One promise Obama is keeping: Killing coal so energy prices will skyrocket!

EPA-mandated carbon capture scheme wastes energy, costs way too much, and does not even work!

Am I missing something? Now, as the UN’s IPCC frantically attempts to explain how its alarmist predictions based upon theoretical climate models got it so wrong, the EPA has issued a new regulatory assault on coal to prevent…yup…a climate crisis. And the solution? Well, the problem is, that is if there really ever had been a problem at all, that while it is mandated, it hasn’t been invented yet.

And just why did EPA ever think they needed a nonexistent solution in the first place? Very simply, because the IPCC told them so…even though their own internal study on the matter concluded otherwise.

If you’re having some difficulties following this so far, you’re not alone. I am too, but I’ll still try to explain it anyway, just as if it really made any sense.

It all started with a promise…

We might perhaps remember that during a January 17, 2008, interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama warned in pushing a carbon cap-and-trade agenda, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted…That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.”

He went on: “The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a (sic) ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.”

obamaflagsCandidate Obama also told the Chronicle editorial board: “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Coal-powered plants, you know, natural gas, you name it, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”

Have no doubt that he meant it, and he had just the agency in mind to carry out that commitment. On Dec. 7, 2009, his EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed two distinct findings that advanced its reach. One was an “Endangerment Finding,” which found that current and projected atmospheric concentrations of six greenhouse gases (including CO2) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” This was based upon global warming crisis projections put forth by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC alarmism that Jackson admitted the agency’s finding was based upon was refuted at the time by EPA’s own “Internal Study on Climate” report conclusions. That report, authored by my friend Alan Carlin, a senior research analyst at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics, stated: “…given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based upon a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.”

Then, in arguably the greatest bureaucratic overreach of all time, upon claiming that carbon dioxide is a “pollutant” subject to regulation under its Clean Air Act, the EPA declared war on emissions from stationary sources on the premise that it causes unhealthy climate change. Try to explain that to your begonias and those rain forests that depend upon the stuff.

On September 18, Lisa Jackson’s replacement as EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, was invited to explain President Obama’s “Climate Plan” war on CO2 to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who, presumably, had human as well as critter and plant interests in mind. I recently wrote about a notable exchange that took place between McCarthy and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R, KS) asked her if EPA greenhouse gas regulations would be expected to impact any of 26 outcome indicators defined on their website.

At one point Pompeo asked: “Do you think it would be reasonable to take the regulations you promulgated and link them to those 26 indicators that you have on your website? That this is how they impacted us?”

McCarthy responded: “It is unlikely that any specific one step is going to be seen as having a visible impact on any of those impacts — a visible change in any of those impacts. What I’m suggesting is that climate change [policy] has to be a broader array of actions that the U.S. and other folks in the international community take that make significant effort towards reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating the impacts of climate change.”

I don’t know about you, but human or plant, I find that answer unconvincing about serving my welfare in any convincing manner.

And what are those impacts of climate change that require mitigation?

Given that “climate change” has been going on for millions of years, “mitigating” it is going to be a very tall order. Besides, consider that all of that mitigation, even if it could be accomplished, might bring about conditions that are a whole lot worse. For example, what if that 17-year-long global warming pause we have been experiencing turned cold again as occurred during the “Little Ice Age” between about 1400-1859AD, certainly not my idea of an improvement. Remember hearing about Washington’s troops freezing at Valley Forge in 1777-78, and Napoleon’s bitterly cold retreat from Russia in 1812? No, give me some of that good ol’ global warming any day!

Then also, why would we want to end a recent lull in harsh weather conditions? Like, for example, the lack of increase in the strength or frequency of landfall hurricanes in the world’s five main hurricane basins during the past 50-70 years; the lack of increase in the strength or frequency in tropical Atlantic hurricane development during the past 370 years; the longest U.S. period ever recorded without intense Category 3-5 hurricane landfall; and no trend since 1950 evidencing any increased frequency of strong (F3-F-5) U.S. tornadoes.

And, even if we could (or wanted to), we’re going change climate how?

EPA’s latest climate battle plan is to prohibit construction of new coal-fired power plants that can’t achieve 1,100-pound per megawatt-hour  carbon emission limits. To accomplish this will require plant operators to capture and store (“sequester”) excess CO2, something that cannot be accomplished through affordable means, if at all.  The Institute for Energy Research estimated that this “regulatory assault” will eliminate 35 gigawatts of electrical generating capacity — 10% of all U.S. power.  As the Competitive Enterprise Institute observes, “If the CO2 emissions standard for power plants proposed by the EPA today is enacted, the United States will have built its final coal-fired power plant.”

