Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Morgan Griffith on Coal-Fired Electricity

Shortly after I'd read an e-mail, or e-wail, from North Carolina about another community losing its drinking water to pollution, this time from a coal-powered electricity plant, this popped up in Congressman Morgan Griffith's E-Newsletter:

"Energy Policy: “All of the Above” or a “Hope and a Prayer?”

Early February, groundhog and weather forecaster Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter.  Given the weather we’ve seen since then, it seems to me that, this year, he was right.

A recent Politico story entitled “Icy blast heats up coal debate” quotes Ms. Laura Sheehan, senior vice president of communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, as having said, “This year’s historically cold winter has served as a crystal ball into our future, revealing the energy cost and electric reliability threats posed by the Obama Administration’s overreliance on a more narrow fuel source portfolio that excludes the use of coal.”

Like many other industries, the coal industry has experienced natural ups and downs throughout the years.  But market forces are not the only issue here.  Instead, I believe government bureaucrats have decided the coal industry isn’t something that they like, so they’re going to try to regulate it out of business.  This cripples coal communities like many of those in the Ninth District.

As we all know, when the work stops below the ground in communities like these, life above ground is impacted as well.  Many businesses suffer when they are no longer able to sell supplies to the coal mines, and others when coal miners don’t have money to spend in their communities.

There is also the impact of the reduction and/or closure of plants that produce our electricity.  In Russell County, for example, Appalachian Power is converting two of the three generating units of the Clinch River Plant from coal-fired to natural gas-fired, and is shutting down the third unit.  Appalachian’s President and Chief Operating Officer Charles Patton said in a news release that this is because “…they are not equipped to meet recently approved and anticipated environmental requirements...”  And American Electric Power’s plant in Giles County’s Glen Lyn is scheduled to shut down by the end of this year because of new regulations.  "If the town lost all of that revenue," Glen Lyn Town Manager Howard Spencer told the Associated Press in 2011, "we would struggle to even continue to be incorporated."

Further, Politico reports that during the recent cold spell, “Wholesale electricity prices have spiked in regions such as New England, natural gas costs have surged with demand in Boston and Chicago, and power companies in Texas and Eastern states have had to urge residents to cut back.  Some utilities have even been shifting, yes, back to coal.”

But the ability to shift back to coal won’t be as easy with all of the regulations that begin in 2015 and beyond.  As Politico noted, “…many of the older coal-fired power plants that have helped fill the gap this winter are due to shut down next year because of the Obama Administration’s environmental rules.”

In that same Politico story, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is quoted as asking, “Maybe we won’t have cold periods like we’re seeing next year [and] we’ll be OK.  But what kind of a policy is that?  A hope and a prayer?”

I will continue fighting for real, reliable all-of-the-above energy policy, not a “hope and a prayer.”

Oh, the decisions...who'd be a Congressman? The position of this web site is that "all of the above" is the most reasonable route to a sensible "energy policy"...but this web site would particularly like to see more use of homemade energy, such as bicycle- and exercise-machine-powered generators.