Boucher: Climate bill is good for coal

June 30, 2009 by Ken Ward Jr.


This is a responsible measure. It is carefully balanced; it reduces greenhouse gases by 83 percent by the year 2050 as compared to 2005 levels; it keeps electricity rates affordable; it enables coal usage to grow as the demand for electricity increases nationwide; and it opens the door to a more secure energy future and the creation of millions of new jobs, innovating, deploying and exporting to the world the new, low-carbon-dioxide-emitting technologies that will power our energy future.

— Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., on the climate bill

West Virginia’s three House members all cited  concerns about negative impacts on the coal industry when they voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a move that the New York Times’ Paul Krugman likened to “treason against the planet.”

Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., are also dissing the bill, again citing concerns about coal.

Oddly, as I pointed out earlier, the Friends of Coal industry front group is not attacking the legislation’s impacts on coal — instead going for a general criticism of potential increases in energy costs to consumers.  And as I’ve also pointed out, the United Mine Workers union concluded the bill ensured that “the future of coal will be intact (but still withheld its endorsement, seeking more concessions for coal companies and coal-fired utilities).

One pro-coal voice that has been outspoken in support of the bill is Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher. A Democrat from his state’s southwestern coalfields, Boucher was a strong force in pushing the legislation’s main sponsors, Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, to add language that slows down emissions reductions and funnels billions of dollars to help the coal industry try to figure out how to control is carbon dioxide output.

During Friday’s House floor debate, Boucher explained why he thinks the bill is good for the coal industry:

 Approximately 80 percent of the electricity in the district that I represent is coal-generated. Coal production is one of our region’s major industries, and it is a major employer of our constituents. Not surprisingly, my focus in the shaping of the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee was to keep electricity rates affordable and to enable utilities to continue using coal, which accounts for fully 51 percent of America’s electricity generation. Both of these goals have been achieved in the bill that is before us today.

The Environmental Protection Agency projects that by 2020, the usage of coal in our economy will grow as compared to today’s usage. Now, that may seem somewhat counterintuitive in a bill that regulates greenhouse gas emissions, so let me repeat that: the EPA projects that by 2020, coal usage in America, under the terms of this bill, will actually grow.

As transportation electrifies and the demand for electricity increases, coal, our most abundant fuel, will still be the fuel of choice to meet that rising demand. The claims of opponents that the CO2 controls under the bill will force utilities to surrender coal use, causing an overreliance on natural gas with attendant broad economic harm to the Nation are also simply wrong.

Not for nothing, but Boucher also pointed out:

Electricity rates will be only modestly affected. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that by 2020, the cost of the entire program for the typical American family will be $175 per year. The Environmental Protection Agency projects that the nearer-term cost for the typical family from all elements of this legislation will be between $80 and $110 per year; that’s about 20 cents a day for the typical American family. And so the claims by the opponents that this legislation will impose enormous electricity price increases are simply wrong.

va_9th_congressional_district.pngAll of this from a congressman who received more campaign contributions from electric utilities than from any other industry, and also received significant campaign cash from the coal-mining industry. Boucher’s Virginia 9th District includes all of each of the six counties in Virginia where coal is produced: Buchanan, Dickerson, Lee,Russell, Tazewell, and Wise.

A lot of folks think Boucher went too far in helping the coal industry in this bill. Some of them felt so strongly that they got arrested outside his office to protest his actions.  He’s also been attacked from the other side, with — as Grist and the Wonk Room have reported — Newt Gingrich’s coal-powered front group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, running ads that asked, “Why did Rick Boucher vote to kill Virginia jobs?

But Boucher stuck to his support for the bill, explaining in his floor speech:

In March of 2007 the Supreme Court held that CO2 is a pollutant. Under that ruling and the terms of the existing Clean Air Act, the EPA is now effectively required to regulate CO2 emissions.

And so federal regulation of greenhouse gases is now inevitable. It is not a question of whether we will have regulation.

The only question is whether the regulation will be our carefully balanced economically sustainable regulation as contained in the bill before us or EPA’s regulation under the blunt instrument of the Clean Air Act where economic considerations cannot be fully weighed.

Where is the bill headed now? To the Senate, where we’ll see what roll Rockefeller and Byrd decide to play … or maybe we will. I asked aides to both senators more specific questions beyond the prepared statements they issued yesterday, and both declined to respond.

Darren Samuelsohn, who provides excellent climate coverage in Greenwire, explained today that the 60 votes needed in the Senate might be “within reach for a cap-and-trade climate bill, but many concessions must be made to get the measure across the goal line.”

But you know what? His story didn’t mention the word “coal.”

35 Responses to “Boucher: Climate bill is good for coal”

  1. Anonymouse says:

    One thing to point out to the readers here is the contradictory nature of the mantra that increased use of coal and the deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technology will lead to a stabilization in our electricity bills as consumers.

