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Is The War On Coal Really Over?

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Is The War On Coal Really Over?

Unread postby AdamB » Thu 12 Oct 2017, 21:05:32

On Tuesday, Pruitt’s EPA proposed to withdraw the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a controversial step that seeks to roll back the clock on arguably the most important environmental achievement of President Obama. In fact, some argue that the CPP ranks up there along with the healthcare overhaul as one of Obama’s top domestic policy victories. The Clean Power Plan puts limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants with the goal of lowering emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Here’s how it was supposed to work. The EPA would require states to lower greenhouse gas emissions from their power plants, but the agency would simply set a cap and let states figure out how to bring emissions down below that level. Certain coal plants could survive under the rule if its owner built renewable energy, for example, or if emission reductions ...


"Is the war on coal really over?"
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Re: Is The War On Coal Really Over?

Unread postby Subjectivist » Fri 13 Oct 2017, 15:00:31

What war? Other than America and England coal power is alive and well because it is still cheap.
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The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby AdamB » Mon 16 Oct 2017, 19:59:05


Last week, Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced, “the war on coal is over.” If there ever was a war on coal, the coal industry has lost. According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, many old American coal power plants are being retired or converted to natural gas, and new coal power plants aren’t being built because they’ve become more expensive than natural gas, wind, and solar energy: The share of US electricity coming from coal fell from 51 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2016—an unprecedented change. New UCS analysis finds that, of the coal units that remain, roughly one in four plans to retire or convert to natural gas; another 17 percent are uneconomic and could face retirement soon. Natural gas has now surpassed coal to supply 32% of US electricity (up from 21% in ...


The war on coal is over..
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Mon 16 Oct 2017, 20:20:23

That simply does not make any sense. Obama made carbon dioxide a pollutant by executive order, and then the EPA set the CPP in place to reduce carbon emissions by 1/3 the 2005 levels. This was done solely because he could not get the House and Senate to back the CPP in legislation. The Supreme court narrowly upheld his authority to do so.

Trump has equal executive authority as did Obama, and can declare carbon dioxide to be a vital plant nutrient versus a pollutant. He also has a Republican majority in both the House and Senate which is likely to grow greater in the 2018 elections. He can do anything he wishes.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby Cog » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 04:15:35

But can he make coal cheaper than natural gas is question? Is the price difference solely the mandate to lower CO2 levels or is a natural gas plant less expensive to operate regardless?
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 09:09:39

Cog wrote:But can he make coal cheaper than natural gas is question? Is the price difference solely the mandate to lower CO2 levels or is a natural gas plant less expensive to operate regardless?


You assumed that power plants were switching from coal to NG for cost reasons. That never was true, they switched fuels because they needed to to both meet the CPP goals and to retain an existing aged coal plant in operation. FF power plants are renewed on an approximate 50-year capital cycle, so some of the affected plants would be replaced anyway, and operations are cheaper for NG than for coal which requires a lot of mechanical machinery to pulverize coal and blow it into a firebox for vortex coal dust combustion.

The net impact of backing off the CPP will be to halt conversion of coal plants to dual fuel capability, to allow funds to be used for FF plant life extensions rather than shorter capital replacements, and to burn more coal short term.

The linked article contains a lot of half truths. The big one:

However, because renewables and natural gas are now cheaper than coal, an analysis by the Rhodium Group found that the US will meet the Clean Power Plan target of cutting carbon pollution from electricity generation 32% below 2005 levels by 2030 despite its repeal.


Renewables are not cheaper than coal by a long shot, as we beat to death in this thread:
http://peakoil.com/forums/trump-repeals-obama-s-clean-power-plan-t73598.html

In fact, using the IER figures and quoting from the first message in the thread:

Coal : $0.032/kWh and 10,000 deaths/Trillion kWh (US figure, global average is 10X)

Gas: $0.045/kWh and 4,000 deaths/Trillion kWh

Solar PV: $0.160/kWh and 440 deaths/Trillion kWh
(rooftop)
Wind: $0.100/kWh and 150 deaths/Trillion kWh

Nuclear: $0.022/kWh and 0.1 deaths/Trillion kWh


At the wholesale (power plant) level, Solar PV is 500% as expensive as coal and Wind is 313% as expensive. In any case, you are making an apples/oranges comparison. The renewables are relatively feeble and dispersed, attempting to make them fit into our existing scheme of large central power plants and an expensive-to-maintan power grid is simply the wrong goal. The new paradighm of residential scale power is where the renewables shine, because with distributed renewables the most expensive part of the power grid can be abandonned and salvaged - making renewables more affordable.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 10:54:44

From: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/pow ... ce5c4ee347

"President Trump made one big promise to voters when it came to energy policy: He would bring back coal-mining jobs and save the coal industry by lifting the regulatory burden foisted on it by the Obama administration. Energy and environmental policy analysts countered that it was not bureaucrats, but coal’s competitors, that were driving it out of business. The boom in electricity generated by cheap natural gas and renewable sources over the past decade was undermining old and cost-intensive coal-fired power plants.

