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Today our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists released an impressive report showing that as many as one-third of U.S. coal plants are due for retirement because they are outdated, lack modern pollution controls, and can no longer compete in the marketplace with other forms of energy.

The report details the range of up to 641 coal-fired boilers -- up to 100 gigawatts -- that are either recently retired or due for retirement because they are economically uncompetitive compared with more affordable energy sources.

This is an incredible amount of coal-fired generators that are being shown as economy uncompetitive with more affordable energy sources like wind power!

According to UCS:

Plants that are candidates for retirement are typically older, less efficient, underutilized, and more polluting than the rest of the nation's coal fleet. These generators average 45 years in age, well beyond the 30-year expected life span for a typical coal generator. These plants are less efficient, operating only at 47 percent of capacity, compared with 64 percent for the total U.S. coal fleet. In addition, 70 percent of these generators lack adequate equipment to control the emissions of at least three of the four harmful pollutants examined in the analysis (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mercury, and soot).
Retiring these plants will be a great benefit for public health. Less coal means less pollution in our air and water, fewer asthma attacks, and fewer respiratory diseases.

Of equal importance in retiring these coal plants for our public health is ensuring that the transition from coal to clean energy happens in a way that protects workers and communities.

As these coal plants are retired, we call upon the power companies to ensure that communities, workers and families will have a just and stable transition from working with coal to becoming leaders in a clean energy future.

We've seen this happen around the U.S. already -- from the Centralia community and workers in Washington, to the Tennessee Valley Authority employees and communities in North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In Colorado, labor and environmental groups also collaborated on clean energy policies at the state level, which ultimately ensured that workers from retiring plants had good transition plans.

We are committed to clean energy, and we are committed to good jobs. We applaud UCS for the excellent report and hope power companies see the opportunities they have to benefit public health, local communities, workers, and more by retiring coal and investing in clean energy.

Originally posted to DK GreenRoots on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 09:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Kosowatt.

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Comment Preferences

  •  More places to ride my mountain bike (3+ / 0-)

    1/3 of coal plants ready to retire = 1/3 of coal miners ready to be laid off.

    It's not OK to lay off UAW workers but it's OK to lay off UMW workers?

    •  from the report (regarding jobs) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a 2010 analysis by researchers at Duke University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found that adopting energy efficiency policies in the South would not only cut electricity demand but also would, in 2020, reduce energy bills in the South by $41 billion, create 380,000 new jobs, and increase the size of the region’s economy by $1.23 billion.
      •  Sounds reasonable (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peace voter

        And letting the marketplace take out GM would have created jobs building light rail cars in the long run.

        But it's not OK for UAW members to have to find new jobs but it's OK for coal miners to find new jobs.

        •  illogical argument. (0+ / 0-)

          GM replaced by light rail? GM cars would have been substituted by other cars.

          But the argument about the potential jobs from energy efficiency is not such an illogical argument. The energy can be made up for by building new plants or by improving energy efficiency. The later (efficiency) would bring more jobs.

          Would jobs be lost in some coal mining communities? I guess so. But more jobs can be made back by stimulating energy efficiency. That's the point.

    •  Laying off those workers might be ok (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      IF programs existed to retrain them for sustainable energy jobs

      Get those workers out of the the dark dirty mines and into to sun and wind

      Stop blowing the topps off of Apalachian mountains.

      Create new, better, healthier work.

      Imagine what a great stimulus to our economy those jobs would bring..


      "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." — Howard Zinn

      by peace voter on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 10:39:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, it is a strange dichotomy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Utahrd, DawnN

      how the rescue of one environmentally destructive industry (automobiles, with 99.something% being fossil fuel powere) is embraced so eagerly on this site while another is universally reviled (and rightly so, but still, the disconnect is staggering).

    •  No One Advocating Layoffs (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, DawnN

      Actually, the equation you use is incorrect.  Most of the plants which are ready to be retired are smaller and therefore use less than 1/3 of the coal produced.  So, the reduction in coal production is likely to be closer to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/5 of current production levels, given the lower efficiencies of these plants eligible for retirement.  Also, please note that their utilization rates are lower than the remaining plants, so their overall consumption is less based on number of hours generating, driving the reduction closer to the lower bound.

      Further, no one is advocating laying off any of the miners.  Ideally, their skills with machinery (because that is what most miners do these days, run machinery) could be transferred to alternate energy applications.  For example, the horizontal drilling techniques used in fracking could be used to drill coal seam preparatory to their actually being mined.  Such long bores would allow the methane which develops in coal formations to be drained off for power generation along with the natural gas from fracked shale formations.  Allowing coal formations to be drained of methane accumulations would help reduce mine gas explosion dangers when the time comes to actually mine the coal proper.  Some of these approaches might not be as lucrative to the mining companies, but these techniques would enable them to maximize their long-term return on the resource and still retain a work-force.

