By now you have all heard the coal industry claims that the Clean Power Plan will kill the coal industry. This week federal judges hearing oral argument on the rule will no doubt hear the same. A new report by Sue Tierney of the Analysis Group clearly demonstrates just how misleading these claims are.
Dr. Tierney’s analysis examines changes in the industry since the 1970’s to unpack the factors that led to coal’s rise through 2000 and steady decline since. It shows how shifting economics for energy production have caused cost-effective lower-emitting natural gas generation and zero-emitting renewables to steadily out-compete coal and erode its market share. The analysis also shows how the industry made a large number of badly misplaced bets that have left them with over-burdened balance sheets, and facing bankruptcy as a result of these self-inflicted wounds.
Citing analyses by the Energy Information Administration and others, the analysis shows the irreversibility of these trends as coal is simply no longer the cheapest form of generation. These trends will also continue to drive a transition to cleaner lower-carbon fuels regardless of the fate of the Clean Power Plan. The clear implication is that industry should focus on preparing for the future and adapting to these new market conditions as opposed to fighting long-delayed protections that will help secure a more stable climate, a sustainable economy and vital public health benefits.
The analysis also examines the significant job losses seen since 1980, and finds that here too the blame has been misplaced. Data clearly show that decades ago, increasing productivity and a shift from eastern to western coal led to significant job losses even while the industry’s overall production was in a period of dramatic growth. Remarkably, coal mining jobs fell by one-half from 1975 to 2000 even as coal production increased by more than 60 percent.
EDF Fellow Will Bittinger co-authored this post
Here’s one fact you may not know about the Clean Power Plan – it can save you money.
The Clean Power Plan puts the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants. It’s a crucial step in our efforts to combat climate chaos and protect public health. But it can also help American families save money.
EPA’s analysis of the Clean Power Plan concluded that once the rule is fully implemented in 2030, it will lower the average consumer bill by about seven percent.
The Consumers Union, Public Citizen, and the Illinois Citizens Utility Board – all groups that serve and protect electricity customers – have confirmed these benefits. In a compelling amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief, these three leading consumer advocacy groups highlighted the host of empirical evidence showing that the Clean Power Plan can drive electricity costs down and deliver substantial benefits to consumers, especially those in low-income communities.
Co-authored with Martha Roberts
If someone was tallying up all the benefits of energy efficiency programs, you’d want them to include reducing climate pollution, right? That’s just common sense.
Thankfully, that’s what our government does when it designs energy efficiency programs—as well as other policies that impact greenhouse gas emissions. And just this month, this approach got an important seal of approval: For the first time, a federal court upheld using the social cost of carbon to inform vital protections against the harmful impacts of climate change. Read More
The Clean Power Plan oral argument is coming up soon. On September 27, attorneys will present their arguments in front of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
EPA and the many supporters of the Clean Power Plan have already filed their written arguments – and so has the coalition of coal companies and their allies that are challenging the rule. (You can read all their submissions here.) And just yesterday, the D.C. Circuit released the final order on the argument’s format and duration.
The Clean Power Plan is America’s first-ever nationwide program to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. It sets eminently achievable carbon emission targets that phase in gradually, in line with current power sector trends, while giving states and power companies tremendous flexibility to determine how best to meet these goals.
We know we need massive decreases in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if 177 countries are to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
But before emissions go on a steep decline, we need to turn the corner. At Environmental Defense Fund, we have analyzed what it would take to turn the corner by 2020, and zeroed in on a few key actions that will halt the rise in global emissions and make them start to go down. For good.
Christiana Figueres, the United Nations official who led the Paris climate talks, rightly talks about technology, finance and policy – technologies to store and distribute energy, financing to scale the technology we have, and policies to reward innovators who deliver results. Read More
As rapid changes in energy technology – both in renewable and fossil fuel sources – transforms the way we power our lives, we have a chance to leave our children a prosperous world and reduce the effects of climate change. But, to scale fast enough, we need smart policies – at all levels of government.
National policies are essential to raise our level of ambition, put a price on carbon, limit emissions from key sectors, and spur innovation. For example, the Clean Power Plan would accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies. But, many states are taking strides to promote innovative technologies and paving the way for national policy. Read More