But new numbers published by the EIA shows that coal production has actually grown since Trump became commander-in-chief. During the first nine months of 2017 — coinciding more or less with Trump’s time in office — coal production was 12 percent higher than during the same period in 2016, according EIA data published Wednesday.

Energy and environmental policy analysts countered that it was not bureaucrats, but coal’s competitors, that were driving it out of business. The boom in electricity generated by cheap natural gas and renewable sources over the past decade was undermining old and cost-intensive coal-fired power plants.

Why is coal production up if the fuel is supposed to be on its way out? Should we give credit to Trump for that bump? The short answer to that second question is no, not really. The long answer to the first, energy analysts say, is that economic factors at home and abroad — and all largely beyond Trump's control — play a bigger role in explaining that year-over-year increase than the changing of the presidential guard. Potentially to the president's surprise, China even helped out a bit with the increase.

Bouncing back from bankruptcy: In 2015 and early 2016, Peabody Energy, Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, along with several other smaller companies, filed for bankruptcy. Together, those three accounted for more than 40 percent of U.S. coal production"

You may recall some commenting that those bankruptcy filings signalled the end of those companies. Such enthusiasm was based on the complete ignorance of why the Chapter 11 bankruptcy law exists: to make companies economies viable once more. And typically done by eliminating some debt entirely and restructuring the remaining so companies can more effectively manage them. Now that those companies have cleared Chapter 11 they are in a much better place to carry on operations.

But that didn't eliminate coal's primary problem. Which isn't govt policies as it is more competition from NG. Competition due in large part to low NG prices. But what would happen if/when NG prices increase? And given the historical volatility of those prices not an unsupported possibility. And we don't need to go very far back in time for an example. From https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/C ... ted_States

"Beginning around the year 2000, in response to increases in natural gas prices, utilities across the United States began a renewed push to build new coal-fired electricity generating plants. By the spring of 2007, approximately 150 such projects were either under construction or in various stages of planning. The National Energy Technology Laboratory, a division of the Department of Energy, maintained a database of such projects, but ceased providing project-specific information as of May 2007."

But the most critical factor that will come as a shock to some Americans: the United States is not the world! LOL. CO2 levels are not a function of what the US does or doesn't do with respect to burning coal. Since 2010 y-o-y the capacity of new coal fired plants has increased over the capacity retired. Sometimes by a fact of 10X. Even the latest numbers during coal's "dying" moment new coal capacity has increased more the 2X that of retired plants."

And the US is doing its part to help the world's coal burners: US coal exports totaled 7.78 million mt in August, up 19.4% from July and up 71.4% from the year-ago month. It was the highest monthly total since June 2014. And note that in 2014 President Obama, the "greenest" POTUS in history, was captain of the ship.

The good news: just because that new capacity exists it isn't being fully utilized. Even true in Texas. But again that's primarily the result of lower NG prices. And when those prices increase significantly there won't be a lag time for increased coal consumption: they will just need to fire up those existing burners and start using the MILLIONS of tons of EXISTING coal already piled up at those plants.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby Tanada » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 12:27:26

You know I think it is a cherry picking issue, like so many others. People trumpet headlines about coal plants anywhere in the USA shutting down while not only ignoring that most of those closing plants were old to downright ancient and were costing a lot to keep running. They also ignore that even left leaning states like Wisconsin where Natural Gas is more expensive opened four brand new very large coal burning power stations in the last decade. They also conveniently skip over that most of the places where a large number of new coal burning plants were cancelled are in states where fracking produced ultra cheap natural gas made them noncompetitive.

The simple fact of the matter is, in some places like PA and TX and ND fracking is producing a pipeline full of cheap natural gas. Meanwhile in other states like Wisconsin the climate isn't great for solar/wind and natural gas doesn't have a large surplus pipeline capacity that would support a large number of new gas fired power stations. Ultimately the CPP regulations were tipping a number of projects over from Coal to Natural Gas if they were marginal in cost differences, but with CPP repealed those factors are no longer tipping things. Add in the somewhat volatile nature of natural gas prices which has been at least as much as 600% difference between lows and highs over the last two decades compared to the relatively stable prices for coal in the same period and from the strictly economic POV coal is still the best choice in the eyes of bankers financing these projects in many places.

