Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two birds with one lump of coal

By dismantling President Obama's Clean Power Plan, The Tangerine Shitgibbon gets to eliminate one of President Obama's initiatives for a better world AND pretend to follow through on one of his campaign promises for all those poor deluded unemployed coal miners.
Many fossil fuel executives are celebrating President Trump’s move to dismantle the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. But their cheers are muted, because market forces and state initiatives continue to elevate coal’s rivals, especially natural gas and renewable energy.

In coal’s favor, there is the new promise that federal lands will be open for leasing, ending an Obama-era moratorium. Easing pollution restrictions could delay the closing of some old coal-fired power plants, slowing the switch by some utilities to other sources.

And with the government pendulum swinging from environmental concerns back to job creation and energy independence, share prices of many energy companies, particularly coal producers, soared Tuesday on the news.

For coal executives, however, optimism and expansion plans remain guarded. Regulatory relief could restore 10 percent of their companies’ lost market share at most, they say — nowhere near enough to return coal to its dominant position in power markets and put tens of thousands of coal miners to work.

“At the end of the day, coal will still have to compete with a host of other fuels,” said Rick Curtsinger, a spokesman for Cloud Peak Energy, one of the country’s leading coal producers. “Utilities’ long-term decisions are based on economics and the need for long-term certainty.”

Just as economic realities produced a frenzy of oil and gas drilling during Barack Obama’s two terms as president — notwithstanding his environmental agenda and aggressive policies to combat climate change — economics and technological advances are bound to shape the country’s energy landscape despite Mr. Trump’s very different blueprint.

Nothing has changed that landscape more than cheap natural gas, and improved drilling techniques in shale fields from Pennsylvania to Texas are driving down production costs to the point where gas supplies are growing and prices continue to slump.

“If the Clean Power Plan is reneged upon, I don’t think you will see utilities going back to investing in coal because they have already reduced their infrastructure and they already have commitments geared toward natural gas,” said Tamar Essner, an energy analyst at Nasdaq Advisory Services.

Wind and solar power are also taking market share, as the costs of utility-scale generation have become competitive with those of hydrocarbons in many parts of the country.
At best it will give coal executives some more time to extract all the value from their companies before sticking the remaining miners with all the losses, including their pensions and health care. And alternative fuels will continue to eat coal's lunch and the utilities will have the scales drop from their eyes and see the value of clean energy despite what the old fossils think.

The fall in the cost of renewable energy, especially solar, over the last decade alone, has been amazing. There's no reason to think further reduction in costs is impossible. Now we need to rebuild the nation-wide power grid to make it easier to connect new sources. It probably won't happen until we have a non-neoliberal Democrat in the presidecy (haha, good luck with that) and probably won't happen until we have several long-lasting power failures over wide areas. Failures that last at least several days during the hottest part of summer. I just hope they aren't the result of a cyber attack.

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