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Crony Central Planning Posing as National Security — Trump Tries to Foist Rising Coal Costs on the American People

Ever since Trump came to office he’s been doing his best to save a polluting, harmful, and increasingly expensive energy source — coal. Why he would do this is rather nonsensical. Coal employs less and less people each year. It pumps toxins into the air and water. And it is a primary enabler of human-caused climate change — which among other things is putting the nation’s cities under threat from rising seas, worsening storms, and more severe wildfires.

Trump and Perry’s various campaigns to save coal bear a similar connotative ring as such moral winners as ‘help Sauron,’ benefits to ‘promote asthma in kids,’ and ‘save smog.’

(The failing coal industry is trying to use its influence over the Trump Administration to force you to prop it up. This stinks of crony capitalism turned Soviet-style central planning.)

But despite the nonsense, harm and immorality, the Trump Administration has actively courted bankrupt coal executives like Bob Murray to write policy that would throw a number of lifelines to an economically failing and pysically dangerous energy source. The most recent related attempt being the claim that coal is necessary for U.S. national security and that economically failing coal plants represent a ‘grid emergency in the making.’ A claim that was just this week decried by Exelon CEO Chris Cane.

In truth what’s really happening is coal can’t compete economically with wind and solar. And that the Trump Administration, through Perry, is asking you and me to pay an extra 12 billion dollars a year in utility bills to support failing, polluting coal plants. In truth, they’re doing this for no reason whatsoever other than to promote the interests of their political backers — in the form of a direct hand-out. And they are doing it in a way that will harm both U.S. competitiveness, hurt the present rate of renewable energy adoption, raise your utility bills all in one.

(Due to higher costs, coal and even gas are being utilized less and less in favor of lower priced and less polluting renewables. Image source: Think Progress and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.)

Such Soviet-style central planning and forced dirty energy use has generated cries of outrage from a broad coalition of energy industry leaders, environmentalists, and, ironically, conservatives groups that promote free market systems. So the Trump Administration is likely to find itself in court — defending spurious claims of ‘national security,’ increased costs to rate payers, and nonsensical government handouts to failing coal.

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36 Comments

  1. Leif Knutsen

     /  June 7, 2018

    Trump is doing for coal exactly the same thing that Justin Trudeau is attempting to do for tar sand in Canada.

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  2. wili

     /  June 8, 2018

    “Every part of every state had near/above normal temperatures last month — the warmest May in our country’s recorded history. ”

    Like

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  3. Abel Adamski

     /  June 8, 2018

    https://www.voanews.com/a/scientists-say-cost-of-sucking-carbon-from-thin-air-could-tumble/4429855.html
    Carbon Engineering, a Canadian-based clean energy company, outlined the design of a large industrial plant that it said could capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a cost of between $94 and $232 a ton.

    That is well below past estimates of about $600 a ton by the American Physical Society, said David Keith, a Harvard University physics professor and the founder of Carbon Engineering who led the research.

    “I hope to show that this as a viable energy industrial technology, not something that is a magic bullet … but something that is completely doable,” he told Reuters of the peer-reviewed study published in the journal Joule

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    • A ton of coal costs about $40 and produces 2.86 tons of CO2. Now you can do the maths.

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    • This technology is cheaper and already working:

      => Britain’s Wind Farms Beat Out Nuclear For First Time Ever

      During the first quarter of the year, Britain’s wind farms produced more electricity than ever before and promptly surpassed the amount of electricity generated by the country’s nuclear fleet, similarly for the first time ever.

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    • Leland Palmer

       /  June 12, 2018

      Long term, the ability to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere could become important in the future. Carbon Engineering’s technology is based on standard industrial chemical processes, and looks stable and robust.

      BioEnergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) though, could take carbon out of the atmosphere while producing electricity at a profit. So instead of requiring an input of energy, it would be a source of energy.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-energy_with_carbon_capture_and_storage

      One thing that many people have not realized about BECCS is that biomass plantations can be planted at higher elevations than the converted coal fired power plants. So, biomass can be transported downhill, reducing the energy required to get it to the power plant.

      We really need to get started on BECCS, I think.

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  4. Abel Adamski

     /  June 8, 2018

    Following the theme, but shift location to India
    https://www.voanews.com/a/inventors-work-against-india-smog/4404546.html
    Indian Innovators Convert Diesel Exhaust Into Ink To Battle Air Pollution
    While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

    “Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

    The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

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    • Abel Adamski

       /  June 8, 2018

      https://www.voanews.com/a/indian-factory-uses-envronmentally-friendly-technology-to-utilize-carbon-emissions/3665619.html
      NEW DELHI —
      A new environmentally friendly technology being used by a factory in southern India to convert carbon dioxide into useful chemicals has won attention for contributing to the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

      The industrial plant in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu state captures carbon dioxide emissions from its own coal boiler and uses it to make soda ash – a base chemical with uses that include the manufacture of glass, sweeteners, detergents and paper products.