    Here’s why:

    First of all, coal reserves in the two areas that provide over 70% of the nation’s coal….are dwindling. That’s right, the coal is running out in Central Appalachia and Wyoming, and every year, that coal becomes more costly to mine, and those higher costs are transferred onto us, the consumers.

    Secondly, not only is that coal becoming more costly to mine, we have to burn more of it in order to generate an equal amount of electricity this year than we did last year. This is evident by the decline in bituminous coal being burned in the U.S. for electricity and the increasing share of coal production and consumption coming from the lower btu sub-bituminous and lignite coal. Thus, we have to buy more coal every year per kilowatt-hour generated.

    So, just continuing to rely on coal, by itself, is resulting in greater electricity costs. Just ask consumers of electricity in both West Virginia and Ohio, who are provided their electricity by AEP. AEP has requested (and in Ohio, received) record rate increases, with the reasoning that such rate increases were required in order to recoup unexpected costs of higher prices for coal over the past few years. Just imagine the rate increases they’ll be asking for three years from now after the price of coal has risen even more.

    Now, on top of all that, we want to build more expensive power plants that can capture, convert and store carbon dioxide. It must be pointed out that even with the huge subsidies the Recovery Act and climate bill include for CCS, much of that additional development cost will be transferred to us, the consumers. The estimated price tag for a new ‘conventional’ coal-fired power plant is around $3 Billion for a 1,000 MW power plant. Add on the price tag for CCS and you increase that price tag by about $1 Billion or more according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Again, we’ll be paying for that.

    Now, here’s the kicker. The top of the smokestack, as it were. Take all of that, and then add in the fact that CCS has been estimated at requiring between 10% and 40% more energy just to power the capture, conversion and sequestration processes. That means, for a coal plant, we’d have to burn – and so pay for – an extra 10-40% more coal with CCS than we would without it, and the electricity from that extra energy/coal consumed is not available to consumers for electricity. It’s just an extra cost that we, the consumers, will be paying.

    Bringing this full circle, CCS requires more coal that is increasingly more costly to mine and has increasingly lower heat contents. What I’d like to know is , taking all of these factors into account, how much extra we, the consumers, will have to pay for a kilowatt-hour of coal-fired electricity 5, 10, 20 and 30 years from now (a point in time which even WV’s own Nick Rahall says will be when the most productive coal seams have been mined out) because our leaders today decided to facilitate an increase in the consumption of coal through the laughably mis-named “climate bill.”

    So when Rick Boucher says that this climate bill is good for coal, oh he’s right. When he says it won’t hurt consumers, he has his head stuck in the mines. When Chris Hamilton or Don Blankenship or any of the other kings of coal say that coal keeps our energy affordable, they’re doing what the coal industry has always done — lying in order to keep us complacent, to keep us believing that new sources of energy will make energy unaffordable and that coal is plentiful, abundant and cheap.

    What’s cheap is wind, the sun, flowing water and energy conservation, and they all – in one way or another – can provide more jobs and tax revenues than coal does. If we’re looking at a choice between developing CCS or solar, the choice is shining right in our faces, and its not coming from a light bulb.

    I for one am of the camp that opposes this climate bill, but only because I agree with Rick Boucher — that the bill is good for coal. As I’ve been following the news surrounding the climate bill, I’ve felt like the Cheshire Cat, stuck in a state of transience deep down a rabbit hole somewhere in George Orwell’s sleeping, dreaming mind.

  2. Dell Spade says:

    “Climate bill is good for coal”
    Do you think we are idiots? The whole intent is to do away with coal no matter what the political spin that is being dished out.

  3. FactsFirst says:

    Here are some facts to provide some context for assessing Anonymouse’s post:
    * When it comes to cost, solar and wind are already subsidized to the tune of about $23-24 per megawatt hour.
    * Because of their weather dependency (i.e., unavailability) solar and wind must be backed-up by a conventional power source (e.g., gas, coal, nuclear) for 90% of their installed capacity to assure availabilty of power for the grid.
    * To replace a 600 MW coal plant we would need to build about 510 windmills spread across 160 square miles.
    * In short, wind and solar are not cheap by any means. And the overall cost can be seen in a March 2009 study by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (“Study of the Effect on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources”) that assessed the experience in Spain related to its policies for promoting renewables–each so-called green job created destroyed over 2 jobs; most of the jobs created were transitional in nature, construction and installation, with only 1 out of 10 created at a more permanent level such as operating or maintaing the plant; the higher cost of electricity–as a result of highly subsidized and less efficient renewables– drove more electricity intensive industries out of the country; each megawatt of installed renewable destroyed 5 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

