Friday, November 17, 2017

EPA climate proposal could limit coal's future, at least in U.S.


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's proposal last week to put the first limits on greenhouse gases from new power plants probably will mean that no new coal-fired U.S. plants will be built after this year, but that won't slash coal use anytime soon.

The rules require future power plants to keep their emissions of heat-trapping gases under a limit. Most natural gas plants would meet the standard easily, but coal-fired plants would have to reduce emissions by about half. The equipment to capture and store those emissions underground isn't commercially viable.

"This is not a sudden death for the coal industry by any means," said David Pumphrey of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center. "I think there are a lot of people out there who are going to make sure it doesn't work that way. But it says the future of coal is limited and probably isn't going to grow more than it is now."

Coal today accounts for about 40 percent of electric power generation, down from 45 percent in 2010. The Energy Department's latest forecast figures that it will remain roughly the same through 2035. Part of that forecast saw new coal use increasing slowly after 2015. But that calculation was made before the Environmental Protection Agency announced the proposal.

Kevin Book, the managing director for research at ClearView Energy Partners, said coal probably would retain its place as the biggest source of electricity in 2035, but barely. It remains to be seen whether natural gas surpasses coal or state laws continue to support an increase in renewable energy, he said.

It's also likely that some older coal plants will be kept around longer than originally intended, Book said. "If you can't build more, you'll love the ones you have a lot longer."

"I think the intent in the rule is to make the future of coal extremely problematic," said Luke Popovich, the vice president for external communications at the National Mining Association. The plan essentially would make coal plants impossible until carbon capture and storage for part of their emissions becomes commercially available, and that's likely to be more than a decade away, given the slow start on testing and deployment globally during the recession, he said.

Popovich and others expect the EPA to put greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants later, but they don't anticipate that move until after the November elections.

President Barack Obama's Republican opponents probably would put the proposed rule on ice. They don't agree that there's a need for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA's long-term plan for existing plants, however, is no secret. The agency is operating under the terms of a consent agreement reached after states and environmental groups sued it to force it to reduce emissions from new and existing power plants and refineries.

Jeff Holmstead, an EPA air administrator under the George W. Bush administration who now represents companies that oppose greenhouse gas limits and other Obama administration pollution rules, said even if the new rule survived in court, it was hard to know what it would mean for future coal use.

At least three plants that were planned won't be able to be built now, Holmstead said.

While it's hard to predict whether U.S. use of coal will remain stable or decline, the global use of coal is growing.

"We see an enormous market for coal building in Asia," Popovich said.

Exports would help offset the impact of lower U.S. coal use, he said.

U.S. coal exports have increased over the past five years, even though there was a decline at the height of the recession. The U.S. also has a bigger market for coal in Europe, as other countries that traditionally have shipped coal there have shifted to Asia, Popovich said.

Neighborhood center gains green space

Neighborhood center gains green space

Updated: 1 hour ago
The Latest: Judge tells critics of his sex post: Lighten up

The Latest: Judge tells critics of his sex post: Lighten up

An Ohio state Supreme Court justice running for governor has a message for people who've criticized him for volunteering candid details about his sexual past on Facebook: 'Lighten up folks'
Updated: 4 minutes ago

AP Top News at 6:57 p.m. EST

AP Top News at 6:57 p.m. EST
Updated: 4 minutes ago
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful, some are asking: Why not Trump?
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Andy Murray, coach Ivan Lendl end 2nd stint together

Andy Murray, coach Ivan Lendl end 2nd stint together

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl are calling it quits for a second time
Updated: 6 minutes ago

Chiefs' Tamba Hali, Dee Ford ruled out for game at Giants

Chiefs pass rushers Tamba Hali and Dee Ford have been ruled out for Sunday against the New York Giants, while defensive lineman Allen Bailey was also ruled out for their struggling defense
Updated: 8 minutes ago

A's hire Matt Williams as 3rd base coach

The Oakland Athletics have hired former San Francisco Giants star Matt Williams as their new third base coach
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Figure skater Gracie Gold withdraws from US championships

Two-time U.S. women's figure skating champion Gracie Gold has withdrawn from the national championships while she continues to seek treatment for anxiety and an eating disorder
Updated: 10 minutes ago
California's legal pot countdown: What's coming by Jan. 1

California's legal pot countdown: What's coming by Jan. 1

The rules that will govern California's legal marijuana economy next year have been published, giving businesses and consumers a glimpse into the future
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Brexit benefit: Lower pound boosts tourism to Britain

Brexit benefit: Lower pound boosts tourism to Britain

While much of the British economy is suffering from uncertainty over Brexit, there's one industry that is enjoying a bounce, the tourism sector
Updated: 14 minutes ago