Trump right to try to end the WAR ON COAL

by | Apr 16, 2019 |

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President Donald Trump talked of utilizing all of America’s energy resources during his campaign for the Presidency, but first on his agenda was ending the war on coal. That war was expanded during the Obama administration which passed environmental regulation after regulation in order to make management of old coal-fired power plants or construction of new plants nearly impossible.

While there was a day, decades ago, when environmental regulations of power plant emissions allowed significant amounts of toxic chemicals into our air, that day ended long ago as a result of the Clean Air Act passed in the 1970s. Consequently, President Obama’s anti-coal crusade was based largely on the fallacy that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal fired power plants are a major cause of dangerous global warming.

Besides the fact that there is no dangerous global warming occurring—according to the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, global temperatures have risen only just over 1 degree Celsius since 1880 despite a supposed 40% rise in CO2 levels—demonizing CO2 has probably been the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on our world. It is, after all, an essential ingredient in plant photosynthesis on which all life depends and so is the very opposite of pollution. Trump recognized this before his election and is now doing everything in his power to defuse this false fear.

Despite this sensible approach, opportunistic energy producers across America are determined to take advantage of the climate scare to force their customers to pay for unnecessary conversions away from dependable, inexpensive coal-fired electricity generation to flimsy and costly wind and solar power. For example, Dr. H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow on environmental policy for The Heartland Institute, reported in his April 12th Climate Change Weekly article “UTILITIES PROMISE FUTURE SAVINGS WHILE PUSHING RATE HIKES TODAY”:

“Alliant energy, a Wisconsin-based utility which provides electric power to approximately 960,000 electricity customers in Wisconsin and Iowa, plans on reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050, by closing all its coal power plants, the source of 33 percent of the electricity the utility produces.

James Taylor, Heartland Senior Fellow, Environment and Energy Policy, testified on April 11 at the Iowa Utilities Board hearing addressing Alliant Energy’s short-term plan to close some of its coal power plants and replace them primarily with wind power. Alliant has petitioned the Board for a 25-percent hike in its base electricity rate to pay for the switch to wind power.

Approximately 60 people attended the public hearing, about a dozen of whom spoke, all of them in opposition to the rate hike (primarily senior citizens saying that they could not afford higher power costs).

Alliant Energy executive Terry Kouba claimed at the hearing that fuel-cost savings achieved by switching from coal to wind power will mean customers will pay ‘merely’ 17 percent more in electricity costs rather than 25 percent. Alliant also claimed customers will eventually save money from the proposal, as year-after-year fuel-cost savings will eventually cover the upfront cost of building and emplacing new wind power equipment.

Coal power is obviously much less expensive than wind power and Taylor pointed out that in the 18 states where coal provides the lion’s share of electricity, 15 of those 18 states have electricity prices below the national average. Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin are only three states where prices are above the national average. Wind power is the reason why these three states have electricity prices above the national average. Kansas has the second highest percentage of wind power in the country, while Michigan and Wisconsin are two of the five fastest-growing states for wind power. 

Taylor told the hearing that Iowa wind power generation has grown five-fold during the past decade, much faster than the national average. As a result, while national electricity prices were essentially flat during the past decade (rising less than one percent per year), Iowa electricity prices rose 31 percent during the past decade.

Taylor also explained that, although Iowa still enjoys electricity prices below the national average – because coal still provides most electricity in the state – Alliant’s proposal would push Iowa electricity prices above the national average. Moreover, the new rate hike – on top of the 31-percent rate hikes already imposed by wind power – would result in a greater-than-50-percent increase in electricity prices due to wind power in the past decade.

Despite the obvious annoyance of Kouba, Taylor told the hearing that Alliant’s rate hike would result in Iowa households paying an average of $3,300 per year in direct and indirect electricity costs (indirect reflecting the higher costs of electricity that Iowa businesses will face and will pass along to customers).

Taylor challenged Kouba to sign a contractual guarantee that Alliant would reduce its rates at least 25 percent within the next 15 years to back up his claim that customers would eventually save money under the Alliant proposal. Kouba declined to do so.

The Iowa Utilities Board will host nine more public hearings in April and May and Taylor plans to attend at least one again. The Board will issue a decision on Alliant’s proposal later this year. Let’s hope they turn down the proposal.

The entire world now consumes just under one trillion tons of coal annually. It is found in 80 countries around the world and mined in 70 of them. 85% of all coal mined is used in its country of origin while 15% is exported. 

Speaking at the Nov 9, 2017 America First Energy Conference in Houston, Texas, keynote speaker Joe Leimkuhler, vice president of drilling for Louisiana-based LLOG Exploration, showed that America has 22.1% of the world’s proven coal reserves, the greatest of any country and enough to last for 381 years at current consumption rates. Following the U.S. in coal reserves are Russia, China and India.

America mines coal in 24 states and the export market is growing especially in the United States which is sending its coal all over the world in response to Obama’s unfair and onerous regulations upon its use here. Trump’s Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, in an effort to loosen those unnecessary regulations, is planning to modify a rule that would effectively have required CO2 capture at new coal fired power plants, a step that would have made coal unnecessarily expensive. The new standards will keep coal energy affordable for America.

Coal has huge advantages as a fuel—it is abundant, inexpensive, easy to burn, easy to store and transport, packs a great deal of energy, and power plants can be built in a variety of sizes. It’s time to end the war on coal.

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Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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