Frigid cold is why we need dependable energy

“Cheap, abundant coal is key to national security, warm homes and wintertime survival.” – Tom Harris

“The United States has more coal than any other nation,” says Paul Driessen. “With modern coal-fired power plants, it can be used to generate very inexpensive electricity, with virtually no significant pollution: about the only thing that comes out of the stacks today are water vapor and carbon dioxide, the miracle molecule that helps plants grow and makes life on Earth possible. Even though coal-based electricity has plummeted from 52% of all US electricity in 2008 to 30% by the time President Obama left office, it still helps to keep the lights on and keep people warm in all but a few states.”

“But as Tom Harris points out in this thought-provoking article, even under President Trump, the USA is a long way from taking full advantage of its mighty coal reserves – and the restrictions on coal use bring virtually no environmental or climate benefits. That’s because the scientific case for fossil fuels fueling “dangerous manmade climate change” grows weaker by the week – and because no developing countries are going to reduce their use of coal anytime soon. So any and all reductions in coal use and CO2 emissions by the United States bring zero benefits in the global arena.”



Frigid cold is why we need dependable energy

Cheap, abundant coal is key to national security, warm homes and wintertime survival

By Tom Harris

Recent record-setting low temperatures have underscored the creature comfort and often life-saving importance of abundant, reliable, affordable energy. They also reminded us how appropriate it was that America’s 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) emphasizes energy security – and was released on December 18, three days before this extra chilly winter officially began.

This first Trump Administration NSS identifies four vital national interests. Two of them – “promoting American prosperity” and “advancing American influence” – require that the United States “take advantage of our wealth in domestic resources.” However, America is no longer taking full advantage of one of its most important of its domestic resources: its vast coal reserves, the largest of any nation on Earth.

Testifying November 28 in Charleston, West Virginia, at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) public hearing on repealing the Clean Power Plan, Robert E. Murray, president and CEO of Murray Energy Corp., summarized the bleak state of affairs.

“Prior to the election of President Obama,” Murray noted, “52% of America’s electricity was generated from coal, and this rate was much higher in the Midwest. That percentage of coal generation declined under the Obama Administration to 30%. Under the Obama Administration, and its so-called Clean Power Plan, over 400 coal-fired generating plants totaling over 100,000 megawatts of capacity were closed, with no proven environmental benefit whatsoever.”

Much of this was driven by Obama’s determination to be seen as contributing to “arresting climate change,” to quote from his 2015 NSS, by mandating severe reductions of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. Unbelievably, this NSS listed “climate change” ahead of “major energy market disruptions” in its list of “top strategic risks to our interests.”

That made no sense. Climate is, and always will be, variable. There is nothing we can do to stop it.  And many scientists do not support the hypothesis that our CO2 emissions will cause dangerous climate change.

Regardless, recent climate change has been unremarkable. It is certainly not “unprecedented,” and it clearly does not constitute a national security threat by comparison to a lack of affordable, reliable energy to power the nation and its military, and export to world markets. President Donald Trump was right to make only passing reference to climate change in the 2017 NSS.

Even in the unlikely event that CO2 emissions were or became a problem, developing countries are the source of most of the world’s emissions, and China alone currently emits about twice as much the USA. Those nations are not about to follow Obama’s lead. They understand that they must continue building coal-fired power plants at an aggressive pace, to meet their growing electricity needs.

Even the New York Times admitted that “As Beijing joins climate fight, Chinese companies build coal plants” (July 1, 2017).

“Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin…. Overall, 1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries, according to Urgewald’s tally, which uses data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent.”

Similarly, India’s heavy reliance on coal will continue even in 2047, according to the June 16, 2017 report “Energizing India,” by the National Institute for Transforming India (NTTI) and Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ). Coal is forecast to rise from its 2012 46% of India’s total energy mix to 50% in 2047 in the “business as usual scenario.” Even in an “ambitious” scenario in which renewables supply 12% of India’s primary energy (in 2012 it was 3%), coal still accounts for 42% of India’s energy mix.

