Bridge Out: Coal Generation Rises While Natural Gas Falls As The Fairy Tale Comes To An End

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"Bridge Out: Coal Generation Rises While Natural Gas Falls As The Fairy Tale Comes To An End"

Coal’s share of total domestic power generation in the first four months of 2013 averaged 39.5%, compared with 35.4% during the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration [EIA]…. By contrast, natural gas generation averaged about 25.8% this year, compared with 29.5% a year earlier.

Once upon a time there was a charming prince and prescient princess who were building a bridge to a sustainable future to replace their current bridge, which was falling apart and posing a threat to the kingdom. Since they wanted to live happily ever after, they said to all those who wanted to help, “only those who cut carbon pollution sharply may join.”

Each day coal tried to join, but the charming prince and prescient princess both laughed and said “not a chance.” Each day, wind and solar and hydro and energy efficiency and nuclear power punched in at 8 a.m. and the Prince smiled and the Princess smiled. Okay, maybe the Princess didn’t smile at nuclear power but at least she didn’t frown — and this princess was a big frowner since she read the scientific literature on climate change and was, therefore, filled with pre-science of the future.

One day, natural gas showed up and said, “Hire me. I work cheap, and I will last for a 100 years, maybe more. Oh and I really work well with others.” Wind and solar and hydro and energy efficiency said, “But we don’t leak a super-polluting greenhouse gas, and we don’t poison the water under the bridge, and natural gas won’t be cheap forever. We have far less carbon pollution and if you just charge the people who want to use the bridge a toll, we’re really cheaper. And you can give the toll you collect to everyone in the kingdom.”

But natural gas and his fossil fuel buddies said, “a toll is a tax” and they kept chanting it over and over and over again because that’s what they had been told to do by a mighty wizard-for-hire who used the “magic of the free market” and the “invisible hand” to make everyone do his bidding.

The prescient Princess was unconvinced, but the charming Prince needed the cash — sustaining his currently unsustainable lifestyle wasn’t cheap — so he said, “Cassandra, dearest, I’m overruling you as I always do because you worry too much.”

So they let natural gas start building the bridge — and it turned out he didn’t work well with others and leaked all over the place. And then strangely enough his prices went up a little and the price of his BFF coal went down a little, and the new bridge started looking a whole lot like the old bridge. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, coal generation now exceeded natural gas generation by 50% and that was projected to be the case for the foreseeable future, as this chart from their Short-Term Energy Outlook clearly shows.

At this, the little girl shrieked and said, “Daddy, that has to be the worst story you ever told me.” And the Daddy said, “What didn’t you like about it?” And the little girl said, “For one thing, is the bridge ‘out’ or is it the same as the old bridge?” “What else?” asked Daddy. “It doesn’t have a happy ending,” she said. “Ah,” said Daddy, “well, you asked for a true story. The moral is, without a carbon price, natural gas is only a bridge to a sustainable future in a fairy tale.”

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60 Responses to Bridge Out: Coal Generation Rises While Natural Gas Falls As The Fairy Tale Comes To An End

  1. mary says:

    Look at the bright side. We get to see what it was like dancing to the lovely orchestra while the Titanic was sinking.

    • Superman1 says:

      The Chinese Premier and President Obama have both said: All of the above! That’s all you need to know.

    • Superman1 says:

      Another difference. For the Titanic, it was the OWNERS who were reckless and ordered full speed ahead. For our present Spaceship Earth, it is both the owners and PASSENGERS who are ordering full speed ahead: All of the Above!

      • David Smith says:

        I get the part about we, the passengers. Any ideas on how to overcome this part of the problem? I figured that if I could get off fossil fuels then I would be able to get others to follow, and so on. As an architect, I am focussing exclusively on how normal people could make buildings that don’t run on fossil fuels. (This is the first step to being able to make buildings out of products that aren’t made with fossil fuels.) We have cut way back on driving and have retired one of our 2 cars and have begun to use train and bus for out of town trips (3 planned for this year). I know that I must sever my connection to the grid at least temporarily but have not managed so far. I know that if I can do things that others can repeat it could make a difference.

