As you all have probably already read, the EPA wants vastly expanded power to regulate businesses, communities and ecosystems’ . This seems odd to me, in that, they’re already engaged in the systematic destruction of small local economies.
Of course, the local areas aren’t the only effects that are going to be felt. For those who don’t know, the EPA is enforcing some new rules. One rule curbs air pollution in states downwind from power plants. Another sets first standards for mercury and other toxic pollutants from smokestacks. The EPA has estimated that 14.7 gigawatts will be retired from the power grid in the 2014-15 because of these rule enforcements. Many would welcome this news. Some believe we need to curb pollutants from coal fired power plants. But, let’s look at how we’re doing in this regard without these new rules….. According to the EPA itself, coal plants already had an 80% reduction in pollution since 1970, and as new plants got built and old retired from attrition, significant reductions would have been achieved without new EPA rules. We could have cheap energy, more jobs and cleaner air without all of the further EPA intervention. (Click here for spreadsheet) (1970 Ammonia and PM2.5 values estimated) Pollutants defined as CO, NOX, SO2, Particulate Matter 10 microns and smaller, Particulate Matter 2.5 micron and smaller, and Volatile Organic Compounds.
But, does it really matter? Can’t we just get the 14.7 gigawatts from somewhere else? For now, yes. The 14.7 represents less than 2% of our base load capacity. But, one of the problems is cost. Coal costs $2.44/million BTUs. But, the likely replacement is natural gas, where the average cost is $4.54/million BTUs. (Click here for eia .xls spread sheet) Now, before the nat gas people start jumping up and down screaming “foul”, we need to understand that costs for coal and nat gas vary greatly across the country. Mostly because of location, location, location. The assumption I’m making is that coal is readily available for the coal plants being shut down. In other words, costs vary according to location and resources available at the various locations. But, how does this translate to cost to the consumer? Here’s how it averages out, nationally.
This is what these changes translate to over time………
For graph clarity, transportation data not shown. Transportation costs start at 6.91¢ , ends at 10.96¢/kWh (click here for data source pg 124)
Now, from here it should be obvious all of the implications of these rising costs. It costs more to do any and all things pertaining to electrical use. While there are other pressures, consider what these costs means to places such as grocery stores, keeping our produce fresh. Or, metal fabrication plants trying to use welders and the like. Or, data centers and other sectors of our service industry. All of this against a backdrop of ever increasing utilization of electricity in the various partitions of our lives. Transportation is increasing in electrical usage. Communication applications are exploding, yet, it all relies on electricity. Heating and cooling continue to rely more and more heavily on electricity. I can’t think of any innovation which doesn’t require additional electrical use. If there were no other external economic pressures on the U.S., the effects of this madness would still be crippling.
Lastly, consider this. As the EPA continues to blindly destroy our coal plants, it is also destroying our capacity to economically expand. Businesses, especially industrial manufacturing will not come to the U.S., nor will existing ones expand, if they expect their energy costs to continue to rise in the manner it has for the last decade.
In the graph above, we should notice a few things. Notice the slight decline at the start of the graph. Then notice the uptick in costs. This is when our growth was exceeding our electricity capacity growth. The slight downward trend in about 2001 coincides with our slight recession. Economic expansion had halted. Next notice the steady and sharp increase until 2008 ………….
Now, I ask you, can America afford to get out of this recession? We won’t have any sustained growth, because we can’t. We don’t have the capacity to expand without exacting huge costs to any expanding electrical use.