A Pennsylvania coal-fired power plant closed last week partly because it couldn't meet new stringent EPA regulations. This occured despite its owner installing $650 million of scrubber technology in 2009. Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station, owned by FirstEnergy, wouldn't meet new EPA emission standards, according to a company spokesperson. "It would still need additional investment to comply," Stephanie Thornton said.
Talk about $650 million going "up in smoke."
Over seventeen hundred megawatts of electcricity went offline and 170 people lost their jobs.
But this isn't the only recent story of coal-fired power plants shutting down because of EPA.
Kentucky Power faced two choices: Add scrubbers to a coal-fired power plant to meet EPA regulations and raise electricity rates by 31%; or shut down the plant. The choice was to close it down. Derek Hawkins at Law360 reports that two EPA regulations, Utility MACT and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), are to blame.
The closure affects 80 people.
Utility MACT is also the culprit for the planned closure of the Carbon Power Plant in Utah. Seventy-four jobs will be lost.
A new poll from the American Petroleum Institute finds that big majorities of Americans support offshore oil and natural gas development. Mary Leschper at Energy Tomorrow writes:
Sixty-seven percent of voters nationwide support offshore drilling for domestic oil and natural gas resources, according to a new poll released today. Similar levels of support for offshore drilling were found in four state-specific polls conducted recently in Virginia (67 percent), North Carolina (65 percent), South Carolina (77 percent) and Florida (64 percent).
The poll also finds that even larger majorities think oil and gas development strengthens the economy:
Nationwide, 90 percent of voters say producing more oil and natural gas here at home is important. Increasing domestic oil and natural gas production is also important to 88 percent of Virginians, 89 percent of North Carolinians, 91 percent of South Carolinians, and 87 percent of Floridians.
Unfortunately, offshore production has been declining since 2010 partly because the federal government makes more than 86% of the (Outer Continental Shelf off-limits to exploration. Removing barriers to developing domestic energy would create jobs, fill the coffers of state and federal governments, and improve energy security. If the administration doesn’t want to allow more drilling everywhere, it should at least let states determine what happens off their shores.
In October 1973, a series of geopolitical events converged to plunge the United States and much of the Western world into an oil crisis that underscored our vulnerability to foreign sources of energy. A handful of Arab exporters cut off much of the world’s oil supply, resulting in sweeping gasoline shortages, skyrocketing prices, political strife, and a global recession.
Forty years later, a lot has changed to make our nation significantly less susceptible to energy security threats.
The most dramatic development is that we now know America is an energy-rich nation, home to the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world. We’re sitting on a 200-year supply of oil and have enough natural gas to last us 115 years. And we’re discovering more resources every day. Thanks to new technology, entrepreneurship, and access to private lands, we’re able to develop more of it than ever—particularly the unconventional oil and gas, which was previously too costly to reach.
A recent report by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy found that increased oil and gas production has lowered U.S. energy security risks. It has helped drive down our petroleum imports from 60% of consumption to 35% in less than a decade. And the influx of U.S. shale oil into global markets has moderated or reduced international oil prices, protecting consumers and businesses from supply disruptions and market shocks even as hot spots in the Middle East and Africa flare up.
In the years after the oil crisis, we’ve also taken steps to diversify U.S. electricity generation. Previously, we burned oil to generate some 20% of our electricity, which led to price spikes when the spigot ran dry. Today, our electrical grid is largely powered by our vast supplies of coal and natural gas, as well as nuclear energy and a growing supply of wind and solar.
But one thing hasn’t changed. Our national energy policy is still based on the false assumption that we are an energy-poor nation. The federal government continues to keep 87% of federal lands off limits for energy development. Our affordable and abundant coal resources are under constant regulatory threat by EPA. The administration is proposing new regulations on shale energy development, even though it is already stringently regulated at the state level. And some in the government still want to pick winners and losers among energy industries.
Let’s make no mistake about what is largely responsible for America’s energy security today: ample resources, private sector-driven innovation and development, and open, vibrant markets. Any threat to those things is a threat to our security.
What has united labor members, farmers, and business leaders, and has strong public support? Proposed export facilities in the Pacific Northwest.
The Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington Department of Ecology will hold a public hearing in Tacoma, WA on the scope of each agency’s environmental reviews of the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal Project to be built in Longview, WA. In September, the Corps decided to work on its own review because the state agency decided to take an unprecedented approach by including the environmental effects of American coal use outside the United States.
Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy will testify in support of the facility:
In these times of economic uncertainty, our nation must take advantage of its resources to create jobs without delay. The Millennium Bulk Terminal expansion project stays true to America’s longstanding commitment to free trade, which underpins the economy of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, there are many who seek to delay and obstruct infrastructure projects like this one with an endless regulatory process. Their efforts are having a chilling effect on investment, costing our economy jobs and much-needed revenue.
This export terminal project, like two others proposed in Washington State and Oregon, will improve the ability to export American coal and other goods to global markets and bring jobs to the region. According to the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, the Millennium Terminal will create 2950 jobs. In total, all three export facilities will create nearly 12,000 jobs.
To illustrate the broad support for the projects, last month, the American Farm Bureau Federation announced its support:
“This isn’t just about coal,” said Steve Baccus, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau. “I know there are some people out there that are trying to focus on coal, but it goes beyond coal, because these facilities are going to export all kinds of grain and timber products and a lot of other ag products. So we are very much supportive of it, and we think it is a great project that would help the economy.”
These projects will ensure that the region continues to benefit from trade-fueled jobs.
Forty years ago this week, OPEC unleashed its oil embargo on the United States. Ever since, U.S. economic and geopolitical strategy has been centered on improving energy security. Daniel Yergin writes in the Wall Street Journal that the embargo led to what he calls the “modern era of energy,” a quest for oil beyond OPEC nations. For the United States, what began with the development on Alaska’s North Slope and the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has led to America’s shale boom. Yergin writes:
Most recent is the development of "tight oil," the spinoff from shale gas, which has increased U.S. oil output by more than 50% since 2008. This boom in domestic output increases energy supply, and combined with shale gas has a much wider economic impact in jobs, investment and household income.
The result is that the United States is on its way to becoming the world's top liquid fuel producer, according to PIRA Energy Group report. This reaffirms a similar Energy Information Agency projection. This leads to improved energy security as seen in the 2013 U.S. Index of Energy Security Risk produced by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
While global events still play a major role in U.S. energy security, significant domestic challenges remain from duplicative hydraulic fracturing regulations to the continued decline in oil and natural gas production on federal lands.
If we've learned anything In four decades since the OPEC embargo the lesson it's that the combination of energy abundance and the American free enterprise system can make our nation’s energy future much more secure. Politico’s Darren Goode quotes James Schlesinger, the first Energy Secretary under President Jimmy Carter: “[The shale boom ] is not because of the ingenuity of government or of government officials. That was the generosity of the Lord Almighty.”