Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

I could hardly believe this story when I first read it in the New York Times.  It just seemed too bizarre to be true.  A  DOE proposal which subsidizes  coal usage  in power plants, whose extra cost  will be passed on to consumers in electric bills.  Bob Murray of Murray Coal must be very happy with this one, as his investment in Trump is paying off big time.

Per the NYT EdOp:

 Mr. Perry’s proposal could add around $11 billion a year to the cost of electricity, depending on how the rule is interpreted, according to four separate research reports. Yet it would do little to improve the electrical grid. That’s because less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of power failures between 2012 and 2016 were caused by fuel supply emergencies, according to the Rhodium Group, a research firm.

Aren’t the Republicans known for opposing bailouts of any kind?  This one is based on a pretext, that we have fuel supply emergencies causing power failure outages.  Or we will have in the future.   As stated in the New York Times:

During Hurricane Harvey in Texas, where Mr. Perry was once governor, coal-fired power plants had to switch to natural gas because their fuel became too wet to be moved.

Here are the facts.    About 66% of our electricity comes from the burning of two fossil fuels, natural gas and coal.   The rest comes from nuclear (~19%), hydroelectric (~6%)  and alternative sources (solar and wind).    What has hurt the coal industry is competition from natural gas.  Employment in coal mining jobs has dropped due to automation of the mines.   Environmental air quality regulations have made coal fueled plants more expensive, encouraging a switch to natural gas.

Here is why it is so bizarre.  Opposition comes from environmental groups which would be normal, as the proposal will increase coal consumption.  But, allied with the environmental groups are the big oil and gas companies,  who would be hurt by reduced natural gas demand.   So,  the new regulations are bad for the consumer, the environment and big oil and gas companies (which support Trump on many issues).

The DOE has fast tracked the proposal through the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) with 5 members.   Hopefully, they will not approve the DOE proposal.

Please read the New York Times article.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The Trump Administration’s Coal Bailout

Electricity Customers in 31 States Could Foot the Bill for Perry’s Coal Bailout

Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize coal and nuclear plants is bonkers

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Climate Change Report Released!

It sure looked like the EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was doing everything in his power to attack the independence of environmental scientists within his Department, when he refuse to allow 3 scientists to make presentations at the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program in Rhode Island.

Then came a breath of fresh air.  In November 3,  the first part of the National Assessment on  Climate Change Effects, was published.   See links at the end of this blog for the report.    They don’t call it Global Warming anymore,  but that still a big part of the overall problems associated with the 5 billion metric tons of carbon emissions the US sends into the atmosphere.   With 5% of the world’s population, we are responsible for nearly 30% of all carbon emissions.  The weather patterns are changing around the planet causing more severe storms and droughts.  The poorer African nations will suffer the most, as there are more famines.

Why didn’t Scott Pruitt block this one?   It was because it did not come directly from the EPA,  but rather a multi-agency scientific group as described in their report below.  Second, the National Assessment had to be done, as a matter of law, and the report provided to Congress and the President.   Trump couldn’t really block it, without creating more publicity for the report.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990. Its mandate is to develop and coordinate “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

USGCRP comprises 13 Federal agencies that conduct or use research on global change and its impacts on society. It functions under the direction of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.

USGCRP has three major sets of responsibilities: (a) coordinating global change research across the Federal government, (b) developing and distributing mandated products, and (c) helping to inform decisions.

One of the products mandated by the GCRA is a quadrennial assessment that USGCRP is to prepare and submit to the President and the Congress. This assessment, referred to as the National Climate Assessment (NCA), is directed by the GCRA to:

-Integrate, evaluate, and interpret the findings of the Program and discuss the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings

– Analyze the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity

– Analyze current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and project major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years

Environmental scientists from the EPA participated in the study.  The report is limited to the effects of climate change within the US.  The United Nations studies climate change on a worldwide basis.

This lead agency in preparation of this report is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA),  operating under the Department of Commerce.  Hopefully,  it stays there as if it is moved to the DOE or EPA,   it would be immediately filled with political appointees.  Particularly bad if the EPA someday  takes over NOAA.

The last assessment was done in 2014.  The opening lines from this report were very powerful:

Climate change is happening now. The United States and the world are warming, global sea level is rising, and some types of extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe. These changes have already resulted in a wide range of impacts across every region of the country and many sectors of the economy.