        Anyway – I accept that if we stop buying, their market would collapse and until we do, we are as guilty as them. What’s next.

        • Superman1 says:

          “Any ideas on how to overcome this part of the problem?” On the scale that is required and by the time it is required, I don’t see how to reduce the demand to the levels required. All the incentives are in the opposite direction. And, what I find most worrisome, is I have not seen any credible proposals that even come close to what is required.

  2. I got a nice chuckle out of this one. Thanks, Joe!

  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    An Even Worser Story

    (Don’t read it if you don’t want to cry!)

    One day not so long ago (although it seems like ages), the people picked a new leader. He had said that he would do all sorts of things. He promised to at least try his very best. He offered hope. And they elected him on that basis.

    Well, after he got their votes and became their leader, a strange thing happened: He didn’t lead very much. Indeed, he turned around and told the same people who elected him, “make me do it!”.

    And guess what? They bought it! (Simple people.) So, and in any case (you see, at that point they didn’t have much of a choice), they tried to “make him do it”. And they tried. And he still didn’t do it, or at least not much. Alas, the people found themselves in a partly self-defeating tug-of-war with the very leader that they had made leader, who wasn’t much of one.

    But this is not the end of the story, or even the worsest part. That’s still to come.

    As time passed, it came time when another person wanted to be the next leader. She had a big smile and lots of people loved her. Trouble was, her record regarding the biggest problem the people faced was remarkably vague and not so good. In fact, it was far, far from clear that she would be a very good leader, especially with respect to the people’s Biggest Problem. But she really wanted to be leader anyhow, and lots of people loved her.

    Given the problems the people had been having with their present leader, a few of the people said to the others, “Hey, shouldn’t we make sure that the next person we pick for our leader will be the very best one, someone willing and able to tackle our Biggest Problem, someone committed to tackling it no matter what doing so might do to her own future political prospects?

    Remarkably, most of the other people didn’t want to bother with all that. Some loved her no matter what she might do about the Biggest Problem. Others were resigned, passive, and fatalistic: “there’s nothing to do about it”, they said. Others engaged in astonishing intellectual contortions to try to explain why they didn’t want to find out and test her positions and commitments regarding the Biggest Problem. They just wanted to cast their fate to “hope”. Still others just didn’t want to rock the boat. Still others didn’t want to diminish their chances of working for the new leader some day, so the very last thing they wanted to do was ask her tough questions to see if she would be the right and best leader in the first place.

    To make a long story short, the people didn’t vet this person who wanted to be their new leader. They didn’t ask the tough questions. They didn’t look at the facts of her own record. They didn’t learn from the past. They closed their eyes — pretty much — and they heard what they wanted to hear whenever she spoke and smiled. They didn’t seriously consider anyone else who might have made a great leader in general, and specifically with respect to addressing their Biggest Problem. No, they chose their new leader without much careful thought, ignoring the lessons from the past.

    And they found themselves in the same dreadful position four years later — their Biggest Problem getting Biggerer by the day!

    “Make me do it!”, their new leader told them. “All of the above!”, she said. (They had heard it all before.)

    And THAT is how the story continues, children. At least, that is how it will continue for these people, unless of course they learn from the past, and from their present situation, and do what it takes to make sure they understand the positions and commitments of wanna-be leaders and choose the best one.

    Sleep well!

    • BobbyL says:

      As far as I can see this leader that we elected is leading. He provided leadership in his State of the Union address. Leadership in announcing new actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions including regulating power plants. An agreement with China to phase out HFCs which are very powerful greenhouse gases. And most recently putting climate change at the top of the agenda in an upcoming week long meeting with China in which climate hawk John Kerry will participate in. Compare that to climate-denying nonsense uttered for several years by George W. Bush. If the baton is passed to Hillary Clinton, whose husband happens to head the Clinton Climate Initiative, maybe she too will provide strong leadership.

