The Energy Page: COAL




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CBC IDEAS: Demon Coal

audio logoCoal is dirty, toxic, abundant and cheap. Mining it disfigures the earth. Using it for fuel or electricity generation is unsustainable. Burning it emits deadly pollutants and greenhouse gases, and is the major cause of global warming. Right?  Max Allen talks with environmentalists and energy scientists about why much conventional wisdom about coal in the 21st century is just plain wrong. Part 2 airs on Monday, March 19.


Ottawa backtracks on coal emissions

Stephen Harper is determined to make Canada an energy superpowerLast January 6 the Harper Government unveiled a new approach towards the regulation of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) from coal-fired plants.  The Government moved away from its previous “tough “policy in response to negative comments from the power generation industry characterizing that policy as an idealistic solution.  The industry claimed that at a practical level the policy would be unworkable in most of Canada, particularly in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.  The industry also pointed out that compliance with those regulatory proposals would increase industry costs and increase the price that consumers will have to pay for electricity.

The industry raised another self-interested criticism: the regulations would strand valuable assets by imposing arbitrary deadlines for power plant closings.   A similar justification of the status quo has surfaced before in newspaper comments .  Not entirely an unexpected consequence, but should there be much sympathy for an industry that makes long term investments on the basis of “business as usual” when for over two decades the risks of rising GHG emissions had been identified?

The Harper Government considers that the approach outlined in January is in the spirit of cooperative Federalism.  Now Provincial Governments can opt out of the Federal Regulations and regulate power-sector emissions in their own territory. Provinces could accept industry’s proposal that  emissions targets for electric utilities should be set overall, rather than targets for each individual power facility as in the Federal government’s approach. There is one condition to opting out: any province that establishes its own regulatory environment must require reductions in GHG equal to the reductions that would be required under the Federal Regulations. MORE


Media Ignore Study On Real Price Of Coal-Fired Power

coal is a vampire industryA study published in the prestigious journal American Economic Review estimates that the costs imposed on society by air pollution from coal-fired power plants are greater than the value added to the economy by the industry. The study concluded that coal may be "underregulated" since the price we pay for coal-fired power doesn't account for its costs.

According to a Nexis search, not a single major newspaper or television network has covered the study. By contrast, an industry-funded report on the cost of EPA regulations of these air pollutants has received considerable media attention.

The authors of the American Economic Review paper -- Nicholas Muller of Middlebury College and Yale's William Nordhaus and Robert Mendelsohn -- are considered centrists. Mendelsohn opposed the Kyoto climate treaty and spoke this year at the right-wing Heartland Institute's conference on climate change.

Economist Paul Krugman wrote that the study should "be a major factor in how we discuss economic ideology," adding "It won't, of course." From Krutman's post: MORE


red dotEnvironmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy

Ontario coal-fired electricity production hits 50-year low and electricity demand down 10%

Angela Bischoff, Ontario Clean Air Alliance

Angela Bischoff says Ontario is on the right track cutting down coal-fired energy production.Last year, Ontario’s coal-fired electricity generation fell to its lowest level in half a century.  In 2011, just 2.7% of our electricity generation was coal-fired, our lowest level of coal use since 1961. 

And there’s more good news: Ontario’s electricity consumption in 2011 also continued its downward trend with total electricity consumption 10% lower than in 2005.

Ontario is heading in the right direction after making a dirty detour into coal and nuclear power from the 1960s onwards.  Now we can finish the job by completely phasing out coal in 2012 and by investing in energy efficiency to reduce our electricity demand even further, increase our productivity and lower our energy bills. 

Please email Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley (and cc me)—ask him to finish the coal phase-out in 2012 and invest in energy conservation.  Clean air can’t wait.


Environment minister takes heat over coal emissions

TORONTO—Ontario’s governing Liberals are slamming Environment Minister Peter Kent over a report he plans to backtrack on regulating coal emissions.

The Globe and Mail has reported that Ottawa is offering the provinces a way to avoid new regulations that would force companies to clean up or shut down their old coal-fired plants.

