Have We Lost Our Way?

The United States has had the lowest cost, most reliable electricity in the world. Why would we undo what has worked to our benefit for nearly a century?

That is a question worth asking, as we forge ahead imposing policies that are rapidly tearing apart the grid and increasing the cost of electricity for people and industry.

Any increase in the cost of electricity ripples across the entire economy, raising the cost of food, clothing, housing and nearly everything else we use.

Table I compares the cost of producing, not transmitting or distributing, electricity.
Note that these are different from those shown on the EIA web site. For a discussion of LCOEs, see Meaningless LCEOs.

The bottom line, no matter which LCOE is used, wind and solar are more expensive than electricity from coal or natural gas. Also, note that LCOEs do not include the cost of running natural gas power plants 24/7, as backup for when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

Increasing the percentage of electricity generated by wind and solar from the paltry 4% today, which is nearly all from wind, to just 20%, will require adding huge amounts of large scale storage that doesn’t exist. This doesn’t include PV roof-top solar installations for which comparable data is not available, but which are also creating problems. See Save The Grid.

The real goal is to have 80% from wind and solar, the same as Germany’s goal.

TABLE I

Cost of Electricity

kWh

Coal-fired $0.06
Natural gas combined cycle $0.05
Wind $0.11
Solar $0.15 – $0.27

Why would we promote less efficient methods for generating electricity when higher costs to consumers and industry would hurt families and kill jobs?

The reason put forth by the EPA is to improve air quality, but haven’t we reached the limits of how much air quality can be improved?

Would eliminating coal-fired power plants improve air quality or have health benefits?

Air Quality compared with GDP and Population Growth
Air Quality compared with GDP and Population Growth

The above chart shows how air quality has improved while GDP and population have increased between 1979 and 2002.

The following chart shows ozone levels. It should be noted that higher levels are not correlated with coal-fired power plants, but probably are more closely associated with automobile exhaust. Note the area around four-corners where two large coal-fired power plants continue to operate. (The four-corners are formed by New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.)

Ozone Levels in United States 2005 - 2009
Ozone Levels in United States 2005 – 2009

A complete view of air quality from 1980 through 2013 is available from the EPA at: http://www.epa.gov/airdata/ad_rep_aqi.html

Coal-fired power plants are supposedly the culprit when it comes to poor air quality, but they have reduced pollutant emissions to such a low level that closing large numbers of coal-fired power plants will have little if any effect on improving air quality or mitigating health concerns.

In fact, building new ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants, that are 36% more efficient than existing coal-fired power plants, would have little, if any, negative effect on air quality … especially if they replace the older, less efficient plants.

Mercury emissions have also been reduced to minimal levels, where natural emissions far outweigh any impact from coal-fired power plants.

The report, Regulatory Analysis of EPA’s Proposed Rule to Reduce Mercury Emissions from Utility Boilers, shows that EPA rules will have virtually no effect on health(1).

If closing coal-fired power plants won’t have any significant effect on air quality or health, why is this administration forcing the country to adopt high cost alternatives for generating electricity?

There is only one answer, and that’s to cut CO2 emissions. See, There is No Denying Global Warming.

Cutting CO2 emissions is the reason why the United States is being subjected to regulations that harm Americans.

It’s impossible for the United States to cut CO2 emissions enough to have any effect on global warming, even if CO2 emissions are the cause of global warming … which they probably aren’t.

China and India will continue to emit many tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, even if we hobble our economy by trying to cut CO2 emissions.

CO2 atmospheric levels will increase worldwide, even if we cut CO2 emissions 80%, which is the goal of this administration and the EPA.

This administration is subjecting Americans to a fools errand, that hurts American consumers and American industry.
Notes:
Report at http://www.researchgate.net/publication/46454327_A_Regulatory_Analysis_of_EPA’s_Proposed_Rule_to_Reduce_Mercury_Emissions_from_Utility_Boilers

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