    Bottom line, climate policy, cap and trade or otherwise, will not be cheap and we should not lure ourselves into believing so. If we do, no policy that is adopted will be politically sustainable–the electorate will grow angry later for being mislead and abandon any support. As for energy, we will need it all here and throughout the world. If we are serious about addressing climate change than we will need to get behind CCS and make it workl. Without it, no climate policy will be successful. Why–because the rest of the world will be using coal for generations to come. The reserves are adequate to meet needs worldwide for about 150 years. Coal use is projected to increase globally by 60% between now and 2030 with developing responsible for 97% of that increase. If all the developed nations go dark, greenhouse gas emissons will still increase unabated. The IPCC found that CCS can contribute more than 50% of the emission reductions through 2100; and the International Energy Agency says that attempting to stabilize emissions without coal and CCS will be 70% more expensive.
    In sum, there are no free lunches–just ask the 25% of the world population that does not have access to electricity.

  4. TheTruthHurts says:

    You obviously spent a lot of time on your comment. To bad you failed to provide the source(s) of your facts and figures. For all I know you reached around and pulled them out of your behind.
    In this day and time to provide such detailed information MUST be supported by source(s). There have been too many lies and too many liars who fooled us more than once. And you know about “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

  5. Thomas Rodd says:

    Good posts! The uncertainties of CCS are set out, no free lunch made clear. Dilemmas abound — and yet we are going to get something going, somehow. Cool!

  6. Dave Bassage says:

    All current energy options are subsidized in some form or another. Nailing down exact dollar figures depends on who is doing the math. Do we include a portion of military expenditures in our oil subsidy figures? Do we include environmental and health costs absorbed elsewhere in our coal subsidies?

    How to deal with intermittent sun and wind is an important part of introducing renewable energy to the mix. I’ve often thought the most appropriate application of fuel cell technology would be for windmills and solar installations to generate hydrogen with a portion of their energy, which could be used in an adjacent stationary fuel cell when they don’t. Since it takes more energy to produce hydrogen than we get back from using it, it’s essentially a battery, and might be the best battery for wind and solar installations. I’m sure the researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are hard at work on other options.

    The most important point is that fossil fuel costs will continue to grow in the years to come, with or without climate change legislation. Meanwhile renewable costs continue to drop and the technology keeps increasing in efficiency.

    The day will come when we must get all our energy from renewables. We can’t keep drawing on the planet’s energy savings account indefinitely. So the only question is whether we want to accelerate our transition or delay it?

  7. Nanette says:

    The sooner we start the transition the easier it will be. If we wait until our resources start becoming scarce and more expensive, the transition will be more costly, and the burden much greater. If we would have started transitioning back in the seventies, we would be in much better shape now.

    There is no doubt that the transition will be painful, but it must be done. If it had been done gradually over the past 30 years people wouldn’t have felt the pressure of an abrupt change of life that is surely coming in the near future.

  8. rhmooney3 says:

    (Well stated)

    July 1, 2009
    Editorial: Cap-and-trade dispute shows deeper problem

    Given the wildly divergent cost estimates here, based on varying assumptions and using various methodologies, it seems that no one — not Broun, not proponents of the legislation, and not any of the interest groups with one stake or another in the bill — has any real idea of what its costs may turn out to be.

    Ultimately, then, the best question to ask about the American Clean Energy and Security Act may not be who’s right or wrong on the cost figures. The best question to ask may be whether we’ve come to a place in this country where the shortsighted desire — from all points on the political compass — to make one political point or another has irretrievably damaged the ability of this country’s people and their politicians to take practical looks at public policy issues of surpassing importance.

  9. Brandon says:

    Hey guys, I would like you to check out these websites. There are finally some scientists releasing “the truth” about global warming. I know most won’t look at it because there are 2 sides to every story. So, this is a science and webster defines science as:: a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study. Keyword being “study”. Science is not exact. There are some scientists say the earth is cooling:
    WOW!! That is from a university, yes a creditted college university. Finally there is hope for us coal miners. The people are starting to speak the truth. The following are the websites I am talking about and they speak for themselves:

    This is my side and no one is listening. You “green movement” people have your side and is being biasly told through the media and we have no one representing our side, and when we get some of the news out whether through or other websites, it’s like you have taken the air out of the environmentalists because no one on that side wants opposition, which fits to exactly what the Obama Administration wants, Socialism or Communism. Thanks.

  10. Clem Guttata says:

    Brandon — It is a very comforting thought that no calamity awaits us. If only that was true it would make better for all of us.

    Please pull your head out of the coal ash, we need everyone working together to solve this problem we are all contributing to.

    At a simple factual level, there is no Obama/environmentalist conspiracy. It was Pres. Bush himself who put the U.S. government on record that global climate change is happening and humans are contributing to it.

