Where Now?

In EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017, the reference case assumes the impacts of the Clean Power Plan and shows coal production declining to 619 MMst in 2040. An alternate case without the Clean Power Plan maintains coal at 861 MMst in 2040. The National Mining Association has estimated that 27,700 high-wage mining jobs and an additional 99,849 jobs throughout the supply chain will be saved without the Clean Power Plan.

Coal producers are buoyed by support from the administration and are looking to the long term. They appreciate Perry’s leadership in commissioning the electric grid study and the attention to fuel diversity and energy security issues. Investment dollars are returning to the coal sector and the producers point to advanced coal-fired generation as one of the keys to the future, whether it is in the form of new HELE (high efficiency/low emission) power plants as at Longview in West Virginia or through the development and commercialization of CCUS (carbon capture utilization and storage) as the path forward.

In his recent keynote address at the ACC Coal Market Strategies conference, Peabody President and CEO Glenn Kellow stated that more than 800 GW of HELE technology is either already online or is under construction around the world. He noted that a large HELE plant has the benefit of removing one million cars from the road compared to older plants. He discussed the progress on carbon capture, with 21 such projects in operation or under construction around the world.

Other producer views of the future emphasize solving for carbon, and the role of the federal government. “[They can] develop policies that address Americans’ legitimate concerns about climate and CO2, all while protecting coal jobs, communities and coal revenue-dependent states like Wyoming from the devastating consequences of the failed policies of the Obama era,” said Rick Curtsinger of Cloud Peak Energy, in a recent interview with the Casper Star Tribune. “They can do so while utilizing policies like carbon capture that are part of the same overwhelming scientific and economic consensus that environmental activists base their call to action on.”

In addressing CCUS prospects with other media, Curtsinger said, “We are hopeful that Congress will support the further development and commercialization of the carbon capture technology that we believe is necessary for coal to be able to play a long-term role in providing secure, reliable and affordable electricity while addressing concerns about CO2 and climate.”

In a New York Times article earlier this year, Peabody, Cloud Peak Energy and Arch Coal representatives addressed the future of coal and carbon-capture coal technology. “We need a low carbon fossil energy solution,” Arch Coal’s Deck Slone told the Times. “The political landscape is always shifting and certainly carbon concerns are not going away. We think there is a solution out there in the form of technology that is an answer to the climate challenge and, quite frankly, will be good for our business long-term.”