Counting Carbon
America’s Emissions Are Still Declining Under Trump
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  • Andrew Allison

    Cliff notes: fracking has done more for America’s green credibility than anything President Obama did—or than President Trump has undone

  • CaliforniaStark

    The article makes the claim: “The United States is responsible for roughly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and those GHGs are driving surface temperatures upwards.”

    Then later states: “The agency’s projections show those emissions rising 2.2 percent next year, but attribute that to a spike in colder days, which will necessitate more heating and therefore more power production.”

    There appears to be a “fact” versus “theory” issue here, which has existed for almost two decades. The actual warming that has taken place is much less than what was predicted by the IPCC. So the author can continue to adhere to a faith-based belief in global warming, maybe we should now be referring to what is happening as a “permanent pause” from the scientifically proven global warming taking place.

  • Rick Johnson

    You lost sll credibility in your opening paragraph. It is NOT a fact that human emissions of GHG are driving surface temperatures upwards. That is a claim made by Green activist which lacks evidence to support it.

    • Andrew Allison

      You are correct, As Scott Pruitt famously said, the impact of GHGs on global temperature is debatable. As evidenced by the failure of the climate models to explain the hiatus in temperature change since 1997, that fact is indisputable.
      That said, the world is clearly warmer than it was in the mid-19th Century. The question is what should we be doing about it? Given that the US is the only country actually reducing GHG emissions, shouldn’t we be focused on mitigation rather than futile attempts at prevention? The only real threat to us is a combination of rising sea levels and the sinking of parts of the East Coast (http://www.triplepundit.com/2016/09/new-york-city-sinking-no-one-knows/). Based upon the experience of the Dutch, the answer is rather obvious: stop wasting money on futile attempts to control climate and instead build dikes where appropriate. This doesn’t include those who purchased homes in flood-prone areas in anticipation of the Federal government (meaning you and I) bailing them out. Flood insurance should be conditional upon rebuilding in an area not susceptible to flood in the future.

  • FriendlyGoat

    We elected the promise of coal. Where’s the base?

  • Thor Skov

    TAI lives in an echo chamber with regards to fracking. This article is
    only partly correct in saying that cheaper gas from fracking has caused
    the dismantling of coal though “market forces.” Utilities in highly
    regulated markets do not live and die by market forces; they make money
    on infrastructure they can “rate-base”, and if they can rate-base a coal
    plant that would be uncompetitive in an unregulated market, they will.

    TAI
    consistently ignores three crucial parts of the story: first, that
    energy efficiency has kept demand for electricity down, reducing the
    need for generation assets; second that the precipitous drop in the cost
    of solar and other renewables has made non-carbon alternatives more
    financially attractive; and third, that the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal
    campaign has been instrumental in forcing the issue of retiring coal
    plants in front of utility commissions.

    This article tells the story.
    http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/05/inside-war-on-coal-000002

    • CaliforniaStark

      Hope you realize that the initial major funding for the Sierra’s Club’s “Beyond Coal” Campaign came from the natural gas industry, to the tune of $26 million dollars. http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/208477-sierra-club-took-26m-from-gas-industry-to-fight-coal.

      After the natural gas industry funding ended after 2010, Bloomberg took over funding; he is a strong supporter of the natural gas industry and fracking: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/245155-bloomberg-funds-fracking-safety-efforts

      Your claim that the reduced cost of solar and other renewables is one of the three critical reasons for the decline in coal use is not correct. As of early 2017, solar only produced about 1%, and wind 4%, of U.S electricity. Natural gas produced about 36% and coal 34% in comparison. In 2000, coal produced over 50%, and natural gas a little over 15%, of the nation’s electricity — so the percentage of natural gas has about doubled in less than 20 years.

