he U.S. coal power plant fleet has been shrinking for years, with the official tally of coal plants closed exceeding those still open as of late last year. Another 43 gigawatts, or about 18 percent of the remaining 249 gigawatts of capacity, is expected to close by 2030. Absent “market interventions at a grand scale” — such as the Trump administration’s plan to force utilities to buy uncompetitive coal-fired power under the mandate of national security — the same trends are accelerating beyond current estimates, and could lead to the country’s coal fleet being nearly halved again by 2030. These are some of the conclusions of a note released this week by the research firm Rhodium Group. According to its analysis, while “the Department of Energy contemplates action to prop up ailing coal and nuclear plants, low natural-gas prices and cheap renewables have the potential to drive far more coal off the grid.”
A major coal company had plans to save one of the West's largest coal plants from closing. It just needed help from the Trump administration. So in September 2017, Peabody Energy Corp. sent the Interior Department a game plan for keeping the 2,100-megawatt coal-burning behemoth in Arizona rumbling. The company's mine supplies coal to the plant.Included on the coal company's wish list was eliminating environmental requirements for reducing haze. Peabody also asked the government to push the plant's largest customer to continue buying its electricity instead of renewable energy. Together, that could help prevent the plant from shuttering years ahead of schedule, the company told administration officials.It seemed to find supporters in Washington, D.C."I think these are reasonable requests that don't put us at risk," Scott J. Cameron, Interior's principal deputy assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, wrote in a September email to his boss, Assistant Deputy Secretary James Cason.It was originally scheduled to run until 2044. Then, last year, four utilities with an ownership stake in the facility voted to shut it down at the end of 2019, citing competition from natural gas.The plant's fate might have been sealed if not for the federal government. The Bureau of Reclamation owns a 24 percent share in the plant, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made personal appeals to keep it open
A federal judge in Montana on Wednesday ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review of a revised route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, possibly delaying the project’s construction and dealing the latest setback for Canada’s TransCanada Corp
As the fracking boom matures, the drilling industry's use of water and other fluids to produce oil and natural gas has grown dramatically in the past several years, outstripping the growth of the fossil fuels it produces. A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances says the trend—a greater environmental toll than previously described—results from recent changes in drilling practices as drillers compete to make new wells more productive. For example, well operators have increased the length of the horizontal portion of wells drilled through shale rock where rich reserves of oil and gas are locked up.They also have significantly increased the amount of water, sand and other materials they pump into the wells to hydraulically fracture the rock and thus release more hydrocarbons trapped within the shale.The amount of water used per well in fracking jumped by as much as 770 percent, or nearly 9-fold, between 2011 and 2016, the study says. Even more dramatically, wastewater production in each well's first year increased up to 15-fold over the same years.
For policymakers interested in getting innovative energy bills signed into law, the nation’s capital is the last place to be, a former U.S. governor told the Midwest’s legislators in July. Instead, he said, go to Springfield, Lansing or the many other state capitals where policy breakthroughs have occurred.“We haven’t had comprehensive federal legislation since 2007, so what do we do? We turn to the states,” said Bill Ritter, currently the director of Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy.At any given time, Ritter noted during a session of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, his center is tracking up to 4,500 state-level energy bills. Legislatures not only are brimming with new ideas, he added, but they remain a place where compromises can be forged — across party lines and among competing stakeholder groups.“There may be partisanship at the state level, but it is oftentimes not intractable,” Ritter said. “It’s not the kind of partisanship where conversations break down.”Michigan and Illinois provide two cases in point. Lawmakers there successfully built support for measures (SB 437 and 438 in Michigan, and SB 2814 in Illinois) that are now viewed as cornerstones of the two states’ energy futures.
Mention alternative energy, and rooftop solar panels and electric vehicles may come to mind. But in Colorado, a disproportionate share of jobs in that emerging part of the economy are tied to wind turbines and biofuels, according to a new report from the business group Advanced Energy Economy. The alternative energy sector, or what the industry is now calling advanced energy, employs 3.2 million people in the United States, including 62,800 people in Colorado, a number close to Grand Junction’s population, according to the report.The biggest category in Colorado and across the country involves energy efficiency, with the bulk of those jobs on the installation side, i.e. construction trades, and to a lesser degree in research and manufacturing.
In today’s Digest, spider silk applications including football helmets and hearing aids, biobased products from bellybutton bacteria, Elon Musk biobased surfboards, all the taste with half the sugar, cellulose in paints, edible cutlery, organic burial, 3D printing and more ready for you now at The Digest online.
A North Carolina project harnessing gas from hog manure for use in a Duke Energy power plant was billed as a breakthrough when it came online in March. Now, supporters of the state’s fledgling biogas industry fear an order from state regulators will make the Duplin County venture a one-off.The ruling suspends new renewable natural gas projects, which purify methane captured from waste and inject it into pipelines, where it’s blended with conventional gas and burned to generate power.The technique isn’t the only way to convert waste-derived methane to electricity, but experts say it’s the most economical and essential for jumpstarting a biogas industry that’s struggled to gain a foothold here.The June ruling blindsided renewable energy developers, farmers, and other parties, who say regulators’ concerns about low-quality gas lack evidence. They also contend the three-year delay will make it impossible for utilities to meet a state mandate for swine-waste-to-energy.
The Trump administration’s plan to roll back federal car standards promises to be a major fight with California and other liberal states. But it’s also opposed by at least one state that voted for President Trump. Arizona wants to maintain the aggressive standards established under former President Obama to avoid future regulations on air pollution, said Timothy Franquist, air quality director for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). His office opposes Trump’s plan to freeze the standards at 2020 levels.“We are going to talk the language of both aisles that this is bad for the health, bad for the economy,” Franquist said of the president’s plan.
The number of coal jobs edged down in Kentucky between April and the end of June, illustrating the continued struggles of the industry despite President Donal Trump’s campaign promise to “put our miners back to work.” Statewide, the number of coal jobs averaged 6,238, according to a report published this week by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. That was down 0.9 percent from the first three months of the year, but it was 4.8 percent less than the same period in 2017, the report said. Jobs were down in both the state’s coalfields.Production also tailed off as summer approached — down 4.2 percent statewide from the first quarter, 2.5 percent in Western Kentucky and 6.3 percent in Eastern Kentucky.