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        BobbyL, thanks for your comment. That said, you and I must have very different conceptions of ‘leadership’. President Obama’s speech the other day came nearly four-and-a-half years into his presidency. It came five years after his campaign promises in the first campaign. It came after two or more years of near-silence regarding climate change. And President Obama’s macro strategy, his overall framing of where he stands on energy, is (still) “all of the above”, including hyping natural gas. (The notion of using natural gas as a smart “bridge” is, of course, the notion that the present post is correctly criticizing.) And, it is still highly unclear whether he will approve or deny approval to Keystone XL, even at this late late (and delayed) date. The Obama Administration has approved drilling for oil in the Arctic, has opened up more public lands for drilling, and so forth and so on. His message is deeply mixed — I’d call it largely incoherent, especially when you compare it to what he said he’d do and what scientists say we should be doing. So I don’t call that leadership.

        That said, my central point is not to make a case for or against Hillary Clinton. (Her record on climate change is deeply, deeply mixed as well, including the State Department’s favorable report regarding Keystone XL.) Instead, my central point is this: that we should vet her (and other would-be Democratic nominees for president) carefully with respect to climate change; we should ask her the tough questions; we should demand that she be clear and forthright about her position and her commitment to address the problem; we should ask her if she agrees (or not) with the “all of the above” energy strategy; we should ask her about her stance on natural gas as a bridge fuel; we should ask her how she would rule regarding Keystone XL if she were president today; we should ask what she really thinks about “clean coal”; and so on and so forth; and we should do all of these things, and try to learn where she stands, before we nominate her (obviously!). In short, we should try to make sure we don’t find ourselves in the same position four years from now as we are in today.

        Your point about Bill Clinton and the Clinton Climate Initiative is an interesting one. But that doesn’t change, at all, Hillary’s mixed record. How do we reconcile Hillary’s State Department’s favorable reports regarding Keystone XL with your point about the Clinton Climate Initiative? The answer is, nobody knows. And that’s the point. Your comment seems to suggest that you’re already ready to vote for her. But why, when (if we try) we have time to seriously vet her, and other potential nominees, BEFORE we decide who to support? And, has anyone considered other people who might be great leaders — potentially better leaders, especially when it comes to addressing climate change? Elizabeth Warren? John Kerry? Al Gore? And I shouldn’t forget to mention Joe Biden?

        Again, my point is not to argue for or against any of these folks, yet. My point is that we should be trying, hard, at this point to vet every excellent potential nominee with respect to climate change, and we should even be trying to enlist potential nominees who might be great. We should do what it takes to pick the best person. That is, if we are serious about addressing climate change.

        Anyhow, those are my thoughts.

        Cheers, Jeff

        • BobbyL says:

          I’m not ready to vote for Hillary. I voted for Rocky Anderson in the last election. Maybe I will vote for a third party candidate again.

        • perceptiventity says:

          You kids still belive in participatory circus rigs ? Can’t blame them

          • perceptiventity says:

            We have been bred for millinia to submit and follow the leader, flockless argument

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Need I say that I think that you are rather too easily pleased. Obama may, indeed, be said to be better that the two-headed Hydra of George W. Cheney, but that is damning with faint praise. And when absolutely determined action on all fronts, reminiscent of a wartime effort, is required, Obama, I think it must be said, has come up far short, a failure made more egregious by his lofty rhetoric and promises to do much more. No-one expected anything but bad behaviour from Bush re the environment, and he proved that expectation quite correct. Obama has three years left to disprove the doubters, and it will take some real action to do it.

        • Superman1 says:

          Mulga, “it will take some real action to do it.” What is an example of what Obama could do that would constitute ‘real action’, and how would that fit in the context of what is required to save the biosphere?