  11. Dave Bassage says:

    Brandon, it’s understandable how you could arrive at your perspective. The internet is rife with sites like the ones you cite. It can be hard for the public to discern good science from bad on the climate change issue.

    The key thing to look for is peer reviewed science, a critical component of the scientific method that among other things has made it possible for us to debate this issue in this medium. I took a look at all your links, and found no evidence of peer review in any of them.

    To quickly respond to the points raised in your links:

    It’s true that global temperatures have plateaued so far this century, and skeptics correctly point out that since 1998, we’ve cooled. But since every other year in the last century, we’ve warmed. How could that be? 1998 was an extraordinarily warm year, and relative to that spike on the graph, every year since has been cooler. But at the same time, every year this century has been among the top 15 warmest since the 1800’s.

    So yes, temperatures have leveled out for now, but at a high level, with no real sign of any cooling trend.

    As for the “35,000 scientists”, you probably could have signed that petition if you have any sort of a degree in anything related to science. Maybe you did. I could have with my math degree. I didn’t. There was little rigor applied to vetting signatories. Trusting it is akin to asking your dentist if you need a hip replacement.

    Finally, the rejected EPA analysis was produced by an analyst, not a scientist, much less a climate scientist. I used to perform a similar function for the WVDEP, and while of course I’d like to think my analyses were always sound, they were no substitute for rigorously applied science, nor is this report.

    I do agree that it doesn’t look good for the EPA to bury an analyst’s work. From a glance at an earlier draft, it appears his emphasis was on the uncertain link between global warming and hurricane frequency and intensity, a link that has never been particularly strong in climate science studies to date, and on the role ocean currents may play on climate. What I didn’t see was mention of the role greenhouse gasses play on ocean behavior, an area of intense study since it was discovered that oceans have been taking up much of our excess CO2, may be near the saturation point, and may endanger shellfish and reefs due to more acidic seawater.

    So yes, there is another side to this issue, but that side is mostly trumpeted by either non-climate scientists or a handful of scientists with some climate credentials who are unable to make it through the peer review process.

  12. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I’m going to ask everybody — from Anonymouse to Facts First and Dave Bassage — to PLEASE post links to support all of the claims you’re throwing around.

    Providing the citation and a live link allows other readers to check the information you’re claiming as fact and learn from the sources of information.

    Please comply with this simple rule.


  13. Thomas Rodd says:

    Citations aside, my reaction is that the above are some of the best reader posts on climate policy issues that I have seen on this blog. Thanks to everyone for taking on this complex issue in a thoughtful and serious discussion.

  14. Anonymouse says:

    Citations forthcoming….but rest assured, I did not pull those comments out of my behind, so prepare yourself for disappointment.

  15. roselle says:

    If anyone thinks there will be an easy way to address climate change they are going to be very disappointed. It is simply easier and cheaper to deal with this problem now then to hold off taking the necessary steps to reduce our carbon footprint rather than to do nothing, which will make doing the right thing cost even more and which will make things even worse. The climate bill now making its way through Congress is a climate bill in name only, and will not accomplish enough quickly enough to make much of a difference. Yet it sets the stage for more urgent action by at least acknowledging the scope of the problem.
    Some people will never agree on the science of climate change and no amount of links, studies, melting glaciers or floods will convince them otherwise. But there is a growing international consensus not only among scientists and environmentalists, but from the world’s political leaders that we must do more. As badly flawed as it is, I hope this bill passes and we can begin immediately working on a newer stronger and more effective national climate policy.

  16. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Tom is right. And I’ve amended my previous comment — I’m not going to start deleting comments if they don’t include citations and links.

    But hey — if you’re throwing around data and numbers and studies, it’s only common courtesy to other Coal Tattoo readers to provide the links. So how about we all try to do so…

  17. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Oh, and everybody — no need to start throwing around allegations about who is pulling what numbers out of what parts of their body.

    Keep it clean.

  18. Red Desert says:

    Some of this information has been rattling around in my head, so, with that as my citation, here goes:

    The information Anonymouse posted is information I have seen many places. Much of it has been discussed right here on Coal Tattoo. If there is a citation for power plant costs of $3 billion/1000 MW, I would appreciate seeing that. It sounds high. I would say $1.75 billion w/0 CCS, unknown w/ CCS.

    Indeed, the energy requirements of CCS—10% to 40% of output are enormous. Take a mid-range figure of 25%. At 25%, the US would need to add a capacity of one-third to our existing electrical plants just to provide the power needed for capture and sequestration. That obviously will not work.

    (Related: When we discussed the recent MIT CCS study, no one commented on the costs in the study, $50 to $70 per ton! Or that it only figured to work for half of existing US coal power plants.)

