Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency came out with new power plant regulations, perhaps the most ambitious effort yet, to roll back “planet warming pollution.” This is on the heels of the Clean Power Plan’s failure to hold up in court last year, with the Supreme Court ruling that the act does not give the EPA broad authority to regulate emissions from plants. The CPP would have substantially restructured the American energy market.
Is this new rule just the CPP wrapped in different packaging?
Proponents of the new regulations are continuing the war on coal and want to shut down the fossil fuel industry, which produces 60 percent of the nation’s electricity.
According to the new regulations, fossil fuel plants must cut their emissions by 90 percent between 2035 and 2040 — or shut down. They would have to turn to technology known as “carbon capture sequestration” (CCS). This process has yet to be proven successful. The only CCS project on American soil failed and closed, even after receiving significant federal dollars. Canada claims the one remaining CCS facility in North America, capturing only half of what experts projected.
CCS is extremely expensive and will require massive infrastructure to be deployed at historically unprecedented rates. The EPA is also shooting itself in the foot by sitting on many permit applications for the underground reservoirs needed to inject and store captured carbon. The backlog will worsen for the more than 3,400 coal- and gas-fired plants potentially affected.
The new EPA regulations will decimate the coal industry, negatively affecting the economy and risking American lives.
At a House hearing recently, the CEO of Ohio’s Buckeye Power Inc. testified that these new regulations would shut down all its coal-fired units by 2030, with no hope of replacing that energy by the required time. Buckeye supplies more than 80 percent of its annual energy requirements from coal-fired plants.
A new study illustrates no evidence of declining demand for hydrocarbons and that policies to restrict supplies would lead to rapid and sustained price increases. This will not bode well for consumers.
The U.S. energy grid is already increasingly unreliable, due partly to the fledgling attempts at transitioning to renewables. It is at risk for energy shortfalls. Recent events should remind us just how fragile it is and the essential role coal still plays in securing energy needs.
Winter Storm Uri in Texas and the Midwest a few years back, which left millions without power and resulted in hundreds of deaths, could have been much worse without using fossil fuels. Weather-dependent resources suffered immensely and failed, and had coal not been readily available, the Texas power grid would have been minutes away from collapse. However, the crisis likely could have been avoided had coal not been retired in the first place.
This winter, Storm Elliot ripped through the Southeast, where several major utilities had to implement rolling outages as demand increased above available levels. Coal provided upward of 40 percent of the needed energy nationally, preventing system collapse.
Both storm scenarios show that in a pinch, in life-threatening situations, coal was the trusted energy source used to thwart anything catastrophic. Not renewables.
California has experienced its share of rolling blackouts and has even asked its residents to conserve energy for fear of further blackouts. Remember, California has the strictest regulations and the most ambitious green agenda on the books.
During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing this month, the CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corp. was asked whether energy sources forced to retire early under EPA’s regulations could currently be replaced by suitable renewables. His reply? “No. Not in the timeframe we’re looking at.”
It is foolish to trade reliable assets for replacements that fall short.
Coal and fossil fuels are and will continue to be, for the foreseeable future, the reliant and resilient backbone of the energy grid. We cannot place our fate in the hands of technology that fails to demonstrate commercial viability. And we cannot hope or presume it to be ready for primetime by the required dates. Americans deserve better than this.