Climate backlash: Coal power surges as natural gas prices soar
Coal-fired power generation has increased this year in the United States for the first time since the Obama administration, spurred by soaring natural gas prices, a setback for Biden’s climate program and a sign that the crackdown on the President’s drill could backfire.
The US Energy Information Administration said Monday that electricity produced by coal-fired power plants is expected to jump 22% in 2021 from last year’s levels for the first year-over-year increase since 2014.
The reason: the rising cost of natural gas, which began to climb in April and hit a 13-year high this month, fueled by pent-up pandemic demand that has outpaced production.
“The US power sector has produced more electricity from coal-fired power plants this year due to significantly higher natural gas prices and relatively stable coal prices,” the EIA said in its report on October’s short-term energy. outlook.
Since natural gas emits 50% to 60% less carbon dioxide in combustion than coal, the increase in coal production represents a step in the wrong direction for President Biden. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change is the cornerstone of its program.
Coal also makes a to recover in China and Europe. The transition to green energy has exacerbated an energy crisis in some European countries.
“It’s no secret that the cleanest, most reliable fuel – nuclear – has been murdered by the Greens,” Clarice Feldman said in an Oct. 10 editorial in the American Thinker. “Then natural gas, the second cleanest, became their target, so now many places are in desperate need of coal, the dirtiest option. “
The EIA predicted that the rise in coal in the United States would be short-lived, given that utilities have withdrawn about 30% of their coal production capacity since 2010. No coal-fired power plants have been built since. 2013.
“For 2022, we forecast that coal-fired production in the United States will decline by about 5% in response to continued withdrawals in generating capacity from coal-fired power plants and slightly lower natural gas prices,” the agency, the independent branch of energy data and analysis. Department.
U.S. emissions have declined steadily since 2005, largely due to the shift from coal to natural gas in power plant production, fueled by plentiful domestic supplies sparked by the shale revolution and driven by fracking or hydraulic fracturing. .
Environmental Protection Agency reported in April 2020 that global greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 10% from 2005 to 2018 and that emissions from the electricity sector decreased by 27%.
Since taking office in January, however, Mr. Biden has sought to phase out fossil fuels in favor of solar and wind power. His administration discouraged capital investment in drilling. Yet global demand for natural gas is increasing as countries recover from pandemic shutdowns.
Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and the Environment at the open market Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the administration’s policies have handicapped the energy market.
“Faced with higher demand for heat, electricity and gasoline this winter, shale producers would normally be able to respond by increasing production within six months,” said Mr. Ebell. “But the steps already taken by the Biden-Harris administration have made investors and producers reluctant to make major investments in drilling new wells when the long-term prospects for return on investment look so bleak.”
– EIA (@EIAgov) October 18, 2021
On Thursday, the White House released its “Roadmap for a Climate Resilient Economy”, which includes mobilizing private and public institutions to “address climate-related financial risks”.
“If this year has shown us anything, it’s that climate change poses a continuing urgent and systemic risk to our economy and to the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans, and we must act now,” said the White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy. Recount journalists.
Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma warned that the Biden-backed infrastructure bill includes “the same energy policies that threaten high energy prices and shortages this winter in Europe.”
“In particular, the Biden administration is cutting investment in natural gas by over-regulating and denying access to capital,” Ms. Sgamma said. “Producers would very much like to help bring down high prices by investing in new productions, but they are denied capital. “
Mr. Biden signaled his opposition to fossil fuels early on by canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and freezing new drilling permits on federal lands. The Securities and Exchange Commission last month began pressuring companies to disclose more information about their climate risks.
“The SEC has climate change disclosure regulations that aim to reorient financial markets to prioritize climate change considerations over market performance,” said Ms. Sgamma. “This is an extension of shareholder and climate change activism that has pressured banks and other financial institutions to remove oil and natural gas from their portfolios.”
She cited BNP Paribas and Bank of the West as examples of investors “who have publicly announced that they are no longer financing fossil fuels.”
About 80% of energy production in the United States comes from coal, oil and natural gas, but “natural gas prices in the United States have been more volatile than coal prices, so the cost of natural gas often determines the relative share of production supplied by natural gas and coal, ”the EIA analysis said.
“Between 2015 and 2020, the cost of natural gas delivered to electric generators remained relatively low and stable,” the EIA said. “This year, however, natural gas prices have been much higher than in recent years. Since the start of the year, the cost of delivering natural gas to US power plants has averaged $ 4.93 per million British thermal units (Btu), more than double the price for the year last. “
Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said the increased reliance on coal is a reminder that “low-cost electricity produced from coal continues to serve Americans as the most reliable source of energy.”
“It is not too late to reverse the trend of prematurely shutting down coal-fired power plants and coal mines, especially when electric utilities scramble to obtain the energy needed for the coming winter.” said Mr. Dempsey.
• This article is based in part on press service reports.