We Will Regret Closing Down our Reliable Coal Plants

Posted on Monday, October 10, 2022
by AMAC Newsline

AMAC Exclusive – By Luke Allen

Sometimes we can spend so much time at a place that it seems alive. That’s certainly how I felt when it came to the Joppa Generating Station in southern Illinois, a coal-fired power plant that I worked at as the station chemist for 23 years. Earlier this year, I stood aghast and watched my old friend, a reliable titan of the energy industry, breathe her last – destroyed by the Sierra Club, regulators driven by misguided ideology, and greedy executives who saw an opportunity to leverage that ideology to force Americans into one of the most radical and costly economic transformations in world history; the change from reliable low cost fossil fuels to unreliable high cost wind and solar.  

During my two decades at Joppa, my crew and I monitored her boiler water and steam chemistry like a physician does a patient’s blood. I personally climbed over her turbines and into her boiler components any time maintenance was performed, checking for any hint of poor health. I was a small cog in a larger machine of workers who kept her running at almost full capacity, in every kind of weather, for 62 years.

Joppa delivered cheap, reliable, and safe electricity to tens of thousands of families from the time she was commissioned in 1956. The longer I worked there, the more I was amazed by the feat of engineering she represented – the visionaries who designed the plant still used slide-rules, and drew up the plans by hand.

In the early 1950s, the Department of Defense (DOD) summoned the CEOs of several utilities, normally fierce competitors, to Washington, D.C. DOD officials convinced these men that, since the Cold War was in full swing, they should work together to build the generating station. The new power plant’s purpose would be to supply the massive amounts of electricity needed for a Uranium Enrichment plant being built simultaneously across the river in Paducah, Kentucky, to support the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The plant would be the largest in the United States at that time and would be designed to military specifications for toughness and reliability. Notwithstanding that in the coming decades her size would be surpassed by newer plants, Joppa’s reliability was rarely exceeded.

American steel, two inches thick in some places, made up her core. She had mechanical design features that had been perfected in WWII and that would operate almost continually for half a century. Yet, she was flexible. Over her life, her caretakers changed the fuel she used and the way it was burned, among many other features, to make her compliant with the never-ending onslaught of environmental regulations.

Local news stories decried the lost jobs that would result from her closing, but that’s a fraction of the price that will now be paid. As recent experience in California and Texas, as well as in Europe, has already demonstrated, the rapid reduction in the number of coal-fueled plants threatens the reliability of electricity supplies, threatening millions with blackouts. In contrast, coal-fired plants, with their on-site, 90-day supply of fuel, operate in the coldest polar vortex or the most intense heat wave. The death of the Joppa Generating Station, and the deaths of dozens of other coal plants, will be felt by the nation when rolling blackouts soon become the norm if the Biden administration’s suicidal green energy policies are not soon reversed.

As I have described, this hulking titan of steel became a living thing to those of us who fought alongside her to provide energy twenty-four hours a day.

I battled cancer in 2020 and an odd result of the massive amounts of chemotherapy I was given was that I didn’t dream. For almost 9 months, I never had a dream, except for one night. Though I’d been away from the plant for a few years by then, that night I dreamed of her.

Many of us were out on the turbine deck, working as a team to handle some emergency that threatened to shut down the plant. In my dream state omniscience, I knew the solution to the problem. We were a beehive of activity, a well-oiled machine. Then I turned to grab the arm of a member of my crew, to shout something to him over the roar of machinery, but he wasn’t there. Suddenly, no one was there. In an instant, the plant was empty. All the machinery had gone silent, the radiant heat that had been coming from the boilers was gone, replaced by a penetrating cold.

I had the overwhelming feeling that the plant would never operate again. Then, I looked far down the length of the plant, there was a light there, shining down on something. I walked toward it, and when I drew close, I realized it was a guy that had been in my crew. He was lying dead in his coffin, wearing a Green Bay Packers jacket – me and the rest of the guys had chipped in and gotten it for his retirement gift. That image wasn’t only the dream, I’d seen it in real life when I’d given his eulogy almost a decade prior to that night. I still don’t have an interpretation. But I now understand that the experience of a job well done for over 23 years, along with the camaraderie of dear coworkers and in the midst of an engineering marvel, weaves itself into the fabric of one’s being.

The steam is stopped. A titan is departed. The colossal generating plant no longer produces life-saving energy. She never quit, never faltered. She’d have happily gone on for a couple more decades. Instead, she was sacrificed on the altar of wokeness, another victim of the far-left’s war on fossil fuels and America’s future that could soon leave us all in the dark.

Luke Allen is a former chemist, speechwriter, and energy policy advisor.

URL : https://amac.us/newsline/national-security/we-will-regret-closing-down-our-reliable-coal-plants/