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            Make an address to the nation. Demand co-operation on a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions to zero by 2025, say. Advise public that alternative is catastrophe. Give Reptilicans 100 days to join up. Do everything he can within the prerogatives of Executive power. Cross the country giving talks every day to public meetings, and appear on TV relentlessly. Promise to resign if the co-operation does not materialise. Then resign and let Biden deal with the mess, if the Reptilicans refuse to go along. This will, say a 1% chance, work, or, say a 50% chance, encourage the sane voters to oust the worst Reptilicans and ‘blue dog Democrats’ in 2014. And it will, 100%, show that Obama really does ‘get it’ and nothing, not his glittering career, or promised retirement rewards, is more important than this. Such a demonstration of intent might be the circuit-breaker needed to get something done before it is not just too late to avert catastrophe, but too late to save anything. Will he act like this? Stranger things have, rarely, happened.

      • Superman1 says:

        “this leader that we elected is leading.” The Nature paper published recently by the Swiss team effectively states that we will need twice Anderson’s CO2 emissions reductions to stay within 2 C (global value of ~20%/annum). Against that requirement, the President is doing essentially nothing.

        • BobbyL says:

          Obama can’t snap his fingers and make things happen the way Kevin Anderson and James Hansen say they should. Obama is not God. He is limited by the Constitution which gives many powers to Congress, by the domestic political situation which has resulted in a large extreme right wing presence in Congress, and by his own personal limitations such as we all have. Apparently he decided that to get re-elected he had to push climate change aside during his first term and then focus on it if he won which he did. I don’t agree with that decision, which politically may have been wise, but at this point we have to live with it and move on. I think all we can really ask is that he do as much as he can given all the limitations I mentioned and I think finally he is doing that.

          • Superman1 says:

            Effective politics is a mix of effective action and image. He could have come out with a very strong negative statement on Keystone many months ago, and that would have set a global tone showing he was serious and recognized the seriousness of the problem. He’s not using the pulpit/image component the way he should for a problem of this magnitude.

          • Jeff Huggins says:

            Superman1, very well put (in your comment of 10:49 am).

          • BobbyL says:

            I think you are putting too much emphasis on Keystone. The only thing that matters in the end is the amount of emissions; it doesn’t matter with regard to global warming if the carbon comes from conventional oil, shale oil, or tar sands oil. The molecules of CO2 are all the same. Without a global cap on carbon emissions global warming cannot be stopped whether or not Keystone is built. There is no way to stop global warming by fighting one pipeline at a time or one coal plant, etc. Obama either will succeed on getting a meaningful cap on global emissions or he won’t. If he does, then the problem will be how to enforce the cap and make it work. Keystone is tricky because Obama has to consider our relationship with Canada. I think that is causing him to not be as forthright about the issue as we would like him to be.

          • Superman1 says:

            Of all the posters, I have been the most adamant of the irrelevancy of Keystone in the larger picture; we have more than enough fossil fuel reserves to destroy the biosphere five times over. But, Keystone has become a symbol, and if the President is not willing to take an early and firm stand on Keystone, which would show some level of resolve, where will he take a strong stand?

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            If Obama really ‘chose’ (as I believe him a puppet, controlled by others, I don’t buy this idea)to waste four years in order to get another four years, when he gives every impression so far of still doing as little as possible, then, in my opinion, he is a reckless, feckless, fool. We are in a life or death situation, four years now far more precious than four years later after four years more damage. He should have laid his precious Presidency on the line and confronted the monsters of denialism front on, but he only talks a good fight, doesn’t he?

          • Superman1 says:

            Mulga, he didn’t really have any Executive experience when elected; he was a community organizer. And, he wasn’t a street fighter who could twist arms like LBJ. He was a CAMPAIGNER, one of the best I’ve seen. You expected too much; I had low expectations because of his background, and I was not disappointed.