    FactsFirst, could you give a citation or background for the wind and solar subsidies you quote? I don’t think there is disagreement that solar and wind have significant baseload issues. Still, California is down to 16% coal and up to 11% renewables. While folks in some places are arguing about coal vs wind, others have already made big changes:

    “As Wind Power Grows, a Push to Tear Down Dams”“environment/12bonneville.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=dams%20northwest%20salmon%20wind&st=cse

    W-M shovels billions to coal in free allowances and subsidized technology. It does way too much for coal and other industries for my taste. (In fact, I bet if Congress threatened to jettison the cap and trade portion, coal and other industries would suddenly be fighting to save it.) And I fear the reliance on offsets will render it ineffective.

    Some links I’d like to share:

    The conservative, Michael Gerson, Bush’s best-known speechwriter, defends the 8 Republicans who voted for W-M in the Washington Post.

    Ken cited the Paul Krugman op-ed in the Times on Monday. I think it’s also worth reading David Brooks (Tues) and Tom Friedman (Wed) as well. Brooks is a Republican. Both think global warming is serious. Both hate Waxman-Markey, both fault Obama to a degree, but come to different conclusions:

    For an overview of the give-aways in the bill, yet another NY Times article:

    “With Something for Everyone, Climate Bill Passed”

    How to get the bill through the Senate? The best argument against unilateral US action is that it would disadvantage our industries while doing little to reduce global emissions. What if the cap and trade parts of the bill are “triggered” (go into effect) by treaty or actions that commit the other nations to significant GHG reductions?

    Monica V

  19. Anonymouse says:

    Dave, I’m throwing my hat in with the “let’s accelerate the transition” crowd.

    As for those citations, in case folks have been waiting. I’ll re-quote key parts of my post and then provide the citation(s) that go with it:

    “the coal is running out in Central Appalachia and Wyoming, and every year, that coal becomes more costly to mine, and those higher costs are transferred onto us, the consumers.”

    First of all, I’ve performed my own calculations for this.

    Looking at data for labor productivity, represented as both tons-per-miner (tpm)and tons-per-miner-hour (tpmh), I found that West Virginia as a whole, and southern West Virginia in particular, both peaked for both of these indicators around 2000/2001. Ever since then, productivity has been declining, even as the state and the southern counties shifted dramatically toward the more efficient method of mining coal on the surface. As of 2008, it took about 1.8 underground miners to mine the same amount of coal as 1 surface miner, and this has been the lowest ratio ever (it was over 2:1 in the 90s). Anything over 1:1 underground miners to surface miners per tons produced, though, means that surface mining is more labor-productive, and so a shift to surface mining should result in an increase in labor productivity rather than a decrease. That hasn’t happened however.

    In all three of the following studies that I’m about to link, conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, Energy Watch Group and the United States Geological Survey, labor productivity is perceived as a strong marker of the economic recoverability of remaining coal reserves. So what my personal research shows, research that was done using basic calculations and data from state and federal sources, is that the coal reserves in West Virginia are dwindling. Since West Virginia coal production accounts for over 40% of Central Appalachian coal production, it stands as a good indicator of the status of Central Appalachian coal as a whole. Indeed, the same calculation for C. App labor productivity tells the same story.

    So here are the links to the accredited, federal studies and data sources:

    National Academy of Sciences, “Coal Research and Development to Support National Policy”:

    Chart showing peak in labor productivity for the U.S.:

    Quote from page 44 of the NAS study: “Looking further into the future, there is probably sufficient coal to meet the nation’s needs for more than 100 years at current production levels.” And that is a comment for the United States as a whole.

    From U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1625–C, 2001: “Sufficient high-quality, thick, bituminous resources remain in [major Appalachian Basin] coal beds and coal zones to last for the next one to two decades at current production. After these beds are mined, given current economic and environmental restrictions, Appalachian Basin coal production is expected to decline.”

    Link to that last quote, see page A3-A5 here:

    And if you remember, our own Rep. Nick Rahall seemed to be quoting from that very study only two months ago, saying that “the state’s most productive coal seams likely will be exhausted in 20 years. And while coal will remain an important part of the economy, the state should emphasize green job development. That, he said, is especially important as pressure against mountaintop mining increases.”

    That quote was originally reported in the State Journal here:

    And was again quoted on Ken’s blog about Peak Coal here:

    This trend is also supported by a study from the Energy Watch Group:
    • “Early signs in the USA for possible restrictions of future coal production can be concluded from the facts, that
    o (1) The productivity of mines in terms of produced tons per miner was steadily increasing until 2000, but has declined since then, and that
    o (2) The bituminous coal production had already peaked around 1990 and is in decline now. Also specific productivity per miner has been declining since about 2000.
    o (3) An indication of imminent problems with future coal production is that the USA has recently switched from a net exporting to a net importing country of steam coal (Kalavov 2007). “

    Same Energy Watch Group report, citing a 2006 study conducted by BP Energy: “The growing share of lower quality coal is the reason why total coal production in terms of energy content peaked in 1998 at 598.4 Mtoe and has since declined to 576.2 Mtoe in 2005 in spite of the continuous rise in produced volumes (BP 2006).”

