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Oh, where do we begin since we left off?

Lets start with general news that US Coal distribution fell another 7% in the fourth quarter of 2013.  

This lack of demand continues to batter the trading price of coal.  Its currently trading at $60.53 and positioned to fall.  Remember the price of all fuel rises in the Winter due to heating demand and today, boys and girls, is the first day of SPRING!   ..and ICF International recently released their market analysis and expects 2014 to be the weakest year for the US Coal industry ever.

But whatever, even the lesser-political Koch brother has read the writing on the wall and pulled his company, Oxbow Carbon, out of the Coal business altogether…. So let’s get to some details!

March saw the largest ever fine imposed on a coal company under the Clean Water Act.  Eric Holder announced on March 5 that Alpha Natural Resources will pay $27.5 million as a direct fine and another $200 million in forced upgrades across 66 disparate subsidiaries.   These upgrades are expected to reduce the discharge of dissolved solids by 36 million pounds per year.  –and note, this is not a charge or an accusation.  This is a settlement, as in: DONE DEAL. Company agreed. Court imposed. Finito.

December saw three of the biggest coal-fired generators in Arizona shut down permanently.  The notorious Four Corners power plant in Farmington, NM shut down the oldest three of its five units rather than upgrade them to meet EPA standards.

In the "We'll believe it when we see it" category, Duke Energy has started floating the idea of additional plant closures in North Carolina in reaction of the coal ash spills.  Pragmatic attempt to divest of continued liability or temporary PR move to look like they give a shit?  You be the judge.....

Yeah, yeah, yeah… war on coal and whatnot right?  I mean how can you call it a governmental “war” when these are just companies making their own cost-benefit analysis and deciding to shut down unprofitable units?  For a REAL “War of Coal” we would want to see court-ordered shutdowns, police raiding power plants to sieze control and halt operations as a measure to protect the health of its citizens, amirite?  Damn right!  And for THAT all we need to do is look to Italy.

A judge directed police to take control of the plant, which is owned by Tirreno Power, after finding in favor of prosecutors in the case. Francantonio Granero, Savona's chief prosecutor, had argued that emissions from the plant were responsible for more than 400 premature deaths between 2000 and 2007, and 2,000 cases of heart and lung disease.
Now THAT is how you wage a war on Coal!

Anyway, back in the US, we also won an early round in a potentially important legal fight out West where the Sierra Club is leading an effort to sue BNSF for environmental damage for the amount of coal dust that gets blown off open rail cars hauling coal out of Wyoming.  Wyoming is currently the largest producer of US coal so anything we can do to cripple that will help.

Washington State helped out by ordering a complete and extensive environmental review of the proposed coal export terminal that the industry desperately wants as a way to ship Wyoming coal to Asia.  There had been a push to get the state and local governments to green light this so this kind of review will not only help illuminate the environmental costs of this operation but served as lethally effective BRAKE on the all-out lobbyist surge that had been going on.

And we’re starting to see Obama’s international investment policy in action.  Remember, he announced in October that the US would no longer fund any new coal-based energy projects around the World.  The World Bank formally followed suit.  As did the United Kingdom.  And then even the Export-Import Bank agreed  (More on the Ex-Im Bank in a second….)

Turns out this isn’t just talk.  State department officials were on-site visiting Jamaica, a close ally and near-by trading partner of the US and stated openly to journalists:

Jamaica should not expect any support, financial or otherwise, from the United States (US) for any coal-powered energy initiative, now or any time in the future.
As for the Ex-Im Bank (and I can’t help but point out that Obama did once explicitly call the Export-Import Bank “nothing more than a fund for corporate welfare” ...get to about the 30sec mark of this clip to watch him say it) they are still being sued by Friends of the Earth and other groups for financing coal exports with taxpayer dollars without evaluating environmental impact.   Here is the actual filing (PDF File) for those interested.

Now I know what everyone rushes to the comment sections to point out in every “Coal is Dying, YAY!” diary:  CHINA.