          • BobbyL says:

            I would say the most critical lost years were the Bush years when we really needed the US to do something big in order to get an agreement at the 2009 meeting in Copenhagen. Obama, who took office in 2009 during the financial collapse, was left with nothing to put on the table to bargain with. Basically he inherited a mess and has been cleaning up ever since. An agreement in 2009 that would have taken effect this year might have given us a decent chance to stay below 2C. Perhaps several tenths of a degree below. The main thing Obama can do now is accomplish enough to get an agreement in 2015 that will take effect in 2020. It is very unlikely to keep us below 2C but that’s the price of inaction. I think he is off to a strong start in his second term. Keeping up the momentum is critical. Hopefully some sort of agreement will come out of the upcoming meeting with China. That might get things into high gear. I would stop worrying so much about Keystone and focus more on how things are going between the US and China. That is where the action is.

          • Superman1 says:

            BobbyL, “focus more on how things are going between the US and China. That is where the action is.” Well, if you look at the statement of the Chinese Premier of 5 March, and the President’s statements on energy, you find a remarkable commonality: All of the Above. Why do you think any agreement, if reached, will come to a different conclusion?

          • BobbyL says:

            It wouldn’t be my policy but to repeat all of the above is not the same as using all of all of the above. The bottom line is total emissions, it doesn’t matter if they come only from one source of fossil fuel or many different types of sources. All of the above is not going to make environmentalists happy but I don’t believe it is necessarily inconsistent with fighting global warming. I think both the leaders of the US and China realize we are on a suicidal course and will work to get an agreement to cap global emissions. Our hope is that they can make it happen but if they can’t it really is game over.

      • Lore says:

        You’re confusing leadership with lip service. The world is filled with good intentions, but lacks the fortitude to change them into action.

      • Brian Smith says:

        BobbyL, you are right that we have to go from here with the Pres we have. What else? We like it at least that he is painting himself farther into the right corner. Mulga, Jeff & Superman are also right to attach strong evidence for doubting his leadership will take us anywhere close to meaningful targets. Still, there is a lot of gratuitous, redundant hand-waving over Obama’s failures that I wish were more often balanced with attempts at positive solutions to these grievances, since in this crowd they hardly need repeating, but OK…

        Draw a circle around all of it and defines one (but not the only) major approach to the pin-the-tail-on-the-leadership problem: focusing on directly calling out/improving elite leadership, especially the Pres.

        Jeff, you offer a worthy concept: know what your candidate is likely to do in office and if it don’t smell right put the screws on or find another candidate to support. My problem is with whether its a solution that’s actionable in the way you suggest. You want the candidates “vetted”. So I respectfully ask, again, what does that mean? How would you further instruct Joe the individual & CAP the organization to vet people? Or are would you be happy to just have the concept acknowledged & leave the rest to their judgement & call it a day? Are these reasonable questions?

        How about promoting a climate action pledge for voters? I would sign. A petition asking for a climate action pledge from Hillary, I would sign, though her pledge would actually guarantee nothing. But asking readers to double down on exacting a pledge from Dr. Romm that he will do his scout’s best and not be derelict in duty thereby betraying his own vision, etc.. I just don’t understand how you think that can go over well. You don’t trust without stringently verifying, it seems. You don’t trust *this* guy?

        It comes up now and then that focusing on educating/firing up the public is a major obstacle and challenge. For me it absolutely tops the list of things to accomplish if we want national pressure for sanity and action from elite decision makers. Informed voters who no longer doubt the science or the risks..we need em. Before the midterms.

        My thought on hitting the problem hard is a prime-time address to the nation, not by the Pres but by climate scientists, a full truth-telling trigger that the MSM and political elites could not ignore. Basically a media approach that trumps Koch dollars. If I were James Cameron, Shawn Otto, Tom Steyer or CAP, for that matter, planning would start in the morning.

        Anyway, a reminder that there are a lot of angles to influencing elites to act. We need to do what works. Deliverables!

    • Joe Romm says:

      Almost, but not quite….

      • Jeff Huggins says:

        Joe, what was the “not quite” part?

        (As an aside, reading an article about Hillary’s speaking engagements today gave me an idea. I’ll share it this weekend.)