    You can see that growing share of lower quality (and thus lower energy content), in the chart provided on page 31 of that above report. That same chart supports my second comment:

    “Secondly, not only is that coal becoming more costly to mine, we have to burn more of it in order to generate an equal amount of electricity this year than we did last year. This is evident by the decline in bituminous coal being burned in the U.S. for electricity and the increasing share of coal production and consumption coming from the lower btu sub-bituminous and lignite coal. Thus, we have to buy more coal every year per kilowatt-hour generated.”

    Which is scary because….(as the Nat’l Academy reports on page 6 here,…

    “As mining extracts coal from deeper and operationally more difficult seams by both surface and underground methods, a range of existing environmental issues and concerns will be exacerbated, and new concerns—particularly related to greater disturbance of hydrologic systems, ground subsidence, and waste management at mines and preparation plants—are likely to arise.

    Almost certainly, coals mined in the future will be lower quality because current mining practices result in higher-quality coal being mined first,6 leaving behind lower-quality material (e.g., with higher ash yield, higher sulfur, and/or higher concentrations of potentially harmful elements). The consequences of relying on poorer-quality coal for the future include (1) higher mining costs (e.g., the need for increased tonnage to generate an equivalent amount of energy, greater abrasion of mining equipment); (2) transportation challenges (e.g., the need to transport increased tonnage for an equivalent amount of energy); (3) beneficiation challenges (e.g., the need to reduce ash yield to acceptable levels, the creation of more waste); (4) pollution control challenges (e.g., capturing higher concentrations of particulates, sulfur, and trace elements; dealing with increased waste disposal); and (5) environmental and health challenges.”

    And I guess I haven’t addressed Western Coal from the Powder River Basin yet, but the same trends show up in the USGS report on PRB coal reserves. There is a great summary of the results of studies related to PRB coal here:

    That one is written by a great researcher in Joseph Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and it includes links to the quotes he provides from available studies.

    And just for fun, even as we’ve increased our production of coal, take a look at this page to see what’s happened with coal mining:

    160,000 coal miners in the U.S. as recently as 1985, and even over 130,000 as recently as 1990. Less than 80,000 total coal miners in the United States now – a decline of over 50,000 in just the past 19 years.

    As for the data sources from which I have conducted my own analyses:

    Energy Information Administration, “Annual Coal Report”, for the years 1990-2007 (yeah, I had to go through each report and extract the data year by year). You can find those reports here:

    Look under “Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type” and “Average Number of Employees by State and Mine Type.” Copy the date into a spreadsheet, then divide the production by the number of employees and you get “tons-per-miner” for each year, once you’ve collected the data for each year. Then chart that data.

    Another good data source comes from WV’s own Office of Mine Safety and Health, and I’ve conducted the same calculations from that data, which isn’t far off the EIA data:

    Again, collect, copy and analyze. You’ll get the exact same results as I did, and you can even do it by county (and still get the same results). EIA also provides county data.

    A third data source I’ve used, which the EIA also gets most of its data from, is the federal Mine, Safety and Health Administration, which collects data from the coal-producing states and companies. You have to ask MSHA to provide you that data though, but they will, all the way back to 1983, and analyzing the data that far back shows an even better picture of the peak in labor productivity.

    And finally, if you want to do the same calculation with data for WV going all the way back to the 1880s, copy and analyze the data here:

    I hope that was enough citations. It only gets me through half my original post though, so more to come…

  20. Anonymouse says:

    This is my second post providing citations for my original one, so see the first of such citation posts above:

    For my original quote: “So, just continuing to rely on coal, by itself, is resulting in greater electricity costs. Just ask consumers of electricity in both West Virginia and Ohio, who are provided their electricity by AEP. AEP has requested (and in Ohio, received) record rate increases, with the reasoning that such rate increases were required in order to recoup unexpected costs of higher prices for coal over the past few years. Just imagine the rate increases they’ll be asking for three years from now after the price of coal has risen even more.”

    Turns out AEP is asking for rate increases all over the place:

    AEP West Virginia Rate Increase:

    AEP Ohio Rate Increase:

    AEP Virginia Rate Increase:

    and my original quote: “The estimated price tag for a new ‘conventional’ coal-fired power plant is around $3 Billion for a 1,000 MW power plant. Add on the price tag for CCS and you increase that price tag by about $1 Billion or more according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Again, we’ll be paying for that.”

