03.30.2012 1

Time to end the war on coal

By Rebekah Rast — Forty-five percent of America’s energy needs are met by a single industry — coal.

And it is this industry that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy and President Obama himself continues to burden with heavy regulations, rules and guidelines.

Though 90 percent of coal consumed in the U.S. is used for electricity, the power is also used for making steel, paper and cement.

As this administration continues to lay burdensome rules on this industry, attempting to push coal out of the energy sector completely, where is America expected to make up for losing almost 50 percent of its electric energy source? Not to mention the other affected industries that are also dependent on coal?

Those questions are likely to remain unanswered as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues writing even more rules and regulations that negatively affect the coal industry.

The latest set of rules stem from concerns reached in 2009.  It was then the EPA decided greenhouse gas pollution poses a huge risk to human health and well being.  Interestingly, these rules to cap carbon emissions on power plants, affect all future power plants — those being built 12 months from now and beyond.

But while the EPA worries about regulating the air of future America, coal power plants will have a big problem complying with these rules.

The EPA proposes that new fossil‐fuel‐fired power plants meet an output‐based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt‐hour (lb CO2/MWh gross).  Most natural gas power plants built since 2005 already meet this new standard.  And lending a “helpful” hand to coal power plants, the EPA suggests new technology such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) to rein in their emissions.

The Wall Street Journal reports that adding this new technology isn’t as easy as it might seem:

“Most gas-fired power plants built since 2005 meet that standard, but coal plants can’t unless they are fitted with special equipment to capture the carbon emissions and store them underground. Although that technology is commercially available, it is prohibitively expensive, utilities and energy analysts say.”

Institute for Energy Research (IER) President Tom Pyle echoes those concerns, saying, “President Obama promised to bankrupt coal-powered electricity in the United States, and this latest rule… makes good on that promise,” he said in a press release.  “The United States has the largest coal reserves of any country in the world with 486 billion short tons of technically recoverable resources… If the EPA’s new rules are finalized, entire industries across the United States will be pushed out of business — and jobs with them.”

Sadly, these are not the only rules that negatively impact the coal industry.

It was only in December of 2011 that the EPA released its new Clean Air Act “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants,” which controls emission levels of mercury (Hg) and other air toxics from U.S. coal- and oil-fired power plants.  This rule will have a huge impact on energy-intensive industries that rely on low-cost electricity to survive and will also likely negatively impact small businesses.

The benefits?  EPA computer models claim mercury emission cuts will reduce average per person “avoided IQ loss” by “0.00209 IQ points,” with estimated “total nationwide benefits” of $500,000 to $6.1 million by 2016.

Taking into account the great loss of Americans jobs as well as the source of nearly 50 percent of the country’s electric energy, the costs of cutting coal production would far outweigh the benefits.

But that hasn’t stopped the EPA.  Another guideline for the mountaintop mining of coal, under the Clean Water Act, requires streams to be kept cleaner and to a higher standard than that of tap water.

Even EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said of the new guidelines, “the goal is a standard so strict that few, if any, permits would be issued for valley fills.”

It seems this administration has some sort of personal vendetta against the coal industry.

“All these EPA guidelines, rules and regulations are nothing more than an attempt to end coal production in the U.S.,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).

Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, told ALG in a prior interview, “At a time when the U.S. economy is still hurting, now is not the time to end coal production. By harming coal you will damage the economy of the entire nation.  Bissett estimates that the U.S. will increase electricity demands by 40 percent by 2025. “We will need every form of energy to meet that demand,” he says. “Coal should remain.”

With 45 percent of the U.S. dependent on electric energy from coal perhaps the Obama administration should listen to his speeches where he declares support for an all-of-the-above energy strategy rather than continuing to pursue its war on coal.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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