coal

What’s Been Killing U.S. Coal?

No, it’s not Biden. Or EPA. The culprits are supply and demand.

From 1960 to 2005, coal use grew more or less steadily by 18 million  tons per year. It then tread water for a few years and began a steep decline in 2008, going from half of U.S. electricity to about one-fifth today.  What happened in the middle of the Bush Administration to halt growth? And …

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The Utility Response to EPA’s Climate Rules

The power industry apparently shares some progressive doubts about CCS and hydrogen

There are three big takeaways from the utility industry’s comments on EPA’s proposed new climate rules. First, the industry seems to share progressive concerns about whether we can count on hydrogen and CCS (carbon capture and sequestration). Second, the industry doesn’t invoke the major question doctrine, making it clear that it does not view such …

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Spewing Out Mercury

These three power plants cause a big share of America’s mercury pollution.

In Ireland, poor people used to burn peat from fuel. Barely a step ahead of that, some American power plants burn semi-fossilized peat (lignite) to run their generators. It turns out that those power plants produce about a third of all the toxic mercury emissions of the entire industry. Even more remarkably, about half of …

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Cutting 290,000 Tons of Water Pollution a Year, One Coal Plant at a Time

Coal is a dirty fuel. It’s not just air pollution or climate change.

EPA proposed new regulations next week to reduce the water pollution impacts of coal-fired power plants.  As EPA regulations go, these count as fairly minor. They got a bit of news coverage in coal country and industry publications. But they will eliminate the discharge of thousands of tons of pollutants, including a lot of metals …

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A Taste of Things to Come

Welcome to 2023. It’s going to be a wild ride.

In the past week, we’ve gotten a glimpse of what the next two years will look like. On the one hand, chaos in Congress. On the other hand, quiet progress toward environmental goals by the Biden Administration.  Both trends are likely to continue throughout this Congress and the second half of the presidential term. The …

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Emissions by the Big Utilities: Where They Are, What They’re Aiming For

Almost all the top ten utilities are big emitters today but looking to cut back.

There’s a lot of discussion of how the private sector is supporting renewable energy, but it’s almost all about power consumers like Apple and Walmart. But what about the companies who are selling the power? As a first step to getting a better sense of where the utility industry is going, we accumulated some basic …

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Ways of Price Making, Inflation, and Energy Price Shocks

Ras Laffan LNG terminal in Qatar

This post was originally published on the Law and Political Economy blog as part of a symposium on inflation. Energy prices have been much in the news over the past several months, occupying a prominent place in mainstream discussions of inflation. Higher prices for oil, natural gas, coal, and electricity are all pushing up inflation across …

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Aggregating the Harms of Fossil Fuels

They’re even worse than you probably thought.

The decision at the Glasgow climate conference to phase down fossil fuels is an important step forward — and not just because of climate change.  We think of fossil fuels as a source of climate change, but that’s only a one part of the problem. From their extraction to their combustion, everything about them is …

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Guest Contributor Jetta Cook: Greater Than the Sum: Sub-national Renewable Energy Policy during the Trump Administration

Solar panel array in CA desert

Even Red-States Supported and Increased Renewable Energy during the Trump Administration

Below the federal level, it’s difficult to discern the impact that the Trump Administration had on energy policy. To take a closer look, I conducted a fifty-state survey to discern how state, local, and public utility actions affecting energy policy came together as a whole over the past four years. Across the nation, I found, …

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Creating New Jobs in Coal Country and the Oil Patch

How can we help carbon-dependent communities transition economically?

One of the goals of Biden’s clean energy and infrastructure proposals is to provide an economic boost to people who will otherwise lose out in the transition to a sustainable economy.  He has similar plans for “environmental justice” communities.  This is a great goal, but it may be more difficult than it seems. In a …

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