Yeah, China coal demands are increasing as they struggle to meet their energy demands, BUT…  they are making a concerted effort to start getting away from Coal.  China is passing more and more environmental regulations and wants 50% of their generation to come from renewables by 2030.  They are already pushing to idle their high-cost coal mines once they get enough solar power on their grid.  Read the analysis of JA Solar’s first profitable quarter for some interesting insight.

Also, China’s coal demand has long been the one bright star upon which every American dirty-rock digging company has hung its profit-driven hopes.  Even as the US enjoys its Natural Gas boom, they kept thinking they could keep turning a profit if they could just get their product to Asia.  The problem with that is that Australia is so much closer and wants in on the Sell-Dirty-Coal-to-China game.  ..but even they will face a huge hurdle once China starts greening.  Full analysis of China’s environmental reform on Australian Coal assets: PDF FIle

{sigh} ... these are always fun.  I track this stuff every day through a number of news filters I have set up on various sites, but its better reading off some of the highlights like this.

And to end, as always, on a positive note:

100% of All New US Capacity in the Month of January was Renewable.  100% the largest installation of which was:

Exelon Corp’s 130 MW Antelope Valley Solar Phase II expansion project in Los Angeles County, CA is online. The power generated is sold to Pacific Gas and Electric under long-term contract.

Originally posted to Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 06:35 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, Maryland Kos, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great Diary (10+ / 0-)

    More of these, please.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 07:14:11 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for great news! Next one up: oil. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ivote2004, Calamity Jean, Aximill, Lujane

    Repub'ed to CCSOS.

    •  And oil is under pressure from transit (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Lujane, 4Freedom

      I know oil is also used for heating+industry, but 29% of oil goes towards transportation (40% energy). Aside from the odd train and boat, oil and its byproducts are the fossil fuel mainstay for vehicles.

      And if biofuels ever bear fruit...

  •  Check the chart , (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    us weekly coal production for the last 52 weeks

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 08:41:10 AM PDT

    •  The point being that production is rock solid? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lujane, AmericanAnt

      as compared to being on the verge of dropping off into nothingness as this diary insinuates?

      In any event, there are plenty of people out there who are quite bullish on coal: Will Record Coal Use Fuel Profits for Coal Producers in 2014?

      Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE: BTU  ) didn't make any money last quarter. Slumping coal prices caused the company to break even on an adjusted basis. Full-year profits were less than half of what the company saw in 2012. While the company produced positive cash flow and was able to slice a few hundred million dollars off its debt, 2013 won't go down as a great year for the coal producer.

      Demand remains robust

      This is despite the fact that the world is using more coal than ever before. Developing markets like China are importing record amounts of coal. Last month alone the country imported a monthly record of 35 million tonnes of coal and set an annual record with 320 million tonnes imported.

      China is not alone. India increased thermal coal imports by 23% last year. Japan increased its coal consumption by 10% as new coal-fired generation increased its demand. Even Germany's coal usage grew in 2013, using more than in any year since 1990. It's a trend that Peabody Energy doesn't see ending.

      So yeah, it might be fun to poke fun at the financial woes of the companies who mine coal - but the bigger picture here is that the environment isn't getting a bread at all.  And to me, that's not fun at all.
      •  Production is NOT dropping as fast as DEMAND (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        viral, ferg, ivote2004, nzanne, Odysseus

        THAT is what we want.

        You don't kill a market by strangling production.. that only spikes prices creating an incentive for more people to get into a suddenly high-margin commodity.  Which for a while, was exactly what was happening with metallurgical coal since that demand was steady while the demand for thermal coal was plummeting.  

        This incentivized a number of mining companies to go all in on metallurgical coal thinking they could ride out the natural gas boom, but they diluted THAT market very quickly.

        Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

        by Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:06:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Goldman Sachs is bearish on coal (6+ / 0-)

        for direct electricity generation and also for export. Investments in mines and export terminals made today cannot pay off for the decades required to be profitable, now that both natural gas and wind beat coal in much of the country, soon to be all.