      The factory’s owner, Gopalan Ramachandran, estimates his plant could save up to 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

      He gives a satisfied laugh as he tells VOA “I feel really proud about it whenever I see the chimney, OK – clean. Earlier there used to be lot of smoke there going out, now you find that everything is neat and clean.”
      Arun Kumar at New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute is optimistic such initiatives will go a long way in helping the goal of reducing carbon emissions. “Where the captured carbon dioxide can be utilized for industrial production would be most cost effective compared to say when we talk of carbon capture storage from power plants,” he says.

      Many other businesses in the country could use such technology. “There are many chemicals exported out of India where CO2 is the raw material. Definitely you will find this a much, much simpler solution,” says Ramachandran.
      India has pledged to slash the intensity of its fossil-fuel emissions by one-third by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, largely by making a big shift to renewable energy sources such as solar. But initiatives by industry to reduce emissions will also go a long way in contributing to that goal.

      India is also looking at converting waste carbon dioxide into bio fuel. Pointing out that India will be using coal for a long time to come, Kumar says “if we are to fight climate change, and we have to look at climate mitigation action, then carbon capture technology, if it can be used in a productive way, it is a very good option.”

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      • Abel Adamski

         /  June 8, 2018

        Replace the CO2 from the coal burner with CO2 extracted from the air and we have a winner

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      • Burning carbon to CO2 is an exothermal reaction. So you will need more energy to split that CO2 again to carbon and oxygen.

        Also => Mapped: The world’s coal power plants

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        • rhymeswithgoalie

           /  June 9, 2018

          Splitting CO2 could be one of those “background tasks” for times when PV or wind turbines are producing otherwise unwanted electricity, or after battery banks are topped off.

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        • Leland Palmer

           /  June 13, 2018

          Nature manages to “split” the CO2 indirectly using light via photosynthesis, of course.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis

          6H2O + 6CO2 → C6H12O6 + 6O2

          water + CO2 + light produces sugar + oxygen

          The oxygen produced actually comes from the water, but the net effect is the same. Burn the sugar (or other carbohydrates produced from sugar by the plants) in oxygen (or air) to get back the CO2.

          This is why I keep yapping about BECCS (Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage). Nature already provides a way to “split” the CO2 indirectly via photosynthesis.

          Like

  5. It’s also time to stop the toxic and oppressive obscenities of mountaintop removal, the carpet bombing and ruination of the Appalachians.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. Andy_in_SD

     /  June 8, 2018

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  7. Bad news on the global coal economy, for those of us trying to keep coal-mining out of our counties (i.e., southern Utah’s red canyon country)https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-08/coal-rallies-to-six-year-high-as-heatwave-fires-up-china-demand
    The heat is on in the global coal market.

    Prices of Newcastle coal are at the highest level since 2012 after surging 24 percent since mid-April to $112.05 a metric ton on Thursday as China maintains robust demand during unseasonably hot weather. Despite measures imposed by the top user to cool soaring domestic prices, international miners are on a roll after a five-year downturn that shuttered mines and cost jobs.

    China’s power producers have been challenged by extreme weather in 2018, from a cold snap in January to a heatwave in May, draining stockpiles. The nation has boosted coal imports by 8.2 percent to 121 million tons in the first five months this year even as policy makers imposed restrictions on some shipments. Australian cargoes bound for China jumped to an all-time high in April.

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    • utoutback

       /  June 8, 2018

      Hi Jacque
      Yes, this is how a cascade works.
      Increased Co2 in the atmosphere resulting in hot temperatures increases electricity demand for air conditioning and other forms of cooling, so that coal fired plants burn more coal – further increasing CO2.
      We need to get off this gerbil wheel!

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  8. Abel, I am quite pleased to hear that the costs of removing CO2 from the atmosphere have dropped so much. What I want to know is this: What is the relationship between the energy used to do so vis a vis the energy derived from the use of the original hydrocarbons that gave rise to the CO2? Unless the energy used in removal is significantly less than the original energy derived, since it is the production of energy in the first place that gave rise to the problem. I suppose it would be helpful, of course, if the energy for removal is all from renewables. Otherwise we have another ethanol situation – much ado about nothing. In other words we harvested energy to create the CO2 – how much of that energy will be required to undo the resulting damage?

