As a fuel source, coal is a different product from what it was in past decades. Specifically, it is much cleaner. Yet, as always, it is much cheaper and more reliable than renewables such as wind and solar. In the generation of electricity, its real competition is natural gas.
In short, coal looks to remain a mainstay in the domestic energy mix and bodes to help defeat the Malthusian anti-energy crusade.
In a recent edition of EnergyBiz Magazine, Lee Buchsbaum reports on a 1,600 megawatt plant now being built in Illinois by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly traded coal-mining company. When completed in 2012, the project will satisfy the power needs of as many as 2.4 million homes in nine or more states. The giant greenfield plant is a real stimulus plan that helps consumers and injects taxes rather than uses taxes. Reports Buchsbaum:
The site, now more than 10 percent complete, provides work for more than 1,200 manual laborers engaged in round-the-clock construction and sees constant earth-moving for the adjacent mine…. Over time, the project will inject some $2.8 billion into the Illinois economy, mostly downstate. It will create 2,300 to 2,500 temporary construction jobs and perhaps 500 permanent positions among the power plant, coal mine and other assets.
And on the environmental front:
PSE will be one of, if not the “cleanest advanced pulverized coal plant in the U.S. fleet,” said [project CEO Peter] DeQuattro. “We’ll feature state-of-the-art pollution controls, wet and dry electrostatic precipitators, nitrogen oxide scrubbers and limestone scrubbers for SO2 removal and for mercury.”
With its enhanced thermodynamics, PSE actually will be emitting 80 percent less than most existing power plants and will be 15 percent more CO2 efficient than any other similar existing power plant. “When you take into consideration our adjacent fuel source, total emissions from the plant will be virtually cut in half,” said DeQuattro.
At the end of the day, “Prairie State’s environmental profile prevailed in the courts of law and public opinion,” said Rick A. Bowen, Peabody senior vice president of Btu conversion and strategic planning, largely because “each environmental review brought stronger affirmation of Prairie State’s advanced environmental controls. . . .”
“We believe that what we are doing could be an example for future power projects, be they coal fired, nuclear or green,” says [board chairman Raj G.] Rao. . . . “Once we do this, we will have the confidence that you can go bigger.”
And Obama … How about coal politics in the new administration? As reported in the Wall Street Journal a while back, in the article, “Coal Industry Digs Itself Out of a Hole in the Capitol [sic],” energy realism is creeping into President Obama’s energy and climate strategies.
The take in the story is expressed in the article’s subtitle: “Support From EPA, Energy Nominees Signals Obama Team Headed Toward Center on Matter of Fossil Fuels and Carbon Emissions.” The article states:
Despite a well-funded ad campaign by environmentalists attacking the industry, and a huge coal-ash spill in Tennessee that has led to calls for more regulation, the [coal] industry has received positive assurances this week from President-elect Barack Obama’s nominees that the new administration is committed to keeping coal a big part of the nation’s energy source.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, described coal to a Senate panel as “a vital resource” for the country. A day earlier, Mr. Obama’s nominee to run the Energy Department, physicist Steven Chu, referred to coal as a “great natural resource.” Two years ago, he called the expansion of coal-fired power plants his “worst nightmare.”
Coal has a future, a really big future.
Note: Lee Buchsbaum’s article is in EnergyBiz Insider, published three days a week by Energy Central. For more information about Energy Central, or to subscribe to EnergyBiz Insider, other e-newsletters and EnergyBiz magazine, please go to http://www.energycentral.com/.