      The major reason that coal plants are now closing is because they cannot economically compete with natural gas. As an example, the huge Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona may close, As stated an article by James Taylor in Forbes (8 Feb 2017), competition from natural gas is the reason:

      “However, natural gas prices are so low that existing and future natural gas power plants can generate power less expensively than the existing coal plant. Not only is natural gas quite inexpensive, but natural gas power plants cost only about one-third as much to build as coal power plants. The theoretical savings from operating an existing coal power plant that has already been paid for vanish when the cost of building and operating a newer natural gas facility are so low.”

      Likewise, the huge Intermountain Power Plant near Delta, Utah is scheduled to convert from coal to natural gas by 2025.

      As the article corrected stated: “fracking has done more for America’s green credibility than anything President Obama did—or than President Trump has undone.” And for that the Sierra Club should be pleased.

      • marcossantiago

        Thanks for putting these facts out there.

      • Thor Skov

        I did not know that Chesapeake Energy donated to the Sierra Club. That
        was smart of them, and provides evidence that the gas industry
        understood that cost competitiveness alone was insufficient to replace coal quickly. Cost was a powerful argument for decommissioning coal plants, but in many cases forcing the decommissioning had to be done, as it has been by the Beyond Coal campaign, in utility rate cases. Again, read the Politico story if this doesn’t make sense to you.

        My point is simply that TAI routinely touts the impacts of fracking on the U.S. generation portfolio in a predictable, un-nuanced manner. Natural gas generation is cheaper, more efficient, and far more dispatchable than coal. All good things, these, but not the whole story in the demise of coal which includes an important role by non-governmental actors in opposing the renewing of coal plant licenses, and the growth of solar and wind generation as alternatives.

        I’ve looked at two different sets of numbers. One is from FERC monthly Energy Infrastructure Updates, which show nameplate capacity. The other is EIA data from their electricity data browser which reports net generation. The FERC Updates don’t go as far back as 2000; I have their data from 2011 on. EIA data goes back to 2001. You looked at the period from 2000 to now even though the burst of shale gas production didn’t start until around 2006. The numbers show that the real decline in coal began around 2006, .

        There’s
        a helpful Fed Reserve graph in this Wiki article:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shale_gas_in_the_United_States Also,
        according to EIA data, between 2001 and 2006, Coal as a % of total net generation fell just 2%, and NG rose by 3%, small potatoes compared to the subsequent 10 years.

        Here’s what FERC data shows about installed generation capacity as a percentage of the US total from 2011 through 2016: Coal went from 29.91% to 24.62%, NG from 41.6% to 43.14%, Wind from 3.93% to 6.99%, Solar from 0.17% to 2.04%, and
        renewables overall (wind, hydro, solar, biomass, geotherm) from 14.26% to 19.29%. In terms of net generation, EIA
        data shows that from 2006 (when the fracking boom took off) to 2016, Coal went from 48.97% to 30.21%, NG from 20.09% to 33.62%, Wind from 0.65% to 5.53%, and Solar from 0.01% to 1.37%. Sure NG far outweighs solar and wind in total, but in terms of growth during this period, NG increased 40%, Wind 750%, Solar %13,600, albeit from almost nothing.

        These EIA numbers show that between 2006 and 2016, as a percentage of US net generation, coal fell 18.76%, NG rose 13.54%, Wind and Solar rose 6.23%. Hence, the increase in Wind and Solar was slightly less than half of NG’s increase over the same period, making up one third of the loss of coal generation. That is a substantial contribution, which TAI
        overlooks.

        The contribution from wind and solar will continue to improve, in part as their capacity factors rise as the transmission and storage infrastructure builds out. This EIA graph from 2014 shows the drop in ERCOT wind curtailment in just three years: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=16831

        More importantly, wind and solar are on a decreasing cost curve, whereas NG prices have nowhere to go but up. DOE’s SunShot Initiative’s goal was to get to $1/watt for utility scale solar by 2020. It achieved that, and a $0.6/kWh retail cost last month. “Those prices don’t include an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which makes solar panels even cheaper. The Energy Department said that the cost per watt was assessed in terms of total installed system costs for developers. That means the number is based on “the sales price paid to the
        installer; therefore, it includes profit in the cost of the hardware…”

        https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/solar-now-costs-6-per-kilowatt-hour-beating-government-goal-by-3-years/

  • Psalms13626

    Obviously human ingenuity and inventiveness has done more for the planet than all bureaucratic edits put together. Why this outcome is treated as a miracle as opposed to the way things always work eludes me.

