NewEnergyNews: QUICK NEWS, April 23: HOW COAL IS SUBSIDIZED; CAES IN TEXAS; CHANGES IN THE ECONOMY MEAN CHANGES FOR NEW ENERGY

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE DIFFERENT WAYS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION TO NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 29: WIND MAY TIP KANSAS ELECTION; YOUNG VOTERS BRING NEW ENERGY; GREEN BUILDINGS BOOMING
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE AFFORDABILITY OF THE NEW ENERGY TRANSITION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 28: WIND BOOMS AS ‘MOST AFFORDABLE ENERGY OPTION’; OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIG SOLAR; GEOTHERMAL COMING BACK
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE HEALTH IN EMISSIONS CUTS
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 27: NEW ENERGY OVER 40% OF U.S. NEW BUILD IN 2014; EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NOW INCLUDE SOLAR; WIND BRINGS JOBS TO MICHIGAN
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Talking With The Redwoods
  • Weekend Video: Evangelicals Confront Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Living The Platinum Rule: Making The Best Invention Of All Time Better
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- EU UPS THE WORLD’S BAR ON EMISSIONS CUT TARGETS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-FIRST BIG MOROCCO SOLAR NEAR POWERING UP
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NORTH SEA WIND-HYDRO INTERLINK TO GROW
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-TURKISH GEOTHERMAL GETS INTELLIGENT
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 23:

  • TTTA Thursday-EVANGELICALS IN ‘CREATION CARE’ CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-ADVANCED WIND-MAKERS MAKANI, SHEERWIND READY DEMOS
  • TTTA Thursday-TEA PARTY BACKS SOLAR, ATTACKS UTILITY MONOPOLIES
  • TTTA Thursday-WHAT DRIVERS DON’T KNOW HOLDS BACK THE FUTURE
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Monday, April 23, 2012

    QUICK NEWS, April 23: HOW COAL IS SUBSIDIZED; CAES IN TEXAS; CHANGES IN THE ECONOMY MEAN CHANGES FOR NEW ENERGY

    HOW COAL IS SUBSIDIZED Top Three Ways That American Taxpayers Subsidize Dirty Coal Development Jessica Goad and Stephen Lacey, April 13, 2012 (Climate Progress)

    "Environmentalists and public health advocates often talk about… externalities…[whose] total economically quantifiable costs…[are estimated at] some $345.3 billion, adding close to 17.8¢/kWh of electricity generated from coal….borne by the general public…[M]ore tangible ways the coal industry is being subsidized by the American taxpayer…[include] tax breaks, public land loopholes, and subsidized railroads that help them continue being ‘cheap.’

    "…1. Tax breaks…[include] three tax preferences for coal would save $2.6 billion between 2013-2022…Expensing of exploration and development costs…incurred by locating coal ore deposits…Percentage Depletion for Hard Mineral Fossil Fuels…[that] cover the costs of investments in mines…[and] Capital Gains Treatment for Royalties…so they are taxed at a lower rate."

    "…2. Public land loopholes…43.2 percent of U.S. coal comes from public lands. However, the coal industry benefits from a number of loopholes that make obtaining leases on public lands easier and cheaper…[T]he nation’s largest coal producing region, the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, is not legally classified as a ‘coal-producing region’…which shortchanges taxpayers for the value of the land and the coal underneath it…[Also,] the non-public process by which the Bureau of Land Management determines fair market value for coal on public lands…[puts the value]…much lower than would the market would command…

    "…3. Subsidized railroads…Coal is…47 percent of tonnage and 25 percent of revenue for U.S. railroads…U.S. railroads get loans and loan guarantees from government agencies like the Department of Transportation/Federal Railroad Administration and have received numerous tax incentives for investments in new infrastructure…[Also, trains carry coal for export] to Asian countries…[suggesting that] American taxpayers [are] subsidizing the coal boom in countries like China…"

    CAES IN TEXAS As Texas worries about power generation, is answer underground? Laylan Copelin, April 8, 2012 (Austin American Statesman)

    "…Chamisa Energy…[is planning] compressed air [energy] stored [CAES]…Generators will use wind-generated electricity, mostly at night when power demands are low and prices are cheapest, to compress air into salt caverns that will be carved 2,000 feet below the surface. As the demand for electricity rises during the day, the process is reversed. A mixture of compressed air and a small amount of natural gas would generate power.

    "…[It] became possible with a recent decision by the Public Utility of Commission of Texas that allows all storage technologies to pay wholesale rates…[S]torage technologies — from batteries to flywheels to compressed air — are coming to the forefront as a way to maximize solar and wind generation that are intermittent…Chamisa officials expect to be operational by 2014, just as the state completes 2,300 miles of high-voltage transmission lines…to bring more wind-generated electricity from West Texas to the rest of the state where it is needed…"

    "…[W]ater demand for cooling [the] plant is much less than other generation types — a plus in the arid Panhandle…The 270-megawatt facility would come online just when state officials are projecting a shortage of electricity generation for Texas…[It] could be expanded to 810 megawatts in phases by creating more caverns…[and] initially would be able to run continuously for 36 hours but could operate up to 100 hours if more caverns are added…There even could be the ability to store and generate power simultaneously…[The] only question is whether the technology is viable with… natural gas prices…well below $3 per million British thermal units…"

    "ERCOT officials must keep the supply and demand of electricity almost perfectly balanced, or the grid would crash and the lights would go out…To do so, power must be added or taken off the grid quickly…The [CAES] facility will be able to ramp up 26 megawatts almost instantaneously and could be at the full 270 megawatts within 10 minutes…[T]he facility can [also] ramp down quickly…[and] would be able to turn on and off frequently…[T]hat flexibility is the strength of energy storage…[T]he next four years are [expected to be] pivotal as the industry comes to grips with whether energy storage can be a full-fledged, financially viable segment of the market…"

    CHANGES IN THE ECONOMY MEAN CHANGES FOR NEW ENERGY Hard Economic Times Hit State Renewable Energy Goals Angela Beniwal, 27 March 2012 (Renew Grid)

    "Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have been a big driver of getting more renewable electricity onto the grid. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has estimated that by 2015, generation resulting from RPS will surpass 150 million MWh…[but] a soft economy has led some states to water down their mandates, while the current political situation makes passage of a federal renewable energy standard next to impossible…

    "…Maine introduced legislation in 2011 that would significantly reduce its RPS…[A] bill proposed in Washington state in 2011 could temporarily suspend the state's 15% by 2020 RPS during the slow economy…Other states have tried to expand the definition of ‘eligible resources’ in order to make compliance easier. Iowa includes plasma gasification, Maryland considers waste-to-energy a Tier 1 resource, and Oregon now includes nuclear and hydropower…"

    click to enlarge

    "Nonetheless…Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee…[recently revived federal] clean energy legislation…The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012…include[s] a federal clean energy standard (CES)…In addition to renewable energy, such as wind and solar, the legislation includes other low-emissions and clean energy resources such as renewable biomass, natural gas, hydropower and nuclear power, as well as "clean" coal with carbon-capture technology…[but insiders are] not optimistic about the legislation being enacted…

    "Twenty-nine states plus Washington, D.C., have an RPS, while eight states have voluntary goals or targets. California has the most ambitious RPS, 33% by 2020, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., in 2011 and is 86% in compliance]…Legislation signed in 2011 means that the state's RPS now applies to publicly owned utilities and retail sellers…Colorado is another state with an impressive RPS [and in compliance]…As of 2010, Minnesota was in complete compliance with its RPS, which is 30% by 2020 for Xcel Energy and 25% by 2025 for all other utilities…"

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