    For that one, see the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “Increasing Costs in Electric Markets,” slide/page 11 here:

    That slide gives a development cost range for conventional coal-fired power plants at around $1,500 to $4,000 per kilowatt of new generation, which equates to $1.5-4.0 Million per Megawatt, or $1.5 Billion to $4 Billion for a 1,000 MW plant. So perhaps my number was a bit high there. Using a real-world example of a new plant being built in NC, the Duke Energy Cliffside 800MW coal-fired power plant unit. The cost of that plant is now at $2.4 Billion (as of May 2007), for 800MW, or $3 Billion per 1,000 MW. So perhaps I wasn’t off after all.

    Here’s a link to a story about that:

    Now, that same FERC report actually didn’t estimate the additional costs of developing CCS, but lets look at the additional cost of taking just one step up from conventional and developing an Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle Plant. That same slide noted above shows that the cost range for IGCC is $2.8 – $5.8 Million per MW, or anywhere between $1.3 and $4.3 Million more per MW (or $1.3 – $4.3 Billion more per 1,000MW) than conventional coal plants. For CCS however, there is a real world example to look at, but it requires making an assumption of just how much CO2 reduction we’re aiming for.

    As folks may know, AEP just received a permit to develop a pilot CCS project at their Mountaineer plant:

    The permit application for that plant says that the pilot project aims to capture 1% of the plant’s emissions, at a cost of $70 Million. So how about we look at 20% carbon capture, seems like a good number to start with, but far short of what global climate scientists say we need to get to. Even so, based on the AEP example, if it costs $70 million to capture 1%, then it will cost $1.4 Billion to capture and sequester 20% of Mountaineer’s CO2 emissions. Rough calculation, and a lot of variables to consider that I haven’t here, but I think the picture I created in my first post is pretty concrete by now.

    I hope folks are going back to read it in order to re-think their initial reactions and instead perhaps absorb the implications of my conclusions and what it means about what type of energy development we want to support, as citizens and as fellow humans.

    There’s still one last biggie that I’ve left uncited – the extra amount of energy required to power the CCS process (which i quoted as b/w 10-40%) and that one is going to require some digging but I know I have the research somewhere. If anyone else out there has it, please save me the time. Otherwise, be patient with me on that one, but you’ll get it.

  21. Anonymouse says:

    So, final citation. About that 10-40% extra energy requirement with CCS, here’s the official quote:

    “A power plant equipped with a CCS system (with access to geological or ocean storage) would need roughly 10–40% more energy than a plant of equivalent output without CCS, of which most is for capture and compression.”

    Taken from page 4 of the IPCC report on CCS here:

    So now that I’ve cited just about all my assertions, I figured I’d re-post part of my final comment, as related to the original intent of this whole blog:

    “Bringing this full circle, CCS requires more coal that is increasingly more costly to mine and has increasingly lower heat contents. What I’d like to know is , taking all of these factors into account, how much extra we, the consumers, will have to pay for a kilowatt-hour of coal-fired electricity 5, 10, 20 and 30 years from now (a point in time which even WV’s own Nick Rahall says will be when the most productive coal seams have been mined out) because our leaders today decided to facilitate an increase in the consumption of coal through the laughably mis-named “climate bill.”

  22. Dave Bassage says:

    For the record, last night I attempted to post citations supporting my earlier posts, but somehow they got tangled up in Ken’s spam filter. Hopefully he’ll be able to rescue them and add them here, at which time this post should be rightfully deleted. If not, I’ve got them saved and could share them again.

    Excellent discussion, everyone.

  23. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Nothing in the spam filter from you. I’d suggest you try posting again.

    Thanks to Anonymouse for posting a ton of citations, links and backup information — lots of stuff for everyone to chew on.


  24. Dave Bassage says:

    I’m not sure what the problem is. Whenever I try to post my links I either get a spam filter or duplicate message response. Suggestions?

  25. progress is good says:

    Well you all make great points but actually the price of coal is going down and this is due to the economy crashing. The reason AEP and others where paying higher prices for coal is that China was in their industrial revolution shall we say and was buying all the coal up along with recyclables and medals. That is the major reason the price was up on all of them. But now since the price is down most non union coal companies have cut production Massie for instance has cut employee wages 5% and cut them back to 30 hours a week at some locations. Why? So they can cut cost and still make a huge profit on the product. Make no mistake about it they are sitting on the coal to drive the price up. This sitting on the coal is causing layoffs in the rail and transport industries also, CSX laid off thousands of workers here just recently because Massie is setting on their reserves for more profit and they don’t have anything to haul. But Massie doesn’t tell the employee’s that, they blame it on the environmentalist or cap and trade but really it is greed. We tend to under estimate companies like Massie but really they are a lot smarter than they seem to be and they give a lot of good CCS and Coal companies who are trying to improve on pollution and technology a bad name. We need cap and trade and to make more progress with coal and CCS to renewable energy in the future as the technology improves. We also need to implement more regulation on resource squatting and no matter if it is CCS or renewable energy it needs to be mined or manufactured here in the good old USA. We don’t need to be buying coal for CCS or renewable from other countries we need to put Americans back to work.

