Following a week of record-setting low temperatures, the importance of reliable, abundant and inexpensive energy is now more obvious than ever. It was certainly appropriate that the 2017 National Security Strategy, released on Dec. 18, three days before the start of winter, emphasized energy security.
To “Promote American prosperity,” one of the vital national interests identified in the NSS, the strategy asserts that “our Nation must take advantage of our wealth in domestic resources.” One of the most important of its domestic resources, which America is no longer taking full advantage of, is its vast coal reserves.
Testifying on Nov. 28 at the Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearing on the withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan in Charleston, West Virginia, Robert E. Murray, president and CEO of Murray Energy Corp., summarized the situation: “Prior to the election of President Obama, 52 percent of America’s electricity was generated from coal, and this rate was much higher in the Midwest. That percentage of coal generation declined under the Obama administration to 30 percent. Under the Obama administration, and its so-called Clean Power Plan, over 400 coal-fired generating plants totaling over 100,000 megawatts of capacity were closed with no proven environmental benefit whatsoever.”
Former President Barack Obama’s dedication to the climate scare contributed significantly to coal’s decline. Besides the impact of the Clean Power Plan, coal has been hammered as a result of a 2015 EPA rule that limits carbon dioxide emissions on new coal-fired power stations. The result is that the U.S. can no longer build modern, clean and efficient coal plants to replace older stations, as is happening in Europe, China and India. Here’s why:
The 2015 EPA rule, entitled “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions From New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units,” limits CO2 emissions on new coal-fired stations to 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity generated. The EPA maintained that supercritical pulverized coal stations could achieve this standard if they captured “about 20 percent of its carbon pollution.”
By calling CO2 “carbon pollution,” the Obama EPA encouraged the public to think of the gas as dirty, like graphite or soot, which really are carbon. Calling CO2 by its proper name, carbon dioxide, would have helped people remember that it is actually beneficial, an invisible, odorless gas essential to plant photosynthesis. And many scientists do not support the hypothesis that our CO2 emissions will cause dangerous climate change.
Regardless, the technology of CO2 capture on a full-scale power plant is still a technological fantasy. So the EPA regulation was actually banning the construction of even the latest, very clean coal-fired stations because their CO2 emissions are at least 20 percent above the EPA limit.
Considering that the U.S. has 22.1 percent of the world’s proven coal reserves, the greatest of any country and enough to last for 381 years at current consumption rates, it is a tragedy that America can no longer build modern coal-fired power stations to replace its aging fleet. Clearly, the rule limiting CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power stations must be canceled as soon as possible.
The Obama administration’s 2015 NSS listed “Climate change” ahead of “Major energy market disruptions” in its “list of top strategic risks to our interests.” That made no sense. “Arresting climate change,” to quote from Obama’s NSS, is not possible. Climate is, and always will be, variable. There is nothing we can do to stop it. President Donald Trump was right to make only passing reference to climate change in the 2017 NSS.
To ensure energy security and “restore America’s advantages in the world and build upon our country’s great strengths,” (re-NSS fact sheet), the Trump administration must continue to promote coal. And to effectively boost coal, the climate alarm must be thoroughly debunked.
Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.
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