Heck back in 2005-2008 there were a number of news stories about people going back to burning coal both for home heating and institutional heating purposes because of the costs of oil and gas for those same uses. Those stories dried up when fracking made natural gas cheap other about half of the country in 2009 but gas has to be moved by pipeline and their are both capacity and NIMBY limits to moving it from source to consumer. Coal can easily be stored and moved compared to natural gas. That has always been true and is unlikely to stop being true just because certain people wish it were so.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby AdamB » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 12:37:09

Cog wrote:But can he make coal cheaper than natural gas is question?


That is certainly something he CAN'T do. Well, not directly. Put a $10/short ton tax credit on coal, and add a $5/mcf tax to natural gas, now THAT he could find a way to do, but I'm betting screwing with the markets that severely would generate quite a bit of blowback from both (but hard to distinguish between) political parties.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 14:37:58

AdamB wrote:
Cog wrote:But can he make coal cheaper than natural gas is question?


That is certainly something he CAN'T do. Well, not directly. Put a $10/short ton tax credit on coal, and add a $5/mcf tax to natural gas, now THAT he could find a way to do, but I'm betting screwing with the markets that severely would generate quite a bit of blowback from both (but hard to distinguish between) political parties.

To me, this whole thing about the "war on coal" is a bit silly anyway.

Employment has dropped drastically in coal mining -- due to changes in technology. So even if coal "comes back" -- not that many jobs come with it.

This kind of reminds me about the Trump trumpeting of producing jobs, generally. He's producing a handful via a small number of deals and/or arm-twisting (or misleading headlines like "ending the war on coal"). And yet the pace of such job creation vs. the overall jobs trend and the magnitude of the problem is basically a rounding error.

Whether the folks who voted for him will ever realize it and turn on him is partly (IMO) dependent on how competently the dems point out the numbers. A good friend who I argue/discuss politics with believes the dems don't WANT to clearly point out how dismal the jobs situation is -- lest their constituents turn around and hold THEM accountable over time. LOL
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 15:22:57

I think "jobs" and "cost of energy" are both red herrings. The burning of coal produces nasty effluvients which cause lung diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, empysema, and asthma. The burning of coal kills an estimated 10,000 people in the USA every year, and sickens another 45,000 - that dwarfs the number of jobs in the coal business.

Globally, air pollution is responsible for 1 out of 8 total deaths, 12.5% annually. Coal is the major offender.
Image
...while indoors, natural gas kills people.

Gas is no "solution" for coal, it kills and sickens 40% as many people, and oil kills even more people than coal.

We simply need to stop burning fossil fuels. YOU need to stop, and don't go living near a FF power plant or a highway, either.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 15:53:07

P - It's probably not even smart cherry picking. There's probably been a lot more capability that has been idled then retired. Certainly true in Texas even though our plants tend to be newer and more efficient then the national average. Add that to a lot of LOCAL (IOW very little transportation charge) NG we're probably one of the worst markets for US coal: a lot of our consumption comes from western strip mines and hauled the better part of a thousand miles by rail.

KP - Good point. And I mean that sincerely. Now someone just needs to convince the primary and DIRECT generators of GHG (the fossil fuel consumers) to significantly alter their lifestyles. That same majority that did not object to 150 new US plants proposed in 2007 to counter high NG prices. So what exactly do you recommended be done to change that altitude when NG prices increase again?

And when you figure out that approach we can then try it out on the BILLIONS of other fossil consumers on the planet determined to improve their lifestyles.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 17 Oct 2017, 17:05:59

KaiserJeep wrote:I think "jobs" and "cost of energy" are both red herrings.

You're talking the science and the pollution. I agree with the substance.

However, I'm talking the political reality, and the kind of promises that got Trump elected. In that respect, coal jobs most certainly aren't a red herring (IMO) -- even though, as I said, it's not like the numbers are meaningful in the scheme of things. Let's call it political Kabuki Theater.