  • Special Guest Star

    You don’t have to be an environmentalist to fear global warming.

    You have to be a religious nut who hates facts.

  • Thor Skov

    I did not know that Chesapeake Energy donated to the Sierra Club. That was smart of them, and provides evidence that the gas industry understood that cost competitiveness alone was insufficient to replace coal quickly. Cost was a powerful argument for decommissioning coal plants, but in many cases forcing the decommissioning had to be done, as it has been by the Beyond Coal campaign, in utility rate cases. Again, read the Politico story if this doesn’t make sense to you.

    My point is simply that TAI routinely touts the impacts of fracking on the U.S. generation portfolio in a predictable, un-nuanced manner. Natural gas generation is cheaper, more efficient, and far more dispatchable than coal. All good things, these, but not the whole story which includes an important role by non-governmental actors in opposing the renewing of coal plant licenses and the growth of solar and wind generation as alternatives.

    I’ve looked at two different sets of numbers. One is from FERC monthly Energy Infrastructure Updates, which show nameplate capacity. The other is EIA data from their electricity data browser which reports net generation. The FERC Updates don’t go as far back as 2000; I have their data from 2011 on. EIA data goes back to 2001. You looked at the period from 2000 to now even though the burst of shale gas production didn’t start until around 2006, so I don’t think that the fracking boom can be assigned credit for the rise in natural gas generation before then. There’s a helpful Fed Reserve graph in this Wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shale_gas_in_the_United_States Also, according to EIA data, between 2001 and 2006, Coal as a % of total net generation fell just 2%, and NG rose by 3%, small potatoes compared to the subsequent 10 years.

    Here’s what FERC data shows about installed generation capacity as a percentage of the US total from 2011 through 2016: Coal went from 29.91% to 24.62%, NG from 41.6% to 43.14%, Wind from 3.93% to 6.99%, Solar from 0.17% to 2.04%, and renewables overall (wind, hydro, solar, biomass, geotherm) from 14.26% to 19.29%. In terms of net generation, EIA data shows that from 2006 (when the fracking boom took off) to 2016, Coal went from 48.97% to 30.21%, NG from 20.09% to 33.62%, Wind from 0.65% to 5.53%, and Solar from 0.01% to 1.37%. Sure NG far outweighs solar and wind in total, but in terms of growth during this period, NG increased 40%, Wind 750%, Solar %13,600, albeit from almost nothing.

    These EIA numbers between 2006 and 2016, show that as a percentage of US net generation, coal fell 18.76%, NG rose 13.54%, Wind and Solar rose 6.23%. Hence, the increase in Wind and Solar was slightly less than half of NG’s increase over the same period, making up one third of the loss of coal generation. That is a substantial contribution, which TAI overlooks.

    The numbers will continue to improve, in part as the capacity factor of wind and solar rise as the transmission and storage
    infrastructure builds out. This EIA graph from 2014 shows the drop in ERCOT wind curtailment in just three years: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=16831

    More importantly, wind and solar are on a decreasing cost curve, whereas NG prices have nowhere to go but up. DOE’s SunShot Initiative’s goal was to get to $1/watt for utility scale solar by 2020. It achieved that, and a $0.6/kWh retail cost last month. “Those prices don’t include an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which makes solar panels even cheaper. The Energy Department said that the cost per watt was assessed in terms of total installed system costs for developers. That means the number is based on “the sales price paid to the installer; therefore, it includes profit in the cost of the hardware…” https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/solar-now-costs-6-per-kilowatt-hour-beating-government-goal-by-3-years/

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