        There are always grifters looking to profit by getting somebody else to make somebody else again pay them a profit on their projects. We have that in the two coal gasification boondoggles in Indiana, at Rockport and Edwardsport. Neither was possible without making corrupt deals with the Legislature to force the public to pay above market prices for the generated power.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:13:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  In other news re coal (0+ / 0-)

      Coal Could Soon Be Portfolio Fuel
      Brazilian group sets up consortium to produce electricity from coal in Mozambique
      March 17th, 2014

      The future ACWA Power Moatize Termoeléctrica (APMT) thermo-electric power station, in Mozambique’s Tete province, will be one of the biggest investments in Mozambique’s history, as well as being the first in a wave of new coal-fired power plants.

      ACWA Power Moatize Termoeléctrica is a consortium made up of Brazil’s Vale, Japan’s Mitsui, ACWA Power of Saudi Arabia, as well as domestic shareholders Electricidade de Moçambique (5 percent) and Whatana (8 percent), an investment company headed up by Graça Machel, the widow of both Mozambique’s first president Samora Machel and of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.
      Coal India may miss output target for FY14 by 12 million tonnes
      Press Trust of India | Updated On: March 16, 2014
      Battling on various fronts to boost production, Coal India Ltd, the world's largest miner, may miss its production for the ongoing fiscal year (FY14) by about 12 million tonnes as it struggles to achieve at least 470 million tonnes of output.

      The state-owned firm had fixed a target of 482 MT for financial year 2013-14.
      India coal imports jump 20 pct in Feb as prices dip-OreTeam

      By Krishna N Das

      NEW DELHI, March 13 Thu Mar 13, 2014
      (Reuters) - India's coal imports jumped 20 percent year-on-year in February to 11.6 million tonnes as prices dipped and the rupee strengthened, data from research firm OreTeam showed, indicating that demand remains strong despite a sharp fall in January.

      India's reliance on foreign coal has grown over the years as local production has failed to grow in line with demand, making the country the world's third-largest importer of the fuel even as it sits on the fifth-largest reserve
      Rio Tinto's Sam Walsh unsurprised by coal, iron price slumps

          Matt Chambers
          The Australian
          March 13, 2014
      Coal-fired power stations the big winner

          March 18, 2014

      Brian Robins
      Owning their own gas reserves is helping to offset difficult operating conditions for Australia's energy utilities and a resulting squeeze on operating margins, ratings agency Fitch said in a report.

      However with the Federal government moving to change energy policy settings, the clear winner will be owners of coal-fired power stations, which will emerge with a significant competitive advantage over gas and other energy sources, it noted.

      "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

      by indycam on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 09:25:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  India is WHOLE seperate soap opera of coal (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        THey have so much corruption and inefficiencies.  They REALLY NEED coal to supply their huge energy demands, very much like China, but they sold off thier mining bloc to companies that only wanted to own the blocs so they could book the asset and leverage it against other businesses but never broke ground.

        The Indian ministry just started clawing back all kinds of licensing grants and is threatening fraud charges and all sorts of things trying to get their market started.

        I was going to discuss India in this diary but decided it would take up too much time/space.

        And all the portfolio talk is based on nothing more then the natural gas price rise that people think might allow coal to get close to competitive again.  ...nice article link though.

        I think my favorite part aside from the all the "coulds" and "mights" was

        I’m not a coal analyst, but I do know that companies such as Arch Coal (ACI) and Peabody Energy (BTU) are two of the more thermal coal-oriented producers. Both these companies, as well as many other coal producers, can be found in the Market Vectors Coal ETF (KOL). While KOL doesn’t represent a pure thermal coal play, if I am correct about coal’s upside potential, then KOL is going to rally.

        Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

        by Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:11:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You mean week to week (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Just Bob, nzanne, ModerateJosh

      we dont see a dip in a multi-million ton market of a heating fuel coming out of one of the most severe winters in recent history?

      Odd, that.

      And that is PRODUCTION.  Companies are still running mines hoping they can export the product to offset declining domestic demand.

      Just released TODAY:
      Walter Slumps as Bank of America Sees ‘Depressed’ Coal

      Walter dropped 12 percent to $7.97 at 9:35 a.m. in New York. Earlier it fell 15 percent, the biggest intraday decline since July. Arch Coal Inc. slid as much as 4.4 percent and Alpha Natural Resources Inc. dropped 5.8 percent.