It's kind of sad, but politiians strategize on how large groups of people vote -- which may have little or nothing to do with objective reality.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby kublikhan » Wed 18 Oct 2017, 02:19:53

KaiserJeep wrote:At the wholesale (power plant) level, Solar PV is 500% as expensive as coal and Wind is 313% as expensive. In any case, you are making an apples/oranges comparison. The renewables are relatively feeble and dispersed, attempting to make them fit into our existing scheme of large central power plants and an expensive-to-maintan power grid is simply the wrong goal. The new paradighm of residential scale power is where the renewables shine, because with distributed renewables the most expensive part of the power grid can be abandonned and salvaged - making renewables more affordable.
Are you proposing people go off grid with solar PV?
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Wed 18 Oct 2017, 04:56:03

kublikhan wrote:
KaiserJeep wrote:At the wholesale (power plant) level, Solar PV is 500% as expensive as coal and Wind is 313% as expensive. In any case, you are making an apples/oranges comparison. The renewables are relatively feeble and dispersed, attempting to make them fit into our existing scheme of large central power plants and an expensive-to-maintan power grid is simply the wrong goal. The new paradighm of residential scale power is where the renewables shine, because with distributed renewables the most expensive part of the power grid can be abandonned and salvaged - making renewables more affordable.
Are you proposing people go off grid with solar PV?


More than that. The most expensive part of the grid to maintain is "the last mile" connecting rural customers to the grid. Also the very customers who buy less power per square mile (even though farms consume more than residences). This situation - less dense power consumption per square mile - matches up nicely with the distributed nature of renewable energy. These rural customers never have been profitable for power companies, they were only ever connected via government subsidies such as the REA (Rural Electrification Administration), signed into existence by POTUS Franklin D. Roosevelt with an Executive Order. The REA actually supplied small wind turbines back then - time they did so again, and Solar PV, and Lithium batteries - because it still does not make economic sense to extend the power grid to such customers.

By focussing the grid on the most profitable areas (the denser cities) and retreating from the uprofitable rural customers, we increase efficiencies and decrease expenses. Those in-between, the suburbs - would be those with real choice. The suburbs are less dense then cities, and less profitable for power companies, and their choice would be to pay a premium price for grid electricity, or implement renewable energy sources.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby kublikhan » Wed 18 Oct 2017, 06:48:05

KaiserJeep wrote:By focussing the grid on the most profitable areas (the denser cities) and retreating from the uprofitable rural customers, we increase efficiencies and decrease expenses. Those in-between, the suburbs - would be those with real choice. The suburbs are less dense then cities, and less profitable for power companies, and their choice would be to pay a premium price for grid electricity, or implement renewable energy sources.
if they disconnected from the grid, they would pay an even higher premium because of the batteries. You are just trading one expensive component(the last mile of grid connection) for an even more expensive component(battery storage).

Combining storage with solar panels does not make grid defection economically viable, researchers say. Going off-grid with a storage-plus-solar system increases the LCOE by $0.23/kWh on average, which more than doubles the cost of electricity for an average home.

For most customers, what makes most sense it to use the grid as a “zero capital cost” storage device, they said. “If it makes financial sense for a for a customer to buy a solar/battery system and defect from the grid, it should be even more economical for the utility or a third-party company to buy, install, and operate these systems at or near that home.”
Study throws cold water on residential solar-plus-storage economics
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Wed 18 Oct 2017, 09:25:11

kub, my basic assumption is that oil peaked and is in decline. Natural Gas and Coal will also peak. Then FF-sourced grid electricity, and transportation, will eventually be 10X (or more) as expensive as today, prohibitively expensive.

Last assumption: we must use the last gasp of FF's to convert the country's power infrastucture to renewables. This is without even disputing your numbers. The IER figures say coal powered electricity costs $0.032 kWh to produce, and after the markups that comprise the grid expenses and profit, it sells for a retail price of about $0.130 kWh. When coal fired electricity is selling for $1.30 kWh (mainly because we ran out of cheap oil to mine it with), wind and solar PV are both far more attractive than FF's - lots cheaper, even with batteries.

Remember the oil peak.
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Re: The war on coal is over. Coal lost.

Unread postby GHung » Wed 18 Oct 2017, 09:44:22

kub said; "if they disconnected from the grid, they would pay an even higher premium because of the batteries. You are just trading one expensive component(the last mile of grid connection) for an even more expensive component(battery storage)."

Just for reference, our 52kWh battery system just passed its tenth year of service and is still going strong. So far, the amortized cost of the battery system is about $50/month and dropping.

Image

In our case, the "last mile of grid connection" would have been nearly $20K. In actuality, the power company wanted a bit over $16K to make the connection (about 3/4 of a mile). Anyway, not having a monthly bill and not having any easements or rights-of-way on the property was well worth it.
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