  26. Red Desert says:

    Amazing posts, thanks Anonymouse.

    Dave B–Try posting from a different computer. Perhaps you can e-mail your post to a friend and they can post it for you.

  27. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Posted on behalf of DAVE BASSAGE, because my admin system seems to be eating his comments …

    Apologies, Ken, for not backing up my numbers.

    Here\’s a link to a graph that illustrates the \’98 spike and relative temperatures from 1850 to 2008:

    The actual global warming petition project can be found here:

    currently claiming 31, 478 signatories. All anyone has to do is print off the short signatory card, check off that you have a batchelors degree or higher in math, forestry, computer science, or anything else at all science related and send it in. There is no evidence that credentials are ever checked. For analysis of this project, go here:

    For renewable energy cost trends, go here:

    For fossil fuel energy cost trends, I was unable to find a simple graph like my renewable energy link, but if you dig hard enough you can find data here:

    A reasonable starting point to explore energy subsidies is here:

    An analysis of the rejected EPA climate change report is here:

    and a draft of the report itself is here:

    Of special interest is the response to that report by the RealClimate folks.

    If you read through both it and the posts responding to it you get a real sense of the frustration scientists who rigorously practice the scientific method feel when asked to debate on a peer level skeptics who they feel don\’t even understand the very basic tenets of science.

    I understand their frustration, but somehow a means needs to be found to translate the complexities of climate science into language and simple explanations the general public can grasp. Al Gore has tried to do this, but he is such a polarizing figure that much of what he says gets rejected out of hand. I wish I knew the answer.

    I think that covers it, and I\’ll be sure to pay closer attention to supporting my assertions with links in the future.

    Dave Bassage.

  28. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Wow. Lots of great comments and tons of links.

    Did I hear Tom Rodd volunteer to summarize it all for us?

  29. Scott 14 says:

    Progress is good, If we are to regulate “resources squatting” lets start with the federal goverment. Federal owned lands contain some of the largest reserves of coal, oil and natural gas in the country, either on shore or off. Companys that are listed on a stock exchange are responsible to there share holders to turn maximum profit. If that means to “sit” on reserves then so be it. Why don’t I see this “regulate them to death” talk when GM or IBM cut production in a down economy.

  30. Anonymouse says:

    Renewables and Energy Efficiency = Progress

    Coal, Oil and other Fossil Fuels = Regress

    Adam Smith, the “Father of Economics,” said: “The progressive state is in reality the cheerful and the hearty state to all the different orders of the society; the stationary is dull; the declining melancholy.”

    Come to the coalfields, and see which of these “states,” after over 150 years of timber, natural gas and coal extraction, describes the region the best. I’m gonna go with melancholy.

  31. Casey says:

    Man, I think it took me 2 hours to read all of this and look at all of the links. My head is spinning. I’d like to be able to fast forward 10 years and have a better feel on all of these issues. Making decisions with available knowledge is always a constraint but the status quo is always a option and sometimes the best decision for certain choices.

    I spent time yesterday (7/4) reading the declaration of independence, the bill of rights and related subjects. I just hope my fears, that the ideals and strength of this country have peaked and are on the decline, is unfounded and false. The world is a scary place.

    James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994) — Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

  32. ClimateDriver says:

    Ummmm, so what happened to my comment from Monday, July the 6th 2009?

    Is forbidden from being mentioned here?

    Anyway, I hope this comment makes it through the censor.

  33. Dave Bassage says:

    My only concern with climatedebatedaily is that no attempt is made to differentiate peer reviewed science from a wide range of opinion pieces, leaving the reader with the impression that mainstream science is far less resolved on the climate change issue than is actually the case.

    If all one is interested in is perusing a range of points of view, whether backed up by valid science or not, it’s a reasonable source. I fear, though, that such a site only reinforces the misperception that controversy rages in the climate science community as to the existence or climate change and/or whether humans play a role in a warming planet.

  34. […] Their opposition came even as Rick Boucher (D-Va.), another reliable coal booster, hailed it as a boon for the industry. The new coal caucus seems to be much more about saving face with the coal industry and than […]

  35. […] interests are big employers in Boucher’s district. He backed the climate change bill aftersecuring amendments to make sure that coal usage would continue to grow between now and 2020 even if the bill became law. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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