And to capture and store that “dangerous” CO2, here’s how the procedures are supposed to work. It begins with getting it out of the coal and capturing it –that’s the easiest part. Exhaust gas from coal burning is forced though a liquid solvent that absorbs the CO2. The solvent is subsequently heated to liberate the CO2 in much the way a bottle of carbonated soda releases dissolved CO2 when opened. The CO2 is then compressed to liquid form (about 100 times the normal atmospheric pressure) for storage.

That amounts to a whole lot of CO2 to capture and store somewhere (“sequester”). For example, a carbon capture and sequester (CCS) start-up operation at American Electric Power’s Mountaineer Plant in West Virginia captures a few hundred tons of CO2 daily. This is a small fraction of about 10,000 tons produced daily by a typical 500-MW plant. Now consider that America’s coal-fired power plants generate about 1.5 billion tons annually. Capturing that would mean filling 30 million barrels with liquid CO2 every day, amounting to roughly 1.5 times the volume of crude oil our country consumes.

The standard solution is to put that CO2 deep underground. Unfortunately, it won’t take long before the “A-grade” sequestration (or “geosequestration”) underground reservoir conditions in areas near power stations are filled at capacities. This will necessitate either extending to more leak-prone B, C, D, and E grade regions, or transporting the CO2 to better distant locations by pipelines.  cash

All of this costs money — lots of it. First, it demands a huge amount of energy, requiring the coal-fired plant to burn about a quarter more coal to handle the sequestration while producing the same amount of electrical power. This is required to pay for capturing the CO2, compressing it, and transferring it for storage somewhere. The added fuel demand also expands necessary mining operations, coal transportation, and, unlike plant-nourishing CO2, the production of real pollutant byproducts, such as fly ash.

So here’s an idea. What about selling that CO2, maybe using it for something called CO2-enhanced recovery oil drilling? Some Mississippi producers are doing this — pumping CO2 deep into the oil fields to mix with the crude, decrease its viscosity, and cause it to flow more freely. Conventional drilling methods use water to accomplish this. But there’s a catch, and it’s a biggie.

Why would anyone possibly imagine that the CO2 which will be pumped into reservoirs to access that oil will remain there for very long? Will all those many, many thousands of depleted oil reservoirs, where the gas will need to be sequestered in order to offer any real CCS advantage be suitable for permanent storage? Who will be responsible for constantly monitoring them all for leakage? Even if decades passed before leaking out, would pumping all that money down a hole have accomplished anything, even if that CO2 capture and sequestration mattered one whit?

Only the federal government and crony confederates could come up with a scam where we are forced to pay more to remove something that doesn’t really matter, use it for something else they are trying to regulate out of existence, and then release that same bad stuff into the air where it was supposed to be dangerous.

And besides…isn’t that drilling supposed to be bad for the planet also? Or perhaps I’m just imagining that some environmentalists have said that.

On the other hand, if I’m wrong, then why is the Obama Administration also waging a war on oil and gas drilling through its EPA, Interior Department, and an alphabet soup of other agencies, including: attempts to preempt state and private land rights; permitting complexities, delays and uncertainties on federal lands which discourage enterprise; punitive taxes on fossil fuels, and multi-agency regulatory threats against fracking.

Then again, it seems that some prominent environmental groups, Democrats all, don’t want “clean coal” either.

And you know why? Because they say it’s too expensive. No…I’m not making this up!

Pressure groups led by the Sierra Club have filed a barrage of lawsuits to revoke approval of a $4.3 billion clean coal power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi, that will demonstrate commercial CO2 removal technology to help save the planet from dreaded climate change.  Their reasoning, according to Mississippi Sierra Club President Louie Miller: “We can’t allow struggling families to be charged for a $4 billion plant that doesn’t operate as promised.”

