Coal’s CCS – Change, Challenge and Sustainability

Rule-making for a federal agency should be just as rigorous as law-making is for Congress. Agencies should not by default have the ability to harm industries and destroy jobs while their regulations are being challenged in the courts – think EPA MATS. And while the recent unprecedented Supreme Court ruling to stay EPA’s Clean Power Plan is encouraging, shouldn’t there be an automatic stay of high-impact regulations? The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of regulation, and the new administration and congress must change course to right the wrongs created by these regulatory forces.

Along with that, our elected and appointed officials must address energy policy in ways that effectively recognize America’s energy abundance and opportunity. This must include coal, which is conspicuously off of the following list of recent energy policy developments:

  1. FERC and DOE have been approving LNG export terminals, and the first LNG export shipment occurred in February 2016.
  2. Congress lifted the 40-year ban on oil exports in December 2015. Within weeks, oil exports commenced.
  3. Congress extended incentives for renewable energy in December 2015 – the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar and the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind. GTM Research has projected that the ITC will help to facilitate $130 billion in solar investment by 2020, with more than $40 billion of that directly attributable to the ITC extension.

Support for coal is critically needed and well-justified. Consider the strong record of progress in reducing U.S. coal power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. The coal fleet reduced these emissions by 92% per kWh through 2015. Over 90% of the electric power sector’s coal generating capacity has installed advanced emissions controls that reduce these emissions and additionally emissions of mercury, acid gases, and non-mercury metals. Industry investments of $111 billion were made through 2015 to facilitate these emissions improvements.

This progress must not be stalled, and these investments must not be stranded. Yet that is where regulatory initiatives are intended to take us, whether from EPA or the Department of the Interior. Coal mining and coal consumption are under dual assault. Not only do these all pain – no gain regulations need to be rolled back, but policy support for advanced coal technologies needs to move forward.

The disparity is glaring. For example, government support for renewables dwarfs support for carbon capture and storage technology. In its 2015 report “Leveling the Playing Field – Policy Parity for Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies” for the Secretary of Energy, the National Coal Council found that renewables received $37 billion in tax credits and incentives over the period 2010-2014, while carbon capture and storage received only $1 billion.

Tax credits for wind and solar have been successful in lowering the costs of these technologies, enabling their growth and deployment, and setting them on course to become self-sustaining industries. Widespread state renewable programs and mandates have also been instrumental for the development of renewables. “All of the above” including coal is the right energy policy for America. Unlike other countries with fewer energy resources and more limited energy choices, our nation has the advantage of diverse and abundant energy resources. We have the means to embrace “all of the above” and we need the political will to do so. Then coal’s CCS – change, challenge, and sustainability – can be better balanced for the benefit of our industry and our nation.

References

  1. Kovacs, W., “Controlling Federal Regulatory Overreach,” American Coal Council Coal Market Strategies Conference, August 10, 2016.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Lacey, S., “Congress Passes Tax Credits for Solar and Wind: ‘Sausage-Making at Its Most intense’, December 18, 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2016 from http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/breaking-house-passes-1.1-trillion-spending-bill-with-renewableenergy-tax
  4. American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, “Coal Facts”, March 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2016 from http://www.americaspower.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/03/Coal-FactsMarch-2016.pdf
  5. National Coal Council, “Leveling the Playing Field – Policy Parity for Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies”, November 2015. Retrieved August 13, 2016 from http://www.nationalcoalcouncil.org/page-NCCStudies.html