Posts filed under Climate Change

W.H. Science Director Knocks Climate Change Skeptics

Tens of millions of Americans experienced last week’s “polar vortex,” bringing sub-zero temperatures to communities across the country.

Much to the content of environmental activists, who have exploited the extreme weather occurrence in Al Gore-like fashion, the White House took on its opponents firsthand in a “response” video. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, used YouTube to address those who have expressed skepticism about climate change given the historically frigid week.

“If you’ve been hearing that extreme cold spells like the one we’re having in the United States now disprove global warming, don’t believe it,” Holdren says in the video. “The fact is that no single weather episode can either prove or disprove global climate change.”

However, later in the video, Holden contradicts his contention that an individual weather event proves or disproves global warming:

“But I believe the odds are that we can expect as a result of global warming to see more of this pattern of extreme cold in the mid-latitudes and some extreme warm in the far north.”

And in an effort to pander to those who support the President’s misguided, ill-conceived climate change plan, Holdren goes a step further—alluding to questionable research that the “shrinking distance between Arctic temperatures and the mid-latitudes is making it more likely that incursions of that frigid air from the ‘polar vortex’ will happen more frequently in the future.”

Although EPA has made coal “enemy number one” in its climate change plan, the reality is that coal plant closures will do little to address global warming. Instead it will simply increase the cost of electricity to families and businesses and make our nation’s electric grid less reliable.

Carbon emissions continue to decline in the United States, due in part to the coal industry’s $110 billion investment to reduce emissions by nearly 90 percent. The industry is committed to investing another $100 billion over 10 years and supports a slate of more than 15 next-generation technologies.

Independence Day and Energy Independence

Happy Fourth of July.

As we spend time with our families and friends celebrating our nation’s birthday, America’s Power is pausing to think about the future of our energy independence.

Last week, the administration rolled out its plan for the future of energy policy and its implied intent to significantly reduce the supply or reliable and affordable coal-fueled energy is putting our energy independence at risk.

Leaders on both sides of the aisle are standing up to keep coal a part of America’s energy future and help us move towards energy independence.

An “all-of-the-above” approach is essential to helping our country move closer to energy independence.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH): “America needs an ‘all of the above’ energy vision, not a ‘what President Obama thinks is best for us’ dictate. We should be harvesting and using all of the abundant natural resources our great nation has been blessed with: coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, hydropower – and we’ll figure out where wind and solar fit into this vision too. We can, and should be, energy independent.” (Op-Ed, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), “Keep Coal In Energy Mix,” The Intelligencer: Wheeling News-Register, 7/3/13)

Senator Joe Manchin joined Rep. Johnson in his call for an approach that includes all of our resources to achieve energy independence.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV): “Moving forward, achieving true energy independence demands that we not only start realizing the importance that coal has in achieving this goal, it means we must also stop demonizing one resource and start developing a comprehensive plan that utilizes all of our domestic resources – coal, natural gas, biomass, nuclear, wind and solar – so that we can, once and for all, end our dependence on foreign oil within this generation.” (“Achieving Energy Independence,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Accessed 7/3/13)

We stand with Sen. Manchin and Rep. Johnson in their efforts to move America towards energy independence using all of our available resources.

It’s About Jobs

The coal-based electricity industry supports 760,000 jobs in the U.S. and enacting a new energy policy that puts these jobs at risk could have harmful and lasting consequences for our economy and our families.

It would be easy to see this as a partisan issue, to assume that Republicans are lining up to oppose the administration’s efforts and Democrats are standing behind the plan, but that’s not the case.

Last week, Senator Jay Rockefeller(D-WV) expressed his concerns about possible regulations:

I’m deeply concerned that, in it’s current form, there’s not enough emphasis in the President’s plan on the people who are the backbone of our economy and the fabric of our nation.” (Sen. Jay Rockefeller, “Rockefeller Releases Statement On President’s Climate Change Speech,” Press Release, 6/25/13)

Sen. Rockefeller isn’t the only leader concerned that a misguided plan could be damaging to the coal workers who power our economy.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) also pointed out the potential impact regulations could have on our communities:

We must reduce our carbon usage wisely through regulations that properly phase in new requirements over time and don’t unduly impact communities that rely on coal production.” (Sen. Tim Kaine, “Kaine Statement on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan”, Press Release, 6/25/13)

The wrong policies could have serious impact on American jobs. Risking the 760,000 coal jobs isn’t something we take lightly. As Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said:

It is just so irresponsible. We’re looking for an all-in energy policy that basically secures our nation, makes us less dependent on foreign oil or foreign energy. And we can do that, but we’ve got to use everything we have, in balance with the environment and economy. That’s all we ever said. … They’re declaring war truly on jobs, on American jobs.” (Fox News’ ” Special Report,” 6/25/13)

We need an all-in approach, we need to keep energy reliable and affordable, and we need to protect the jobs of hardworking Americans.