Should this come as a big surprise after former Energy Secretary Steven Chu called upon his counterparts around the world to promote the “widespread affordable development” of clean coal technology?  Well, maybe not. It seems that in addition to receiving at least $682 million in federal subsidies and tax credits, along with an unspecified amount of federal loan guarantees, the project has nearly doubled in cost over original estimates. Like Solyndra and other vaunted Green government marvels, taxpayers get hit by the overruns, ratepayers get stuck with higher electricity costs, and shareholders get the green.

skyrocketBesides, should there be any real surprise that the plant isn’t likely to be any budget bargain? After all, wasn’t that the whole idea all along?  Run up the cost of fossil energy so high that it would even begin to make subsidies for stratospherically costly and unreliable wind and solar boondoggles appear competitive? Isn’t that what cap-and-trade was all about?

As Dan Kish, Senior Vice President of the Institute for Energy Research in Washington, D.C., observed in an interview I posted last March, the Obama Administration’s apparent intent is to make heavily subsidized, unreliable, and costly “renewable” energy programs they are pushing more cost-competitive. “This is the Tonya Harding approach to energy… break your opponent’s kneecap if you can’t win fair and square.”

So should it really be all that vexing for anyone, even for the Sierra Club, to wonder why electricity and fuel prices “skyrocket” as a direct result of those “green” alternative energy dreams they have aggressively championed? Wasn’t that the idea all along?

But again, perhaps I’m missing something here…maybe even a lot. After all, if the Obama Administration didn’t know best, why would the public have voted for him… twice? Would someone please explain all of this to me?


About the Author: Larry Bell

Larry Bell

CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."

  • jameshrust

    Lewis Carroll would have lots of subject material off the actions of the Obama Administration.
    Carbon capture and sequestration can lead to problems of mass killings. There was a carbon dioxide release from Lake Nyos in the Cameroons in 1986 in which 1700 people and thousands of cattle were suffocated. This has happened at other places. I wouldn’t live within miles of a CCS location.
    This is typical EPA problems solving. Stop burning coal from releasing an insignificant amount of mercury and require CFLs in your home that can pose a real mercury threat. Ditto with increased car mileage that leaves you with unsafe cars. Use biofuels that use food for your gas tank while people starve. Get the picture.
    James H. Rust, Professor

  • Michael Castillo

    This has little to do with reducing pollution. By hampering fossil fuel production and use and by giving subsidies, the Obama administration is creating profit opportunities for his green energy cronies. Plain and simple, it is all about cronyism.

  • Eckenhuijsen Smit

    The sickening UN IPCC alarmist tune of the Fifth Assessment Report ‒repeated since
    the Fourth Assessment Report‒ “confirms” that more than 95% of scientists are
    convinced that manmade CO2 is the cause of Global Warming, Climate Change,
    Global dangerous weird weather, Global disappearance of glaciers, disappearance
    of Arctic ice and melting of Antarctic ice, resulting in dangerous Global sea level rise.
    They have not quantified at all how many of those “95% of IPCC scientists” there really are!
    But tens of thousands real scientists have proven that the IPCC-rubbish-scientists are
    completely wrong and lying to reach a state of alarm in the global populace.
    Luckily for us ‒the critics of the manmade CO2 hoax and swindle‒ the Australian population voted the idiots out, who imposed the same measures as those that are destroying the US and the EU.
    As far as the US is concerned, it could be easy to kick out evilly behaving Barry Hussein Obama, who proclaims the same idiotic “truths” as the IPCC.
    But for the EU it is far more difficult to undo the mischievous and fraudulent alarmist
    legislation, as every member country has different legislation concerning measures against manmade CO2.
    And many in the EU are still so stupid as to think that CO2 is a dangerous gas, while it is a gas of life without which life on earth could not exist.
    But try to get that into the dumb man’s brain!

  • Tam Hunt

    Barry, you omitted discussing the EPA’s regulatory impact analysis of the proposed rule. EPA projects, based on the EIA’s reference case, that no new coal plants are going to be built through 2030 UNDER EXISTING MARKET FORCES that favor natural gas over coal. So the EPA concludes, rather astoundingly, that the proposed rule will have a negligible impact on new power plants b/c natural gas plants can already meet the standard proposed and there won’t be any new coal power plants built anyway. So why have a rule at all? Well, EPA makes the good point that market forces may change and it’s good to have a fallback like this rule.

  • JRT256

    This could be simple and orderly. If DOE would work on building prototype/demonstration units of Generation IV nuclear power plants and having the NRC certify the designs, then when coal power plants reach the end of their design lives they could be replaced with Generation IV nukes. End of “Carbon Pollution”.