      Benchmark contract prices for metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel, are at $143 a ton in the first quarter, the lowest since 2010. Quarterly prices will be in a range of $130 to $150 a ton in the next several years, Timna Tanners, a New York-based analyst at Bank of America, said today in a note.

      Tanners cited excess supply, the falling marginal cost of production, the use of substitute raw materials, and the resistance of mining companies to making production cuts.

      You have to look past production, which already has a multi-generational established infrastructure in the US.  Its not going to simply "turn off".

      ..and thats the beauty of it.  If we can keep them from efficiently exporting it, their own production will keep contributing to their own market collapse.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:03:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yeah, China . .. . (0+ / 0-)
    China's coal use forecast to surge

    By Michael Lelyveld

    China's coal use will rise sharply by the end of the decade despite government plans to limit consumption, the country's mine owners say.

    Last month, the China National Coal Association (CNCA) forecast that consumption of the high-polluting fuel will reach 4.8 billion tonnes by 2020, the official Xinhua news agency reported. That would be an increase of more than 36% over 2012 levels, based on figures cited by the industry group


    IOW, despite their push away from coal, NEW coal usage in the next 5 years will exceed the ENTIRE amount used in the USA

    Not really sure how to sugarcoat that (although you seem to take a good stab at it!)

    •  There isn't a sugar coating (8+ / 0-)

      They are growing too fast to rely on anything else BUT coal right now, but they are getting a lot of pressure, economically and politically from their own people, to clean up.

      It is the Chinese government itself that is trying to get to 50% renewables.  THEY want to idle their big mines (water usage inefficiency being one of the driving reasons).  THEY are the ones subsidizing solar panel manufacturing to the point where it is being installed domestically at a net loss.

      Right now they are relying on coal, but they are already planning on their own diversification.

      Did you even LOOK at the Australian article?  Analysts, including studies from Oxford University, are already warning of long term profitability on a market dependent on China sustaining its coal appetite (because it wont).  Australia is also watching its own domestic coal market die just like the US, but they are so close to China, exporting is a very viable alternative.  ....for now.

      The goal for those of us in the US that are fighting coal is to undercut domestic demand in order to disrupt the market and maintain any and eery barrier to export trade that US Coal could use to prop itself up by leveraging Chinese profit.  (Hence the resistance to the Washington Export Terminal, likewise the proposed terminal in Alabama)

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 09:56:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've been here several (to many) years and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        6412093, AmericanAnt

        been constantly told that coal is on the precipice and soon will meet its demise.

        Yet consumption goes up year after year after year like clockwork.

        And the US government predicts the upwards trajectory to continue for at least the next 25 years

        So, color me overly skeptical, but I'll believe in the magic when I see it actually happening.  

        Perhaps tangentially, I'm curious what motivates the viewpoint that things are getting better when they're not.  I have a few hypotheses, but they're probably moot in the bigger picture of things.

        •  Globally YES.. very much so. (7+ / 0-)

          Unless we can raise transit costs.

          But Domestically?  That is simply factually not true.  Utilities aren't even requesting permits for new coal at this point in the US.  We used to have 523 coal plants in the US, we now have 360 with an acceleration in shutdowns  by 2016.

          Companies are divesting (Oxbow, Berkshire Hathaway, Wildhorse Energy).  Major US producers are going bankrupt (See Patriot Coal or James River).  The US Government had two auctions for new coal leases on public land that didn't even receive a SINGLE BID.

          The international policy to stop developing countries from borrowing to invest in coal will help the stem the downstream, but the big question will be China.

          It would be one thing if they were like "Fuck off.. we're going all in on Coal!" but they really aren't.  It is purely internal forces and decisions, not some external climate campaign that they could give a shit about, that is prompting them to put BILLIONS into being less dependent on coal.

          The main fight we're all focused on is the domestic US Coal industry.  People need to stop trying to counter the undeniable progress we are making by conflating it with things in other countries.

          What would be the better reaction?  Oh, you're right.. India and China are still importing, so fuck it... lets keep burning our shit!  WHY NOT?

          That makes no sense.  We strangle it here.  We push to kill it Europe.  We put major obstacles in front of 3rd world investment.  We get investors to pull out (largest Sovereign Investment Fund in the World perhaps?). And we make it too expensive to export and ship to be worth it.