EPA’s Climate Plan Must Consider Impact on Workers and Consumers

In the wake of President Obama’s major climate plan speech last week, Americans everywhere have been wondering what the real cost of his energy agenda will be.

Virginia Attorney General and Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli hit the nail squarely on the head when he said:

“What it really is when it comes to the people, it’s a war on the poor.  That’s what it is.”

Cuccinelli continued: “The loss of opportunity and job creation affects the poorest parts of America and the poorest parts of Virginia the most.

Coinciding with Cuccinelli’s honest assessment of the Administration’s forthcoming policies was a study by from the Heritage Foundation describing the economic impact of the proposed plan.

According to Heritage the President’s plan could result in:

  • Employment falls by more than 500,000 jobs;
  • Manufacturing loses over 280,000 jobs;
  • A family of four’s annual income drops more than $1,000 per year, and its total income drops by $16,500 over the period of analysis;
  • Aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) decreases by $1.47 trillion;
  • Electricity prices rise by 20 percent;
  • Coal-mining jobs drop 43 percent; and
  • Natural gas prices rise 42 percent.

This isn’t just about numbers, regulations, or damaging policy agendas, it’s about real people.   Yesterday on Fox News Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke with two West Virginia coal industry workers about the impact the President’s plan would have on their jobs and their families.

The coal-fueled electricity industry has demonstrated its commitment to the environment by investing more than $100 billion, so far, to produce cleaner electricity, and the industry will invest another $100 billion to reduce its environmental footprint even further over the next 15 years. This is new plan is clearly about the putting politics over good policy, elevating the president’s environmental activist friends before American families and the economy.

What’s At Stake: President Obama’s Upcoming Speech on Climate Change

One day before President Obama’s highly anticipated speech on climate change, energy producers, small businesses and families are all preparing for the impact of a potentially serious shift in energy policy.

On one side, American energy producers, who want to operate within a reasonable framework, continuing to advance cleaner more efficient technology projects; and on the other, environmentalists and the EPA, who do not seem interested in finding a balance between protecting jobs, keeping energy prices affordable and producing cleaner energy.

Jean Chemnick, reporting for E&E examined how industry and political leaders are gearing up for the President’s speech and turned to ACCCE President and CEO Mike Duncan for his insight:

If the government creates standards that are not practical, they risk not just shutting down existing plants, but also halting the development of additional clean-coal technology facilities.  Taking America’s most significant source of electricity offline would have disastrous consequences for our nations economy.

Energy policy is about jobs and finding a way to produce cleaner more efficient power but mostly it’s about keeping the lights on for American families.  We hope that the President and his Administration recognize these priorities tomorrow when he addresses climate change.

By The Numbers: Emissions from Coal-Based Electricity Down 83.7 Percent

With so much discussion these days about the best approach to reducing specific emissions from power plants, we thought it would be good to take a look back at the past four decades to see what the coal-based electricity industry has done to improve its environmental footprint.

Coal-Based Electricity Emissions

Check out the graphic above. From 1970 to today, growth has skyrocketed in America on three different levels. The U.S. has had:

  • 48 percent growth in population
  • 180 percent growth in the use of coal for electricity generation, and
  • 209 percent growth in gross domestic product

Even with all this growth, including a near tripling of the use of coal to generate electricity, the industry has used technology and innovation to make significant emissions reductions. From 1970 to 2008, according to the EPA, the coal-based electricity industry has had:

  • 56.6 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions
  • 38.7 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions, and
  • 93.1 percent reduction in emissions of particulate matter

The coal-based electricity industry has had a total of 83.7 percent reduction in criteria pollutants since 1970. This is through clean coal technologies like SO2 scrubbers, NOx control technology and electrostatic precipitators for particulate matter.

And the future is equally bright! Read more on carbon capture and storage for what is next in clean coal.