        Cheers, Jeff

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          As Bill Clinton said, while consoling Hillary on missing out on the Presidential nomination, ‘Close, but no cigar’.

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Jeff, of course there are differences between individual politicians but it is a mistake to confuse the individual with the system. Rep Dems have inherent problems such as they are unrepresentative and harbour a huge potential for corruption which we have seen writ large in the USA. Unless you intend to change the system, the only thing you can do now is mobilize the population to convince the politicians that they must all change their policies, ME

      • Superman1 says:

        “mobilize the population to convince the politicians”. First, you have to convince the population, then you worry about their convincing the politicians.

        • kermit says:

          Yes. But the science denying population has a whole set of values and beliefs and epistemological stances that would have to be challenged and upset. It would probably require several years of constant reality-oriented news and commentary from radio talk shows, Fox news, and the like. Not going to happen. Folks who can be, however reluctantly, convinced by evidence are probably already aware of the problem.

          An internal world view that maps poorly to reality might seem to fit if you don’t pay attention too closely, but when the world is changing rapidly as it is now, such poorly constructed maps cannot explain the consequences of those changes nor their interactions.

          Prepare for expressions of bewilderment, rage, fear, and violence from most of those Americans who are still denying what is happening.

    • J4Zonian says:

      “And they found themselves in the same dreadful position four years later”

      Correction: eight years later. No more time to waste on liars. Time to take over and run the ship ourselves.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    A great story Joe, had me smiling all the way through, thank you.

    Now there will be a call (from the wizards) to keep building the coal bridge (and not regulating existing plants) because it’ll be “cheaper”.

    • Jim B says:

      I think about it all the time. Cheaper. What does that even mean? It’s cheaper right up until the actual (external) bill is due. What then? The earth gonna file for planetary bankruptcy? Nope. The price will be exacted on all of humanity. In fact, some of the early notes are already coming due but many want to pretend that they are not.

  5. Lou Grinzo says:

    Nicely done, Joe.

    As for the NG/coal price and usage seesaw effect: No one should be the least bit surprised by this. There was a shift in the relative prices of these commodities (and remember, it’s relative price differentials that drive economic decisions), so our usage shifted. But now that the pricing has reverted a bit, so has our usage.

    I can’t say this any more emphatically: This is what happens when you put the psychotic, blind “free market” in charge of life and death decisions. Sometimes you get a little lucky and things move in the preferred direction, and sometimes they move in the wrong direction, but without any explicit control, such as imposing a carbon price or (gasp!) direct regulation, we’re left to the whims of a market that optimizes for short-term profits based on price signals AND NOTHING ELSE. Thinking that such a state of affairs will somehow magically deliver the optimal short-term behavior for serving our long-term interests isn’t just demonstrably wrong, it’s pathetically delusional and downright dangerous.

  6. Ernest says:

    http://energy.gov/videos/secretary-moniz-natural-gas-and-renewables

    Write to DOE Secretary Moniz.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/collection/the-future-of-energy/
    “In any case, it’s clear that switching from coal to natural gas will not come close to delivering the huge reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions that most sci- entists contend are needed by midcentury to ward off the worst effects of climate change. According to estimates by econo- mist Henry Jacoby and his colleagues at MIT, the increased use of shale gas might ower carbon emissions somewhat in the next five to 10 years, but at best it will keep them flat through 2050. In other words, there is a short window of oppor- tunity to begin inventing and deploying cleaner technologies. Jacoby predicts that natural-gas prices will stay relatively low over the next decade, climbing slowly to around $5 to $6 per million BTUs—still making it hard for renewables to compete.
    The “real elephant sitting in the room,” Jacoby says, is that we don’t have a climate policy aimed at penalizing carbon emis- sions, which would provide an incentive to invest in cleaner technologies.”

