The prior posts (Part 1: Trump’s Policies) showed coal production to still be in decline. Trump’s elimination of the Stream Protection Act, was easy, because it was not a law. It was unfortunate because so much time had been devoted to finding a solution to the massive dumping of debris containing toxic heavy metals into stream valleys. The eastern states of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee will have to manage the ecological destruction on their own. Trump is making the Clean Power Plan to be unenforceable through cutting the funding. EPA will work to dismantle the Plan in a legal manner, under the direction of the new administrator, Andrew Wheeler. EPA studies showed the end of the program would be most detrimental to low income families who live in close proximity to the mines. Environmental groups will attempt to keep the plan alive, but this is an uphill battle.
I included in Part 1, the cornerstone of Robert Murray, Senator Jim Imhofe, and Andrew Wheeler’s policies, is that global warming is either non-existent or the effects are exaggerated. Scott Pruitt was defiant to scientists, who opined that the severity of Hurricane Maria may have been affected by warmer waters as a result of global warming. He stated it was disrespectful to the victims to politicize the damage. Trump visited Puerto Rico, and infuriated residents by downplaying the severity of the damage.
Coal as an energy source has been in decline for years due to the abundance of natural gas. Ordinarily, this should be viewed as beneficial as coal burning in power plant is the worst way to generate electricity as it causes many environmental problems beyond global warming. It is estimated by the EPA that 230 miles of streams and rivers have been eliminated by the dumping of debris as a result of mountain top blasting.
Climate Change Denial and the Paris Accords
Trump campaigned that he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords. Legally, the US will not be out of the accord until 2020. No other country has pulled our of the agreement nor supported the US decision to withdraw. Major oil companies supported the Paris Climate Accords, likely because they could see the benefit of power plants switching to natural gas.
The NYT article, “The Year Global Warming turned Model into Menace” reported on the devastating impacts of global warming. It was predicted that more extreme weather event would result, including extreme cold and hot periods. The latest extreme events include heat related deaths in Japan, the shutdown of nuclear reactors in Europe because the river water became too warm, agricultural losses in Sweden and El Salvador and forest fires in California.
Clean Coal Technology
Release of byproducts of coal burning can be reduced, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury with appropriate technology. However, carbon dioxide is still released. The clean coal technology incorporates carbon capture and storage or carbon sequestration. See link below. This increases the cost of coal, and would only be for regulatory compliance, as with the Clean Power Plan. Unfortunately, this Plan appears to be dead under the Trump administration.
Protecting our electrical grid
For decades, coal was promoted as vital for reliable, low cost energy. To prevent uneconomical coal powered plants from being shut down, coal executives lobbied the Department of Energy to subsidize their operation. Secretary of the DOE submitted a proposal to FERC for subsidies. It was a very creative proposal, The coal and nuclear industries would be paid to keep a 90 day supply of fuel available, just in case of hurricanes or other natural disasters. In January 2018, the FERC rejected this proposal, citing a DOE report, as requested by Rick Perry:
“In fact, the Department of Energy’s own recent ‘grid reliability’ study found the current grid is highly reliable, despite an ever decreasing amount of coal-fired generation.”
Bernard McNamee has been nominated to the FERC and there is speculation that the coal bailout plan might be revived. The opponents of the bailout plan, the first time around, were a strange coalition of the lobbyist organization for oil and gas industry, namely the American Petroleum Institute, and environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club.
Solar energy and wind generated electricity have increased dramatically, however they have a long ways to go to contribute significantly to our energy needs. Recent trade tariffs against China have resulted in a 30% tariff on solar panels. The solar industry in the US employs approximately 250,000 people compared to about 70,000 in the coal industry. Trade tariffs on imported steel are hurting the oil and gas industry, which is an extensive customer of steel (wells, drilling rigs, production platforms, tankers and storage).
It is indeed fortunate that coal fired plants are being replaced by plants using natural gas. The US may reduce its carbon emissions simply through market forces. Still, Trump has appointed many in government whose don’t really look at the public’s best interests. If the bailout plan is submitted again, the opponents will be citing the DOE grid study as reasons to reject it.
Trump coal bailout plan to have powerful ally if frontrunner for energy agency opening is confirmed
Bernard McNamee is among half a dozen former TPPF officials who hold positions in Trump administration.