          Its all progress.  But the measure of success is not "Will there be any coal being used in the world by October?"  Yes?  Then hell.. we failed.

          C'mon man......

          Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

          by Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:27:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Exactly where did I say this? (0+ / 0-)
            What would be the better reaction?  Oh, you're right.. India and China are still importing, so fuck it... lets keep burning our shit!  WHY NOT?
            I'd be absolutely delighted if coal disappeared. Immediately.

            But it's not - instead it remains firmly on an upward trajectory.

            And yeah, I guess the US is kinda a bright spot in that regard, until one stops to think that coal's (relative) demise in this country is due to fracked NG, which is (almost certainly) more polluting than coal when fugitive methane is accounted for. . .. .

            The point being, this all seems like a huge distraction from actually taking any meaningful steps to solve the problem.

            •  Well, coal to green was NEVER going to happen (6+ / 0-)

              The economics were so stacked against it.

              We need a transition fuel and yes fracking has all kinds of inherent problems, no one disputes that, but it has helped crater the coal market right when we needed it to in order to get traction in the renewable marketspace.

              In 2000, the US generated 52% of its energy from coal.  If you would have said then that in less than 15 years wind and solar would be able to compete with coal head-to-head on price point, even WITH the coal subsidies, people would have assumed you had no idea what the hell you were talking about.

              And yet Austin Energy just signed a 25-year contract to get solar energy at 5¢ per kWh.  Natural Gas came in at 7¢, Coal at 10¢ and Nuclear at 13¢ in the bidding process.

              Natural Gas is going to take a while to beat out because of the supply boom, the massive infrastructure investments going on and the utter lack of fracking regulation.  But if renewables can ramp up by stealing market share from coal a better approach to combatting gas will be to start making inroads on the carbon subsidies which, if removed, would tilt the marketspace away from gas rather dramatically.

              You can't have that conversation though when your "future forward solution" is still in single digit percentages of total generation.

              Btw... in 2012, Coal was down to 37% of total generation and dropped a bit more in 2013.

              Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

              by Wisper on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:52:15 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yeah OK, that sounds good, but (0+ / 0-)

                exactly what does this mean?

                City-owned Austin Energy is about to sign a 25-year PPA with Sun Edison for 150 megawatts of solar power at "just below" 5 cents per kilowatt-hour
                What I'm getting at, from the information given it is impossible to ascertain just how much (or even a ballpark figure) of how much electricity they actually anticipate sourcing this way.
          •  Wisper: you ought to be shouting your wisdom :) (0+ / 0-)

            Excellent comment.

            Excellent diary.

            Keep going!

            #3: ensure network neutrality; #2: ensure electoral integrity; #1: ensure ecosystemic sustainability.

            by ivote2004 on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 02:50:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, it is true (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Just Bob, ivote2004, wonmug

          Coal companies are overproducing in a time of rapid price declines, thus driving prices down further.

          It is also true that we are building out renewables, and not new coal-fired plants, while we are just starting to retire old polluting plants that the owners can no longer upgrade to the new standards. It is expected to take 30 years to complete the process even after no more new ones are built.

          That means that coal consumption in the US is supposed to flatten sometime in the near future, and worldwide in a decade or two. It does not mean that we believe in a fairy tale of current decline. It does not mean that decline will be enough, when we know we have to go radically carbon-negative to fix the damage already baked in.

          There will be a climate catastrophe within a century, when global temperatures rise 4 to 6 degrees C, unless some remarkable geoengineering technology turns out to be viable, or at least less damaging than the alternative. Kind of like chemotherapy for cancer.

          We will take such good news as there is, and work for more. What are you doing to help?

          Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

          by Mokurai on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:27:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  China is going to diversify to 28 thorium plants (0+ / 0-)
    •  So you believe the Coal Association? eom (0+ / 0-)

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:18:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, ivote2004

    Thank you.

    The better I know people, the more I like my dog.

    by Thinking Fella on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 09:49:03 AM PDT

  •  Coal -- the Other Black Fuel (4+ / 0-)

    The death of fossil fuels can't come quickly enough.

