Posts filed under Energy Issues

Advocating for America’s Power: Week 3

I am back again, energy enthusiasts, and as promised have brought more information. I took a look last week at international reactions to EPA’s new carbon regulations, with a specific focus on Canada and Australia. This week my fellow intern, Joe Singh, and I analyze another area of the globe. Joe has a background in economic policy analysis and is helping ACCCE research the global coal market. As I mentioned last week, EPA’s costly new plan would have virtually no effect on climate change, with less than 1 percent in carbon reductions. The Obama Administration understands this, but believes that if they lead by example carbon-emitting nations like China and India will follow. In his research, Joe points out that assuming these nations will follow our lead is contrary to the growing coal consumption in both these nations.

China, the world’s largest coal consumer with one of the fastest growing economies, has said it will set emission limits. Make no mistake, however, China is not exactly following the administration’s approach. The EPA set state by state targets that would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electric sector by 30 percent by 2030. China, on the other hand, has instead adopted an emissions intensity target. This emissions intensity target would limit the amount of COemitted for every dollar of economic activity in China, on average. The reason for using emissions intensity rather than absolute emissions is to allow economic growth, which China wishes to maintain. In Joe’s research, he cites an Australian National University report which found that if China maintains its economic growth, even with a significant emissions intensity target in place, COemissions will still grow. Put simply, even if China can meet the targets it sets, its continued economic growth will still result in increased COemissions – not less.

The results of future international negotiations on climate change are uncertain. One can look to the past, however, to provide clues for potential future actions.  In two recent international climate negotiations, agreements could not be reached because of defiance conflict between the developing and developed world. The United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, because it exempted developing nations, like China, from reducing their emissions.  Chinese officials claimed that it was “unfair to expect impoverished people in…developing countries to cut back on energy consumption, which is not even sufficient to meet their basic living conditions.”  China’s resistance to a binding agreement arose again during the Copenhagen conference, which occurred during Obama’s first term in 2009.  In a study available on EPA’s website, Western officials blamed the failure of this conference on China’s opposition to binding global emissions reductions.  This opposition was traced once again to China’s view that emissions reductions are robbing developing nations of their right to industrialize. Considering this climate impasse happened only five years ago, it’s unclear if Chinese willingness to reach a binding agreement has changed.  All of this makes me wonder whether the administration’s plan to reduce COemissions will be enough to overcome a history of failed climate negotiations with China.

Experts Question Fuzzy Science of the Social Cost of Carbon

The United States has long depended and benefitted from affordable, reliable coal-fueled electricity. Yet, the Obama administration and its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to pursue overbearing regulations that dramatically limit the use of coal in our energy portfolio, leaving the U.S. at risk of exorbitant electricity prices and an unreliable power. One of the tools being used to justify these overly burdensome regulations is the “social cost of carbon” (SCC), a measure that purportedly calculates the benefits of reducing carbon emissions.

Yesterday marked the deadline to submit public comments on the administration’s SCC calculation, and experts took to Capitol Hill to discuss the issue at a panel event hosted by the George C. Marshall Institute.

Dr. Roger Bezdek, president of Management Information Services, highlighted research from his report, “The Social Cost of Carbon? No, the Social Benefits of Carbon,” that demonstrates the invaluable role fossil fuels have played in modernizing our society both at home and abroad:

“Fossil fuels will continue to provide economic benefits both in the U.S. and globally. We shouldn’t penalize the industry based on faulty science like that of SCC.”

Other experts also praised the benefits of fossil fuels and underscored the problematic nature of the SCC tool, which seems to be yet another arrow in the administration’s climate change quiver.

Dr. David Kreutzer, research fellow in energy economics and climate change at the Heritage Foundation, highlighted the unreliability of SCC, noting:

“The EPA pretends not to see the damage that will result from the SCC model. There is no viable reason to use it.”

Dr. Patrick Michaels, director of the Center of the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, called for better research and analysis:

“The SCC is no longer scientifically defensible. We need to base policy proposals on defensible science.”

Masked behind claims of reliable data, SCC is seen by many for what it really is: yet another effort by the administration to remove resources like coal from America’s energy portfolio. President Obama and his EPA should stop creating arbitrary distractions like SCC and live up to their pledge of an “all of the above” energy approach that would ensure low-cost, abundant resources like coal continue to provide affordable, reliable power to American homes and businesse

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.


Secretary Moniz Lays Out “All-but-One” Energy Strategy

At the National Press Club on Wednesday, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz asserted his commitment to an all-of-the-above energy philosophy. “’All-of-the-above’ is working,” Moniz said. “’All-of-the-above’ is not a slogan, it is a policy and a pathway.” In fact, he repeated this commitment on behalf of DOE and the Obama administration repeatedly throughout the lunch discussion. Moniz walked through successes and challenges involved with every major fuel source in America with one glaring exception: he made no mention of coal, our nation’s most abundant and reliable resource.

Moniz’ speech made it clear that the administration is, indeed, espousing an “all-but-one” philosophy when it comes to energy in practice. Coal was left out of the discussion entirely, even though it is a critical energy source that provides the largest percentage of base load power to America’s electricity grid.