The new assessment is similar to the 2014 report in reporting the consequences of climate change.  It wasn’t blocked by the Trump administration because really they couldn’t block a report that was the result of 13 governmental agencies.   This is where our country excels, in collaborative efforts of experts in the complex area of climate change.  The warming of our seas is a likely contributing factor in causing more intense hurricanes, on the 4 to 5 level scale.  A little bit of information that Scott Pruitt felt was inappropriate to discuss two months ago.  Maybe now is the time.

Links:

Climate Science Special Report – Nov 2017

A Climate Science Report That Changes Minds? Don’t Bet on It 

Washington Post- No alternative explanation

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

EPA Worst Adminstrator Ever: Scott Pruitt

The EPA has existed for 47 years.   It was created by Richard Nixon in 1970, by Executive Order.    Richard Nixon also signed into law, the Clean Air (1970) and Clean Water Acts (as amended 1972).   The first line of the  Clean Water Act states:

The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.

This first sentence is powerful, as the act directs the federal government in conjunction with state agencies to RESTORE  the quality of the  nation’s waters.   Thus, there was an acknowledgement of a problem.   Thus, the creation of the agency was direct the government to take a leadership role in the restoration of  our water and air resources.  Nixon being from California,  likely understood this, as the Colorado watershed encompasses 7 states in the US and 2 states in Mexico.   California is downstream to all pollutants discharged into the Colorado River in the US.

Scott Pruitt may like to see environmental policy run from the state and local level,  mainly for political reasons, but it is the geographical reality which makes so many of our environmental problems, a national problem, requiring federal action.   The pollutants  from the coal burning plants goes to the upper atmosphere,  where there are no signs saying “You are entering Massachusetts” or even, “You are entering Canada.”

Scott Pruitt is an attorney of law.   He has done nothing to restore or improve air or water quality in his home state of Oklahoma, as Attorney General.   Instead, he accepted contributions from Tyson foods, who were being sued for polluting the Illinois River that flows through Oklahoma.

Oklahoma AG and EPA Pick Pruitt Stalled Pollution Lawsuit After Contributions From Poultry Industry

His track record as AG was to attack EPA actions, initiating 13 lawsuits against the EPA.

Now as administrator of the EPA, his actions run counter the core mission of the EPA, to preserve the water, land and air natural resources of the US for future generations to enjoy.   His perspective is one of an advocate for individuals to pollute as much as they want, so long as they don’t endanger the health and safety of general population.   Individual liberties may sound good, but in result can be extremely harmful.

I have posted numerous blogs on the actions of the EPA under the Trump administration, including the most recent one on banning EPA scientists from making presentations at a scientific meeting on the Narraganset Bay estuary.   I was please to see Steven Colbert, the late night show host,   really tearing into Scott Pruitt’s policies, noting that until he pulled the 3 scientists from the meeting, it is likely few people knew about this estuary, or even what an estuary was.

Scott Pruitt latest attack on the agency he runs is to remove as many of the independent and dedicated environmental scientists in the advisory groups in the EPA and replace them with people of his own choosing.   This tactic in this case is to bar anyone who is receiving funding from the EPA from participating in the advisory groups.

Citing The Bible, The EPA Just ChangedAdvisers Its Rules For Science 

In support of his drastic actions,  Scott Pruitt relies on the pretext that scientists receiving funds from the EPA might have a conflict of interest.  However, this was quickly countered by numerous organizations,  noting there was already strict disclosure rules in place, the prevent conflict of interest.    Dr. Tiech from George Washington University stated the following:

” Disqualifying the very people who know the most about a subject from serving as advisors makes no sense.”

More succinctly, he wrote, “Frankly,  this directive is nuts.”   Others voiced similar opinions, as follows:

The change calls into question EPA’s ability to protect the country, according to Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We question whether the EPA can continue to pursue its core mission to protect human health and the environment,” Holt said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Scott Pruitt battled the EPA through lawsuits as Attorney General of Oklahoma.  Now,  he must battle the organization he heads.

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS.  I’ve posted numerous blogs on the EPA and the Trump administration’s indifference to environmental issues.   See the various categories such as Environment, Global Warming. Coal, or Chloropyrisfos.  Also you can search under EPA  or Scott Pruitt.