    (The same goes for nuclear power except the reactor 93 Million miles away.)

  •  Good overview diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 10:26:52 AM PDT

  •  technically, isn't *all* energy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    radiation energy from that 1AU-distant reactor, albeit stored in various forms?

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 11:10:51 AM PDT

  •  China is ramping up nuclear (0+ / 0-)

    They're planning on adding 28 plants to their 20 current plants.

    Two big items though:
    ~ the plants will be thorium fueled. Less waste, smaller footprint, no potential weaponized material, and plentiful
    ~ they planned on more plants, but they bumped up the schedule by 10 years. Chinese scientists were expecting to do a trial ~25yr from now. Authorities have said "Do it in 15"

  •  Your Concern for the People of West Virginia - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler

    And eastern Kentucky is duly noted.

    Need I remind you that, at current prices, many rural people who depend upon propane and those in the northeast, primarily, who heat with fuel oil are facing $500 per month heating bills this winter?

    And you wonder why West Virginia has gone from being one of the most Democratic to one of the most Republican states?

    But I am glad you are happy.

    •  Im glad its noted (0+ / 0-)

      Please mark it down just above my concern for Virginian and North Carolinian tobacco farmers and just under Bluefin Tuna fishermen.

      Not everything is about jobs.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 08:04:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wisper - (0+ / 0-)

        I had a similar back-and-forth last week about ranchers in the Yellowstone Valley in Montana and bison from Yellowstone NP. The refrain was, "They can just move."

        This attitude is pervasive and corrosive. It is no accident that fly-over America is so deeply red. Most rural and small-town regions are, by definition, producer areas - foodstuffs, fiber, energy, minerals. These activities do impact the environment but are essential, not only for the economic survival of the local residents, but ultimately for urbanites who depend on the commodities they produce.

        Approaches such as yours prevent progressive responses that have more than a snowball's chance of implementation. Yes, energy corporations have a long history of disregard both for the environment and for their workers. But why is it that those workers who were strongly progressive a generation ago are now in the pockets of the corporations?

        If you can answer that question, you may begin to see my critique.

        •  The question is easily answered (0+ / 0-)
          But why is it that those workers who were strongly progressive a generation ago are now in the pockets of the corporations?
          The answer is Fear.  Their way of life is crumbling around them.  Who can blame them?

          But I have no inclination to lie to them any more then I do to slow down crucial progress to our energy solution in a half-measured attempt to mollify them.

          They are very right to be afraid.  They aren't stupid people; they can see whats going on around them.  Industries and towns that were thriving in their parent's generation are now barely above a sustenance level of existence.

          Should we go the GOP/Every Politician's way and lie?  Promise to "Restore these jobs"?  Let's "Bring back the Heartland"?

          No.  They aren't coming back.  I say that not with glee or mean-spirit.  They just aren't.  Those coal plants that are shuttered and disassembled will never operate again.  Coal, without massive subsidies, will crater in this country and struggle to find a logistically feasible market as an export to the other side of the globe.

          And I am speficially talking coal here.  The other stuff you mention like food and livestock and other minerals all have a path forward, usually tripped up and snubbed by political games and heavy-handed regulations but they are easily viable in a forward-looking technologically-sound and sustainable way.  ..and yes, I even include cattle raising and copper mining in that.

          But coal?  No.  Coal as an industry in the United States is a walking corpse and the people whose lives are so inextricably tied to it knows this better then you and I do.  And they don't need me or anyone else pointing out business bankruptcies, investor pull-outs, price drop offs, supply gluts and regulations to them. They see it all around them every day.

          And they are afraid.

          Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

          by Wisper on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 11:03:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Glee? (0+ / 0-)

            Your diary is filled with glee.
            And not a word about those impacted.

            As for your last paragraph - -
            Coal still provides 40% of electric generation capacity -
            Down from 50% a decade ago.
            It's not as if wind and solar are expanding rapidly.
            The reason for coal's loss of share was cheap natural gas.
            The glut of gas from fracking made gas cheaper than coal.
            For a while.

            But natural gas prices are rising -
            And newer generation plants are multimodal.
            I wouldn't be surprised to see an increase in coal's share over the next decade -
            Unless further fracking and limited LNG keeps gas prices super low.

