02.18.2014 0

Obama’s War on Coal: What possibly could go wrong?

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By Rick Manning

The Washington Free Beacon headline read, “Report: Coal Power Plant Shutdowns to Accelerate, Industry, workers blame Obama EPA for layoffs as companies retire larger coal-fired plants.”

The article by Lachlan Markay reported on federal energy regulators who predict: “Projected retirements of coal-fired generating capacity in [EIA’s annual Energy Outlook report] include retirements above and beyond those reported to EIA as planned by power plant owners and operators.”

Markay notes that, “A key factor in those retirements is a new Environmental Protection Agency regulation on emissions of toxins from coal-fired power plants. Known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, it is expected to dramatically increase financial pressure on the coal sector.”

Isn’t this good news?  After all, we have been inundated with reports on how bad coal is, to the point that supposedly well-educated Seattle, Wash. residents fear coal trains running through their town due to environmentalist stoked worries about the previously unknown second-hand black lung disease.

What could possibly go wrong with administration policies that pander to this anti-coal barrage?

After all, we are investing billions of dollars in renewable energy sources.  Why would anyone be concerned that more coal fired electricity generation plants are going to be shut down than even the government anticipated?

Here’s why.

In 2012, 37 percent of all electricity in the nation was generated by coal fired plants according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA).  By comparison, solar power made up 0.1 percent, and all renewable energy not including hydro-electric made up around 5 percent of our total electricity production.

Consider that in 2008, coal accounted 49 percent of all electricity. The rapid reduction in coal fired electricity generation is only partially being replaced by an increase in natural gas fired plants ensuring that less electricity will be available for U.S. consumers in 2016 than today.

Add to this equation news reports from earlier in the winter that many utilities were struggling to meet the demand for electricity due to the cold weather.   The natural emphasis of the stories focused upon the increased cost of electricity due to the high demand for power, and this is a guaranteed outgrowth of the EPA’s continuing war on coal fired utilities.

As the nation’s ability to generate electricity diminishes, the demand for power continues to increase taxing the electrical grid in ways our nation has not seen in generations.

The EIA itself reports the in 2012, more than 3 percent of coal fired capacity was lost due to closures and it anticipates another 20 percent of this electric generation capacity will cease to exist by 2020 largely due to EPA regulations.

To put this into perspective, in a time of rising electrical demand, our nation will be losing 6 percent of its total electric generation capabilities.  Of course a portion of this will be made up through conversion to burning natural gas, but the loss of coal fired electricity will create a shortage, much higher prices and blackouts during critical, high use times.

A nation that prides itself on being the most modern in the world, won’t be able to flip a switch and turn on the lights due to the Obama Administration’s war on coal, and those in more economically depressed areas will be forced to choose between expensive heat or air conditioning and putting food on their table.

That is the reality of the war on coal and cheap energy as a whole.  A war guaranteed to create brownouts, blackouts and families shivering under blankets in the dark.

But the most damaging impacts won’t be until a few years after Obama has left office and voters will blame the President who has to clean up his mess, rather than acknowledging just who turned off the lights.

A war on coal, what possibly could go wrong?

Rick Manning is the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government.  You can follow Rick on twitter @rmanning957.

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