Moniz touted domestic energy production as a recent success for the economy and the energy industry. He was correct when he said this is an exciting time for American energy production, if you consider the great potential we have to fully utilize every one of this nation’s resources. But this can only happen with supportive regulation. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is pursuing unworkable regulations that are jeopardizing our nation’s energy future instead of capitalizing on our abundance. With irrational regulation, we lose all potential for a true “all-of-the-above” strategy that secures our energy portfolio and creates a reliable electricity grid.

Coal is America’s most abundant energy resource. We know how to produce, transmit, store, and utilize it, and we know it well. We can do so affordably and reliably. But Moniz’ omission of coal in his outline of America’s energy industry demonstrates how the Obama administration is turning their back on coal-fired power. Perhaps the most frustrating element of this policy is that it also means turning their back on the hard-working coal miners, power plant workers, and thousands of Americans whose livelihoods and incomes are directly and indirectly tied to the coal industry. If Secretary Moniz and the Obama administration truly agree that an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy is best for our country, they should not forget that coal is a fundamental piece of this portfolio.

The “Go It Alone” Climate Crusade

Members of Congress from both parties agree that we must protect the thousands of jobs and communities supported by the coal industry, not to mention the millions of households that depend on coal for low-cost energy.

Unfortunately, this bipartisan effort is being undermined by President Obama’s “go at it alone” climate crusade that’s prioritized ideological activism over U.S. economic security, as a new Wall Street Journal editorial documented today.

The president’s plan to govern without involving Congress has helped costly, politically motivated regulations move forward, despite the objections of American families and businesses that rely on the affordable energy coal provides.

EPA regulations will require any new coal-fueled power plants to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.  The administration knows that CCS is not commercially viable and that by stipulating this requirement, it is placing a de facto ban on future coal plants. And with new regulations due this summer that threaten to shut down a major portion of our existing coal fleet, President Obama and his EPA will be inflicting damage that will surely devastate family budgets and businesses’ bottom lines.

Rather than pursue deliberative, democratic legislation, the White House has instead enacted onerous regulations through executive fiat. We all stand to lose if President Obama continues his unilateral pursuits.

Tell the White House that you support jobs, not politicized rulemaking that threatens the well-being of every American in the form of higher energy costs.

Sign our letter to the EPA and help us stand up for jobs and democracy.


The Presidents “All but One” Energy Strategy

We’ve long had our doubts about President Obama’s alleged commitment to an “all of the above” energy strategy. His own EPA has imposed burdensome, onerous regulations on coal, leaving us to believe that his pursuit can be more aptly characterized as an “all but one” energy strategy, that “one” being coal.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Obama championed clean coal during stump speeches across Ohio, Virginia and other key battleground states. But since taking office, his tune quickly changed. After hearing the president espouse the benefits of natural gas during his State of the Union speech last month, it’s feeling a lot like déjà vu. And if environmentalists get their way, natural gas could soon find itself on the chopping block, just as coal has.

We now know that administration officials and environmentalists are collaborating closely to create rules for the power sector, something that should be very alarming to all American consumers.

A new study released yesterday suggests that methane leaks are much more widespread within America’s natural gas pipeline system than originally thought. Environmental groups were quick to respond—creating a groundswell of criticism and using the study as further reasoning for why natural gas is a “dirty” fuel source.

Together, coal and natural gas comprise power nearly 70% of America’s electric generation. In 2014, coal is expected to provide more than 40% and natural gas more than 27%. Of course, most environmental groups aren’t too keen on nuclear power either, which rounds out the trifecta.

Environmental groups like to ignore the fact that the coal industry has made coal-fueled power plants cleaner, investing $130 billion so far, and another $100 billion over the next decade, to reduce emissions by 90 percent between 1970 and 2012,  and support cutting-edge clean coal technology

So, if these groups don’t want coal, they don’t want natural gas, and–as they have for decades—continue to call for the shutdown of nuclear facilities, what is it that environmental groups do want? It seems that their energy approach can be best described as “none of the above.”

One thing environmental groups can agree on is supplanting fossil fuels with renewable and alternative resources. Sierra Club wants to phase out coal entirely from America’s energy portfolio by 2030, replacing it with fuel sources like solar. But what we don’t hear is how impractical—and costly—such a shift would be.

Yesterday, the Ivanpah solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert began operations. The plant took nearly four years and thousands of workers to complete. Michael Bastasch laid out the failure of both the administration, and supportive environmental groups, to come clean about the enormous economic costs of using solar for electricity generation.

According to the Energy Information Administration, new solar thermal plants cost 161 percent more to generate one megawatt hour of power than it costs a coal plant to do in 2018 — despite the costs of solar power being driven downward.

It is encouraging to see groundbreaking facilities like Ivanpah coming online, and we support continued investment to diversify of our energy portfolio. Diversification, however, doesn’t mean constricting the use of affordable, abundant, reliable resources like coal and other fossil fuels.

Environmental groups’ “none of the above” approach is counterproductive to progress and will only leave American consumers burdened by rising energy costs. Smart energy policy works to utilize all of America’s fuel sources, not just those supported by a narrow group of activists.

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.




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.