our country needs, in favor of a politically motivated push to drive coal out of our energy mix.

The sad fact is Americans are paying the prices while they gleefully pat themselves on the back for destroying jobs, towns and communities throughout our great country.

One state bracing for the impact of these harmful impacts is Indiana.  More than 29,000 Hoosiers go to work each day at a job related to producing energy from coal and EPA’s proposed regulations are a direct threat to their way of life.

These aren’t just facts and figures or numbers without names. CoalBlog.org recently published a letter from Shad Montgomery, a Safety Director at Sunrise Coal who spoke at the EPA’s Chicago listening session.

Shad is part of a long tradition of coal miners: his grandfather and great-grandfather mined coal that helped to power Indiana.  He’s not just concerned about his fellow miners and their jobs, he’s worried about his mother and people like her across the country.

Shad’s mother is one of 190,000 people in Indiana who are 60 years and older living at-or-below the poverty line.   She suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and spends the beginning of each month figuring out how she will cover her expenses. People like Shad’s mother, 29 percent of them in fact, struggle with the same decision each month – do they buy food, pay for the medications or pay their electric bill so they can stay warm and keep the lights on.

We can’t allow groups like the Sierra Club to gamble with people’s lives and well-being. We have to find a sensible path forward that ensures people can keep their jobs and have reliable, affordable energy.

We invite you to speak out for miners like Shad Montgomery, and their families.  Sign our letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and tell her that you support coal communities.


FACT: Cheaper than Natural Gas

As the holiday season approaches and ads for every product imaginable fill the airways, it got us thinking about the value of affordable energy.

This week’s Coal Fact underscores the value Americans get from affordable, reliable, coal fueled electricity.

In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that over the course of the next 20 years, coal prices are predicted to be much lower than other fuels like natural gas. According to EIA, natural gas prices for electric power generation will increase dramatically by 74% over the next 20 years, while coal prices are projected to rise by just 26% over the same period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is exactly why we need an “all of the above” approach to energy policy that includes coal, our most abundant and affordable domestic energy resource.

Stand with us and tell the EPA that American families and businesses count on affordable electricity to power their way of life.