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      This is where gas fracking is designed, amongst its other utilities for the plutocrats, to delay and derail renewables, for as long as possible, probably five to ten years at a wild guess. Drain investment dollars and popular support from renewables to gas, and you put back the day when renewables become the main energy source, on the path to full decarbonisation. And, of course, the ‘externality’ of destroying the planet’s habitability for our species doesn’t come into the calculations.

    • Ernest says:

      The promoters of renewables have to demonstrate they can do it. I’m looking to California and Germany.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        It’s not a matter of ‘can’ do. That’s plain, if enough money and effort goes into it. It is really a matter of ‘must’ do, or we will see our civilization destroyed. It’s renewables or death, as simple as that.

        • Superman1 says:

          Mulga, “It’s renewables or death, as simple as that.” Wrong!! It’s drastic fossil fuel use reduction or death; the two are not identical!!

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    Coal and gas companies have common ownerships, and want to frame the market competition as one between “cheap” coal and “clean” gas. Neither is either.

    What they really hate is competition from wind and solar, and they are pulling out the stops to keep that from happening. The world burns? They don’t care about that. It’s up to us to push them out of the way.

    • Superman1 says:

      “It’s up to us to push them out of the way.” Unfortunately, Mike, it is ‘we’ who are requesting ‘All of the Above’!

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Absolutely. Fracked gas is a proxy for coal and oil, and is a weapon directed against renewables.

  8. Chad Brick says:

    Don’t forget to mention that natural gas production has been flat since late 2011, and prices have doubled over the same time frame.

    Fracking boom, fracking flatline…

  9. Steve Mutmansky says:

    I referenced this article in yesterday’s news, but it seems appropriate to post it again here:

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/west-penn-power-parent-to-close-2-coal-fired-plants-in-western-pennsylvania-694789/

    What’s astonishing to me about this is that FirstEnergy is saying that they can’t get buyers in the PJM for power from one of their biggest coal plants (Hatfield’s Ferry). When a 1.7 GW coal plant that has had $800 million in recent upgrades is no longer competitive, that makes me question the EIA’s numbers.

    The news of last year’s coal plant closings was not surprising because those plants were older, smaller and less efficient. I thought Hatfield’s Ferry would be running for 20 years to come. It seems to me the world is changing faster than many of us realize.

    • Steve Mutmansky says:

      It’ll be interesting to see if UBS Securities’ rep is right in predicting further plant closings.

    • Superman1 says:

      Closing because of 1) reduced demand due to weakened economy, 2) natural gas competition, 3) increasing costs of pollution control.

  10. Mike Roddy says:

    Coal is extremely expensive if deaths and health care costs resulting from its pollution are accounted for. The studies and methodology here are solid, and utilities could do this very easily.

    Roughly 1 in 10,000 people will die prematurely every year from living in a coal power region. In an area with 2 million people, that’s 200 humans. I don’t know what accountants value a human life at, but let’s say $1 million, and let that figure capture the various health care costs for everyone else from lung disease, cancer etc.

    That’s an extra $200 million a year in operating costs, which would call for all coal plants to be shuttered. Beancounters ignore this, because they only know how to count beans, not people.

    If our courts were honest, instead of controlled by fossil fuel companies, companies like Arch and Georgia Power would have to pay these costs. I’d like to see a good team of attorneys at least put out some effort here- maybe in a less rabid state like Ohio or Illinois, where they also still burn a lot of coal.

    With a jury trial, they might win. What a precedent that would be! Sierra Club and NRDC, you could redeem yourselves. Put all those giant donations to good use for a change.

  11. Robert in New Orleans says:

    And in the end, the landscape was littered with abandoned wellsites, miles of eroding dirt roads, piles of waste, and a contaminated and depleted water table.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      All ‘externalities’ of no relevance to the Holy ‘Wealth Creators’.

  12. fj says:

    Here are the chacteristics for a story with a happy ending.

    Building our future the most important coincident strategies must be something like

    1. Poor people first

    2. Positive disruptive high efficiencies

    3. Minimal footprint tight integration with natural services.

    4. Rational economics