            FYI - Most recent EIA data -
            Electric Generation
            Coal - 39.1%
            Gas - 27.4%
            Nuclear - 19.4%
            Hydro - 6.6%
            Wind - 4.1%
            Solar - 0.2%


            The percentages don't seem to indicate coal is a walking corpse.

            •  Odd that the industry agrees wth me then. (0+ / 0-)

              I could not be MORE gleeful about the demise of coal.  But I am not celebrating the impact is has on people in coal-producing areas.

              I had the same sentiments when the US Cigarette market took a major sudden hit... a lot of those farmers that had been working land that produced tobacco for generations got thrown into a very rough transition.  Some came out the other side okay, many didn't.  ...doesn't mean I'm not happy to see tobacco sales in the US are 55% off their peak levels.

              There is plenty of coal infrastructure that will keep burning for while but the trend could not be more clear.  But I think you are being a bit glib in pointing out that coal went from 52% in 2000 to 37% in 2012.  For an industry that operates in such long term projections, that kind of change in that amount of time is a major deal.

              Look at everyone inside the business.  Investors are getting out.  Companies are consolidating.  People are divesting.  Regulations aren't being watered down.  Utilities are phasing away.  Mines are being cutback.  Its rippling out to the point that Caterpillar is closing their Virginian plant that makes coal haulers because those things have such a long operating lifespan they don't see enough demand to justify building more of them.

              There is NOTHING inside the United States is remotely positive for coal.  China and India are their only hope.  Even the EU market is barely above break-even and that assumes you can ship out of the East coast and East coast (Appalachian) coal is in exponentially worse shape then West coast (Wyoming) coal.

              Yes... everyone that understands supply and demand will agree that a rise in LNG (particularly if we start aggressively exporting) would create an opportunity for other fuels, but with Wind and Solar being politically popular, more future proof, less regulated and now become more and more frequently CHEAPER then coal, why would they rush back to coal?

              And if we even manage to put a dent in some of those production subsidies.... then coal becomes a part of US History.

              We got a ways to go.  Im not trying to be pollyannish but the progress is all our way.  Its a long game, but we're winning.

              Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

              by Wisper on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 12:01:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Who Is "We"? (0+ / 0-)

                And what constitutes "winning"?

                In Australia, the Labor Party has gone from holding federal as well as all 6 state parliaments to Liberals controlling the federal and 5 out of 6 (maybe the 6th one, too) in 6 years.  Granted, federal and state politics have different components, but carbon legislation was part of the picture. (Plus horrific Labor Party infighting)

                The split between Labor and Greens in Tasmania has been nasty. Both were thumped by the Liberals last week. Not only do environmental issues suffer, but reproductive rights, labor rights, immigration rights and a whole host of other issues when the Liberals hold power across Australia.

                Same goes for the U.S. Democratic turnout is notoriously shallow - great for presidential races, but less so for congressional races in pres years, poor in off-year elections, and horrible in state elections. You have noticed, perhaps, the state legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, etc. etc.

                Polls show 2-to-1 to 3-to-1 support for Keystone.  Also, either an unwillingness or, more importantly, inability to pay more for electricity, heat, and cooling - whenever cost is added to such polling.

                With high unemployment and skyrocketing utility costs, many working poor in Europe are turning to right-wing parties. We'll see how well Marine LePen's National Front does this weekend in France.

                I'll get back in touch.

  •  three coal-fired power plants surround Birmingham (0+ / 0-)

    if they close, it will be revolutionary here with lots of unanticipated consequences. better health will be one result though. Vast respiratory problems here, especially in the poorest areas.

    One of the power plants, Warrior River, sits on top of a huge seam of very dirty coal. Drove past the nearby strip mine the other day. No one seeing these vast strip mines and the filth of the operation would want this to continue.... except for those who make money off it.

    Sixty per cent of the electrical power generated here is exported, primarily to light up Atlanta. If the coal plants are closed the vast income stream going to the Southern Company, which owns Alabama Power, along with other utilities, will start to dissipate. The result will be a lot less walking around money for Alabama politicians from Alabama Power and from the coal barons.

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