The authors of the NTTI/IEEJ report state, “India would like to use its abundant coal reserves as it provides a cheap source of energy and ensures energy security as well.” Simply put, coal is essential if the rest of India’s population is to gain access to electricity and rise up out of abject poverty. Even today, some 240 million Indians (nearly seven times the population of Canada!) still do not have electricity.

India and these analysts are right, of course. So it is a welcome development that Trump is promoting a resurgence of the American coal industry.

Obama’s dedication to the climate scare contributed significantly to coal’s tragic decline in America. Besides the impact of his Clean Power Plan, a rule that will hopefully be withdrawn very soon, coal has been hammered as a result of a 2015 EPA rule that limits plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power stations. The result is that the U.S. can no longer build modern, clean, efficient coal plants to replace older stations, as is happening in China, India and even Europe. Here’s why:

The 2015 EPA rule, titled “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units,” limits CO2 emissions on new coal-fired stations to 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. When releasing the new standard, the EPA asserted that it “is the performance achievable by a [supercritical pulverized coal] unit capturing about 20 percent of its carbon pollution.” This is irrational.

CO2 is no more pollution than is water vapour, the major greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere. By calling the gas “carbon,” the Obama EPA deliberately and falsely encouraged the public to think of it as something dirty, like graphite and soot, which really are carbon. Calling CO2 by its proper name, carbon dioxide, would have helped people remember that it is an invisible, odourless gas that we exhale and is essential to plant photosynthesis. Mr. Obama apparently did not want people to remember that.

Moreover, the technology of CO2 capture on a full-scale power plant is still a technological fantasy. So in reality, the EPA was actually banning even the most modern, most efficient, least polluting, supercritical coal-fired stations – because even their CO2 emissions are at least 20% above the arbitrary EPA limit.

Speaking at the November 9, 2017 America First Energy Conference in Houston, Texas, keynote speaker Joe Leimkuhler, vice president of drilling for Louisiana-based LLOG Exploration, showed that America has 22.1% of the world’s proven coal reserves, more than any other country, and enough to last for 381 years at current consumption rates.

So it is a tragedy that America can no longer build modern coal-fired power stations to replace its aging fleet. Clearly, the rule limiting CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power stations must be cancelled as soon as possible.

The climate scare has also impeded coal’s development in the USA by restricting its export. In particular, Asia would be a huge market for inexpensive American coal if sufficient U.S. export facilities were available. But, again, thanks largely to the climate scare contributing to the blocking of construction of coal export terminals, America exports only about as much coal as does Poland.

To ensure energy security, especially when demand soars during bitterly cold spells and heat waves, and to “restore America’s advantages in the world and build upon our country’s great strengths” (quoting from the NSS fact sheets), the U.S. must expand its fleet of coal-fired power stations and build coal export facilities as quickly as possible. To make that possible, the Trump administration must do everything in its power to thoroughly debunk the climate alarm that has so crippled coal’s development.

Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition. He writes from Ontario, a province that seriously damaged its economy by banning all coal-fired power generation.

11 thoughts on “Frigid cold is why we need dependable energy

  1. dependable power is also vital in heatwaves..
    today in Victoria aus the trains halted i gather due to signal faults
    theyre run by solar panels that apparently have “issues” over was 40.9 at my place today
    supposedly we have an overabundance of rooftop solar pushing power intothe system…but?
    several thousand are without powert tonight and tomorrow theyre shutting suburbs off regardless of need/illness etc
    theres a n awful lot to be said for diesel trains and coal power electicity supplies!!
    they WORK when required the most

  2. Well said Tom! And I recently read an article about how Japanese researchers injected oxygen into the coal combustion mix to get it on par with natural gas. There is no energy shortage.

  3. The switch from coal to natural gas was a huge error. We have gone from a fuel that was plentiful to one that has a more limited supply. While I am a fan of fracking it’s economic feasibility has yet to be proven due to high well decline rates. Also natural gas can be used as a transportation fuel if needed which makes it more valuable than coal.