      Finally, you forget about coking coal for the production of steel and other metals.  None of that production will be affected by the shift in fuels for generation from coal to natural gas to renewable sources long-term.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 02:43:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Congress must extend the Production Tax Credit (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mary Anne Hitt, 6412093, DawnN, jam

    which expires 12/31/12 in order to keep the expansion of wind energy on track.

    If we had a long-term plan for expanding alternative sources of energy like wind and solar, plus a crash-course in conservation upgrades for American homes and other buildings, there would be plenty of jobs generated to replace the ones lost in coal mining.

    Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

    by bear83 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 09:32:44 AM PST

  •  I just hope the owners make the right switch (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mary Anne Hitt, annieli, DawnN

    to solar and wind instead of going to natural gas.

    "They fear this man. They know he will see farther than they, and he will bind them with ancient logics." -The stoner guy in The Cabin in the Woods

    by Troubadour on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 09:43:45 AM PST

  •  Meanwhile, Chevron will be using antiquated (0+ / 0-)

    technology to make repairs to its Richmond, CA plant (repairs that should have been done before it exploded) instead of newer, cleaner machinery that's readily available.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 10:18:11 AM PST

    •  That's due to EPA mandates (0+ / 0-)

      that NO changes can be made to this type of facility w/o total EPA review/approval - which keeps small, incremental, but potentially important improvements from being made.  chalk it up to the law of unintended consequences I suppose . . .

  •  The trouble with wind (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This brief diary touches on several crucial issues. First, Climate changers have been bashing Obama for neglecting global warming.  

    That position ignores the EPA's virtual outlawing of coal fired power plants, which are the biggest single source of greenhouse gasses.  This means that as the existing old plants, cited in this important diary, are mothballed, they won't be replaced with more coal.  That means Obama has authorized a dramatic step to cut carbon emissions, for which folks aren't giving him credit.

    Folks want to replace coal with wind.  Recent news plainly illustrates a problem there. Here in the Northwest, for the first time, wind energy was the single largest source of electricity, cranking out 3,169 megawatts at 2:50 AM on October 16, or enough to displace 5 to 10 coal fired power plants.  The problem is that at 1 pm on October 17, the next day, wind was only producing 100 megawatts.

    I love wind.  Construction of a wind farm gives 18 months work to a couple hundred building trades workers (equipment operators, ironworkers, electricians, and laborers). But wind doesn't provide steady power.  I think we need a reliable source of backup power along with wind.

    I appreciate that Ms. Hitt does express concern for the displaced workers as coal is abandoned, but the Centralia solution she cited didn't make the folks I knew very happy.  There were almost a thousand union jobs there at the mine and power plant that haven't been replaced.  We knew the end was coming at  that plant but it still was a  crippling economic blow. And with the wind credits vanishing, those hundreds of workers can't just go build wind farms anymore.

    Finally, Chevron in Richmond is a refinery, not a power plant.

    •  Modern Power Transmission Systems (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, DawnN, jam

      The Obama administration could do worse than advocate a new program to install a national power transmission system incorporating the latest technologies just as Eisenhower pushed for the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s.  Having an independent and secure power system for the entire nation is as much a national security issue these days as having things that go boom.  Further, it would expedite the building of renewable power sources from wind, solar, tidal and geothermal to move power to storage centers and the population centers.  It would put construction workers back to work and could absorb a number of displaced miners, who have experience with construction and machinery because of their mining background.  Long-range, it would be the equivalent of a national TVA effort laying a solid foundation for our economy moving further into the 21st century.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 02:50:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  those numbers for BPA are bogus (0+ / 0-)

      that only uses BPA's load and ignores the 6 GW of exports.

      Javelin, Jockey details, all posts, discontinue

      by jam on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 07:30:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  don't understand (0+ / 0-)

        Are you saying wind power didn't peak at 3100+ magawatts within the BPA system?

        Or that it wasn't really the top energy source when it did?

        •  sorry, read something wrong (0+ / 0-)

          Your numbers are correct, but your conclusion is wrong:

          “That these events did not pose any operational problems is a testimony to how much we have learned as we have integrated vast amounts of wind power,” Mainzer says.
          BPA Newsletter [pdf]

          Javelin, Jockey details, all posts, discontinue

          by jam on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 07:26:34 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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