Coal

From US Energy Information Administration:

In 2012, 91 percent of coal consumed in the U.S. was used for 37 percent of total U.S. electric power generation. The remaining 8 percent was consumed for industrial purposes, including steel and cement manufacturing. Worldwide, electric power generation was also the largest consumer of coal. In 2011, the electricity sector consumed 62 percent, while global industrial coal consumption was approximately 33 percent. The remaining 5 percent was used in the commercial and residential sectors.”

Scientists have been putting the numbers together regarding industries that burn coal, especially electric power plants. The coal industry has promoted carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) solutions to reduce the release of Carbon into the atmosphere. This method uses Carbon extractors in the chimneys, compresses the Carbon and stores it deep underground. The coal industry has performed studies that suggest CCS can meet the 80% reduction by 2050 agreed to at the International Conference on Climate Change in 2015. However, recent independent research projects suggest the cost of CCS will be prohibitive – especially compared to the cost of replacing coal with renewable energy solutions.

Steve Skerlos, University of Michigan professor of mechanical, civil and environmental engineering, said “Policymakers need to stop wasting time hoping for technological silver bullets to sustain the status quo in the electric sector and quickly accelerate the transition from coal to renewables, or possibly, natural gas power plants with CCS.” Recent cost analysis indicated that current, flawed projections peg the fuel costs of a CCS-equipped coal plant at $29 million per year more than a conventional plant. The new University of Michigan research calculates the additional fuel cost at closer to $126 million per year.

Shifting gears from cost analysis to Federal policy makers, mariner suspects that replacing coal altogether will languish in Congressional committees until 2050. The new cost analysis not only makes cap and trade moot, it makes coal moot as well. The current Congress, bought and paid for by the coal industry and every other fossil fuel corporation, will never touch converting coal power plants to renewable energy solutions. The reader must put this issue on the stack of reasons why the nation needs a new, contemporary Congress.

From USA TODAY:

Alison Lundergan Grimes and Natalie Tennant, two Democrats from coal-producing states running for the U.S. Senate, vow they’ll fight the Obama administration’s proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of State, issued a statement saying the new Environmental Protection Agency rule to cut emissions from existing power plants by 30% by 2030 “is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky.”

“Coal keeps the lights on in the Commonwealth, providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables,” Grimes said. “When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my No. 1 priority.

It seems that rebalancing the power structure of the US in order to put global issues ahead of parochial issues will be a long, bitter and expensive battle. It is true that coal is a major cog in America’s economy. Many jobs will be affected. The national infrastructure will undergo massive reorganization reverberating across power grids, transportation, manufacturing, and renewable energy. Significant change will reach into homes as the coal power grid shrinks and renewable energy emerges.

The US economy and the workers can’t afford to lose coal jobs for any length of time. How will the workers of an entire industry be reallocated in the nation’s workforce? Logistically, how will immense sums of money be available?

Taking care of Mother Earth turns out to be more expensive and troublesome than expected. A new natural gas power plant with CCS just opened near Houston. We will know soon how cleanly and how expensively this power plant provides electricity.

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Turning to the campaign for President, an odd article about Trump versus Clinton is in the Aljazeera newsletter. The article is worth a read for perspective. See:

http://www.aljazeera.com//indepth/opinion/2016/03/salesman-politicians-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-160306120204257.html?utm_source=Al+Jazeera+English+Newsletter+%7C+Weekly&utm_campaign=fdab870200-weekly_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e427298a68-fdab870200-224505437

Another perspective is from Bill Moyers’ website. See:

http://billmoyers.com/story/blowing-the-biggest-political-story-of-the-last-fifty-years/

Ancient Mariner

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