  4. Great article!
    I could not have said it any better of how important it is for our country to immediately build new coal power plants, especially in this age of climatic cooling.
    Unless you want to freeze dead in the future – this is our only hope!

  5. TRUMP should give his “Infrastructure Bill” to Congress and the 1st few items should be:

    1) The immediate construction of FIVE deep water, Coal/Oil/Natural Gas export/import Ports on each Coast: Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf

    2) The immediate construction of 1 Coal Powered Electrical Plant per week until capacity exceeds 10% of National Electrical Demand

    3) The immediate construction of 1 Nuclear Power Plant per month until sufficient capacity exists to supply ALL of America’s Electrical needs.

    4) Sufficient Coal-to-Oil conversion Plants built to handle all American Coal for when the Nuclear Plants, above, free up all Coal , for the purpose of supplying America’s Oil need without any imports.
    5) Fully necessary Computer Network to find, document, track and control ALL non-US citizens within these United States. System must be 24/7/365 live & active and can/will monitor the precise location of every Non-Citizen. All non-Citizens will be provided with a) ankle bracelet b) Implanted RF device c) GPS activated Cell Phone.

  6. Totally agree… and being cold when the heat’s out has got to be some kind of vision from Hell.

    However, don’t forget that in many places reliable fuel is also needed when it is too hot … such as when you live in a hot and *humid* place. Not being able to get in a cool place in hot, humid weather can kill you too, heat strokes, etc. You can suffer even in the shade with humidity and high heat. So the arguement that we can just use unreliable “green” energy because of “global warming” is sheer nonsense…

    Not so much of a problem in hot and dry places, if you can get into the shade. I have been in very hot, dry places (like Phoenix, AZ middle of July) when it was about 115 degrees F but dry … and after about 15 minutes (leaving the airport… felt like I walked into an oven!) … was perfectly comfortable as long as I was not in the sun.

    I also lived in a town in So.CA where it would get hot and dry all summer, but because it was a dry heat (yes, that is true) and the walls of my home were thick … I almost never had to turn on the AC. There you could get along with an arguement to use “alternative fuel” – most of the time, unless you had to drive (being S. CA you always had to drive to get anywhere)… or if power was out a big problem getting water or gas (pumps don’t work unless they have a generator, and even then… eventually the generator needs to be refueled).

    Part of the problem is when you have politicians who live in moderate climates… making decisions for the rest of us who live in more extreme climates.

  7. We should stop using the term “greenhouse gas” – there is no such thing.

    Our atmosphere is 99+% gases which do not absorb appreciable amounts of infra-red radiation yet these gases can reach temperatures up to 50°C (122 °C) or higher.

    They absorb heat from the heated ground – to assert they do not is absurd beyond belief ! To assert they are heated by the ~2% of the atmosphere that is water vapour or the 0.04% that is CO2 is absurd beyond belief !

    To call water vapour and CO2 heat trapping gases when 99+% of the atmosphere doesn’t emit infra-red radiation to space is absurd beyond belief !

    We should stop using the term “greenhouse gas” – there is no such thing !

  8. The states that are blocking construction of new coal export terminals (CA,OR,WA) are violating the Constitution by imposing blockades on the inland states. For example, the Crow tribe in MT want to be able to export their coal but OR and WA are effectively blockading them.

  9. combination of politics and science is as bad as the combination of religion and politics. Nevertheless, the claim that hmans are causing too warm weather is widely accepted. And I have the impresion that is due to lack of knowledge about chemistry. Almost no one knows what CO2 means. We even don’t know what we are eating neither what is in the fridge nor in the car etc. We have to believe that do petrol nowadays is clean, i.e. not causing cancer or any other disease. We have to believe that electric cars do not cause cancer. There is a change in the media wrt climate. They are now writing about climate change which can be a win-win situation for the worldwide economy by introducing the term ‘neutral energy’. Almost no one knows what energy is. One has to believe that is an object that can be transported and can be changed.

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