Let’s Bring More Clean Energy Jobs to Kansas

As winter begins and the year comes to a close, many Americans are hoping for two things, a boost to their local economy and for staples like food, heating and electricity to stay affordable. Two months ago, we released a study showing just how beneficial the Sunflower Holcomb plant expansion would be for the Kansas economy, but we also wanted to find out how the people of Hays feel about the project. So we went there to do just that.

The team and I traveled to Hays and talked to people who would benefit from the Holcomb power plant expansion like small business owners and residents. The expansions planned for the plant will put in to place the most up-to-date emissions-reduction systems, which will make Holcomb among the cleanest in the nation on completion.

In this video, I talk to Sunflower Electric COO Kyle Nelson, who shares with us the state-of-the-art emissions-control systems planned for the plant. I also caught up with Rich Kramer, life-long Hays resident and owner of local business Insurance Planning, Inc., and Karen Dreiling, who relies on affordable electricity to run her store, The Furniture Look.

On top of the advanced clean coal technologies that are going to make the current plant one of the cleanest in the nation, the Holcomb expansion also means jobs jobs jobs for Western Kansas. State Senate Commerce Committee Chair Karin Brownlee knows how important jobs are for her state, and shared with me here how necessary the Holcomb expansion is for Kansas’ economic health.

Heading off to Emporia, Kansas, I also talked to Richard Taylor and David Kendrick of the Kansas State Building & Constructions Trades Council. Taylor says that this “once in a career type project” will benefit “every corner of this state.”

“Projects like this do a lot of things besides just build the building,” Kendrick adds. “The people that come to the job site earn a living wage and they spend it in the local economies, local businesses, local restaurants. The school districts will see a huge impact in their funding because the people working in that area.”

In fact, the annual economic activity is expected to near $350 million upon completion of the plant according to Kansas State University economists.

We’ve heard similar stories elsewhere in our Factuality tour. Check out the full coverage of our trip to Kansas and our past stops here.

How to Safely Store Carbon Underground

It’s always great to hear about advances in clean coal technologies. Research and development into carbon capture and storage technologies are occurring apace, and as Dan Connell of CONSOL will tell you, are already being put into practice.

Along with industry research teams such as the CONSOL team, the U.S. government is investing in research to develop these advanced coal technologies. A Department of Energy-sponsored study at Duke University, for instance, recently gave us the beginnings of another important tool to ensure carbon storage is implemented with complete safety.

Many global experts view [CCS] technology – a major focus of research by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) – as an important option in a portfolio of strategies for helping reduce the atmospheric buildup of CO2 resulting from human activity as a means of averting potential climate change. A particularly important storage challenge is the ability to conduct CCS without affecting underwater sources of drinking water.

At Duke, scientists analyzed how  mistakes in selecting locations for geologic storage of carbon could jeopardize drinking water pumped from underground aquifers. Their research is intended to provide greater knowledge into which sites will be the most suitable for permanent storage of carbon dioxide collected from coal-based electricity emissions.

The research into CCS provides fundamental data that are used to improve risk assessment models and the design of projects and monitoring programs. The risk to drinking water supplies can be mitigated by proper site characterization, having an impervious caprock, and proper construction materials, and by maintaining proper operating conditions as required by the EPA’s Underground Injection Control Program.

Scientific American has a good article explaining Duke’s study more in-depth, and goes into the history of research into carbon storage:

The Department of Energy estimates that deep saline formations in the U.S. could hold up to 12,000 gigatons of CO2, meaning they are a viable long-term solution because human activities currently emit around 33 gigatons of CO2 per year. Although burying billions of tons of CO2 underground may sound like a daunting, perhaps even dangerous task, engineers have a pretty good idea how to do it, and scientists have reason to think it can work safely on a large scale. The oil and gas industry began injecting various fluids underground in the 1930s; since that time, researchers have been working to understand the effects of the process on the geochemistry of storage sites and the risks it may pose to human safety.

According to New Technology Magazine, the research has provided information that can be used for advanced detection of CO2 in the unlikely event of a leak. The Duke researchers identified three elements – manganese, iron, and calcium – which they suggest should be monitored along with acidity or alkalinity, as geochemical markers of CO2 leaks.

Scientists are confident that carbon capture and storage is a promising method to reduce carbon emissions. Implementing this and other clean coal technologies is a must if we hope to enjoy the affordable, reliable energy coal provides into a clean energy future.

To learn more about carbon capture and storage, check out this infographic, which guides you through the entire process.