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • Physically you need more energy to reverse the exothermal reaction.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • bostonblorp

         /  June 9, 2018

        What I’m curious about is what is the optimal chemical form for extracted CO2 such that it can be safely stored in the long term? Fuels seem dangerous and I doubt you can safely re-inject it into the Earth. So.. then what? Can we make limestone?

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        • wili

           /  June 9, 2018

          “What I’m curious about is what is the optimal chemical form for extracted CO2 such that it can be safely stored in the long term”

          Probably oil or coal…the way nature originally sequestered it!

          Like

        • Leland Palmer

           /  June 12, 2018

          Limestone could be made by direct injection followed by in situ mineral carbonation, or by injection of carbonated water into basalt formations. This would be before it is made into fuel. They are using oxy-fuel combustion to heat their calcination process, so that an almost pure stream of CO2 is produced, ready for deep injection or conversion into carbonated water via the Icelandic CarbFix process.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CarbFix

          So, yes, carbonate could be the end product. But the opportunity to produce a fuel that could be sold to help reduce the overall cost of the whole process would be lost.

          They could maybe make polycarbonate plastic or carbon fiber with their CO2, I think.

          Like

  9. The EPA took its first step toward a comprehensive overhaul of the cost-benefit calculations that underpin the entire array of its regulations, notably any actions to rein in global warming. In its formal notice seeking public comment, the EPA wrote that industry had requested this kind of change.

    => Pruitt Starts Rewriting How EPA Weighs Costs, Benefits of Regulation

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  10. That’s what I thought. Therefore it would make no sense to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, because we would be better off using the energy that we would have used for that removal furor energy needs instead. I suppose it would make sense in two cases: first the CO2 was a feedstock for some purpose; second, excess energy that would otherwise be wasted was used. Despite this, the rosy scenarios in the IPCC report sort of assume that we figure out to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • We have the option to replace fossil fuel burning infrastructure now with renewables. We should do that. These laboratory and pilot projects will take 5-10 years to scale, if they ever do. Deploying rather than waiting is always the more effective approach.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  11. re: EPA rewriting regs. I strongly suspect that the EPA will value reductions in CO2, CH4 emissions at zero.

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  12. Jeremy in Wales

     /  June 8, 2018

    A little story from a unremarkable corner of the UK that shows how the transport is changing in the world. Old refurbished London Underground trains are to be used on a couple of branch lines in North Wales:
    http://www.wrexham.com/news/refurbed-london-underground-trains-for-wrexham-to-bidston-service-keolis-uk-to-move-hq-to-wales-150386.html
    The remarkable part is that these are Class 230 D trains from a small company Vivarail and that they are battery/diesel hybrids.
    http://www.railtechnologymagazine.com/HS2/vivarail-secures-funding-to-further-develop-d-train-technology/177724
    It seems that they will use GPS to turn the engines off in stations and more sensitive areas – presumably urban areas or in tunnels and that the batteries will provide more acceleration to the electric motors. The batteries would only take the trains some 46km by themselves but this seems to be an interesting start as if batteries/capacitors/fuel cells could replace diesel and overhead electric wires it suddenly will become cheaper.

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  13. kassy

     /  June 13, 2018

    Not a lot of fans of this idea:

    There’s No Power Grid Emergency Requiring a Coal Bailout, Regulators Say

    ….

    The top regulators of the nation’s power grid told Congress on Tuesday that they see no immediate national security emergency to justify propping up coal and nuclear power plants with a government order, as the Trump administration is considering.

    All five members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, weighed in at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a debate that has been roiling the industry and its regulators for months. It was the first time in many years that the whole commission had appeared before the committee together.

    Even though most of them were appointed by President Donald Trump, they seemed ambivalent or even hostile to his repeated attempts, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to require grid operators to buy power from uneconomical coal and nuclear power plants.

    A few months ago, FERC rebuffed Perry’s attempt to subsidize plant operators who keep 90 days of fuel on hand. Now, the White House has told Perry to use his own emergency powers under two laws to bail the industry out on grounds that plant closures are presenting a national security emergency.

    But the idea that the grid is currently so frail as to present an urgent military crisis has received little support, and next to none at the commission.

    FERC Does Not Pick Winners and Losers’
    The committee’s ranking Democrat, Maria Cantwell of Washington, said she found the idea of intervening in markets “mind-boggling.”

    The commissioners, in more measured words, seemed to agree with her.

    “FERC does not pick winners and losers in the market,” Powelson said. “Instead we create an environment where the market can pick the winners and losers.” He called it a “moral hazard” to do otherwise.

    “We need to be wary of people using the situation or a potential situation as a way to achieve market changes that they haven’t been able to achieve otherwise,” Glick said.

    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/12062018/ferc-no-power-grid-national-security-emergency-trump-perry-coal-subsidy-energy-regulators-congress

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