Ontario’s environment minister fired off a letter to Kent today, saying he’s "extremely concerned" to learn that Ottawa may be retreating from proposed regulations.

Jim Bradley says burning coal generates great volumes of greenhouse gas emissions as well as cancer-causing contaminants and smog that kills hundreds of people a year.

He says it’s not in the national interest to continue with coal-burning policies that fail to combat climate change or protect the health of Canadians. MORE


U.S.: Major Coal Victory—LS Power Agrees to Abandon Two Coal Projects, Invest in Solar

Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute: “coal emissions are the primary driver of climate change”Today, the Sierra Club is celebrating a landmark victory that was a long time coming. We have reached a settlement with LS Power to cancel their plans to build two new coal plants—the Longleaf plant in Georgia, and the Plum Point 2 plant in Arkansas.

These two coal plants are #160 and 161 on the growing list of new coal plants defeated by the Sierra Club and our allies since 2002. These are two more nails in the coffin of a rush to build new coal plants that we have fought for a decade, and that is now coming to an end, with only a handful of proposed coal projects hanging on by a thread around the country.

The victory is especially sweet because the Longleaf campaign was the longest running fight against a new coal plant that the Sierra Club had fought anywhere in the country. We have been opposing the plant since it was first proposed in 2001—ten years, enough time for a child to go from birth to middle school! This victory is a testament to the power of perseverance, and kudos go to our allies Friends of the Chattahoochee and GreenLaw form sticking with this roller coaster ride through thick and thin. MORE


red accentLester Brown: For coal plants, the end of an era

Targeted campaigns have blocked half of proposed new US coal power plants.


Coal study names top 20 'climate killer' banks

JP Morgan Chase tops list of institutions that have financed coal-mining and coal-fired energy generation

coal fired pollutionBarclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC are among the top banks that have lent billions of euros to the coal sector—despite their much-vaunted environmental credentials, a new investigation has found.

Financing coal is controversial, because it is the dirtiest fossil fuel and responsible for billions of tonnes of emissions of carbon dioxide globally, as well as other pollutants such as soot particles and mercury.

The list of top 20 institutions that have financed coal-mining and coal-fired energy generation reads like a roll-call of the world's biggest banks, with three American banks—JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America—topping the list. Between them, these three have provided at least €42bn to the coal sector since 2005.MORE

Coal: Dead Man Walking

ballot boxDuring the first nine months of 2011, only 2.9% of our total electricity generation was provided by our dirty coal plants. In fact, our coal-fired generation has fallen by 70% this year relative to the same period last year (according to the Independent Electricity System Operator).

While we no longer need our dirty coal plants to keep our lights on, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) continues to operate them to export dirty electricity to the U.S. at a loss. Since January 2009 OPG has received $865 million in subsidy payments from the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (an agency of the Government of Ontario) to compensate it for the operating losses of its coal plants.

While all four major provincial party leaders have agreed that a coal phase-out by 2014 is a “must”, only two—NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner—have grasped the fact that we can phase out coal right now! This is one election promise that is easy to keep, critically important to our health, and an example of real leadership.

Ask your local candidates if they support an immediate coal phase out or maintaining subsidies to OPG to burn dirty coal for export.

OPG has received a total of $929 million in subsidies since Jan.'09 for operating losses of its coal plants

Nanticoke power stationOntario Power Generation (OPG) received $259 million in subsidies (“Contingency support agreement revenues”) from the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (OEFC) to compensate it for the operating losses of its dirty coal-fired power plants during the first nine months of 2011.

During the same period, OPG's coal plants generated 2.9% of Ontario's electricity.

OPG has received a total of $929 million in subsidies from the OEFC, since January 2009, to compensate it for the operating losses of its coal plants. 

“Energy Minister Bentley should direct OPG to put its money-losing coal plants on standby reserve and only operate them if they are absolutely needed to keep the lights on,” said Jack Gibbons, Chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. DOWNLOAD: Finishing the coal phase out


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