Coal is #1… again.

Guest post by David Middleton

Politics and Energy

Coal Is Number One

STEPHEN MOORE

July 28, 2017, 12:05 am

Quick: what was the number one source of electricity production in the U.S. during the first half of 2017? If you answered renewable energy, you are wrong by a mile. If you answered natural gas, you were wrong by a tiny amount.

According to the Energy Information Administration, which tracks energy use in production on a monthly basis, the single largest source of electric power for the first half of 2017 was… coal. See chart.

[…]

The American Spectator

steve-moore-chart-image004-300x201

Coal is dead #1 again.

What’s that?  You don’t believe Stephen Moore or the American Spectator?

Let’s check with the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

Electricity Generation

In 2016, annual U.S. electricity generation from natural gas surpassed generation from coal-fired power plants, the first time this has happened based on data going back to 1949. Natural gas supplied an estimated 34% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016 compared with 30% for coal. The increase in the share of generation fueled by natural gas last year was driven by sustained low prices for natural gas. The U.S. average price for natural gas delivered to electric generators was $2.88/million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2016.

Natural gas prices have risen since last year, with the delivered price to electric generators averaging $3.58/MMBtu during the first half of 2017. EIA estimates that the share of total U.S. generation fueled by natural gas during the first half of this year averaged 29%, down from nearly 34% during the same period last year. In contrast, coal’s share of generation rose from 28% in the first half of 2016 to 30% in first half of 2017. Another reason for the decline in natural gas generation so far this year is the strong increase in conventional hydroelectric generation, particularly in the western states. The share of total generation in the West census division supplied from hydropower averaged an estimated 32% in the first half of 2017, compared with 27% during the first half of last year.

EIA expects a less pronounced change in generation shares during the second half of 2017. Natural gas is expected fuel 33% of total U.S. generation in the second half of 2017, compared with 34% during the second half of 2016. The delivered natural gas price to electric generators is expected to average $3.60/MMBtu between July and December 2017, up 46 cents from the same period in 2016. Coal’s share of generation in the second half of 2017 is relatively unchanged from the second half last year at 32%.

Natural gas and coal are expected to fuel about the same amount of generation in 2018, with each providing slightly more than 31% of total U.S. generation. Renewable energy sources other than hydropower are forecast to supply nearly 10% of U.S. generation in 2018, up from slightly more than 8% in 2016.

US EIA

Back to Mr. Moore’s tour de force…

[…]

According to the EIA’s July report, “EIA estimates that the share of total U.S. generation fueled by natural gas during the first half of this year averaged 29%… In contrast, coal’s share of generation rose from 28% in the first half of 2016 to 30% in first half of 2017.” For the full year 2017, EIA estimates that coal will generate 3.453 million kilowatts per day, while natural gas, because of a rise in its retail price this year, will generate a hair less, or 3.432 million kilowatts. Wind and solar remain niche sources of energy providing about one-seventh as much power as coal and gas.

That’s not all. On July 21, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that “mining increased 21.6 percent.… The first quarter growth primarily reflected increases in oil and gas extraction, as well as support activities for mining. This was the largest increase since the fourth quarter of 2014.” ‎No other major American industry had such gains and across all industries output was up less than 2%.

As for the drilling and mining industries, they have gained more than 50,000 jobs since Trump’s election with 8,000 added in June alone. Many of these were in the oil and gas industry, but some were in coal, whose output has increased 12% this year.

[…]

The American Spectator

Coal-fired electricity back on top, coal mining up 21.6%, coal and other fossil fuel jobs are up 12% and l’accord climatique paris est mort… 

paris-climate-agreement-dead-anim1

This calls for a song!

But wait, Mr. Moore did find one silver lining in the dark cloud of renewables…

[…]

Liberals complain that coal activity isn’t a major producer of jobs because the industry is producing a lot more coal with a lot fewer workers. That is absolutely true. Ladies and gentlemen, that is called productivity. A new study by the Institute for Energy Research points out that it takes wind and solar at least 30 times more man hours to produce a kilowatt of electricity than are required to produce that same energy from coal or oil. If you don’t think this productivity advantage of fossil fuels is a good thing, then you probably think we should bring farm jobs back by abolishing tractors and modern farm equipment.

[…]

The American Spectator

Oh.  Wait a second.  That’s a silver lining for fossil fuels and nuclear power …

mtoeperemployee

Sources: BP 2016 Statistical Review of World Energy, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (via FRED), The Solar Foundation and American Wind Energy Association.

Coal’s Resurgence and Natural Gas Prices

In 2016, natural gas topped coal in electricity generation for one reason: The collapse in natural gas prices:

In 2016, annual U.S. electricity generation from natural gas surpassed generation from coal-fired power plants, the first time this has happened based on data going back to 1949. Natural gas supplied an estimated 34% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016 compared with 30% for coal. The increase in the share of generation fueled by natural gas last year was driven by sustained low prices for natural gas. The U.S. average price for natural gas delivered to electric generators was $2.88/million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2016.

— US EIA

The increased demand for natural gas caused the price to rise and put coal back on top in 2017:

Natural gas prices have risen since last year, with the delivered price to electric generators averaging $3.58/MMBtu during the first half of 2017. EIA estimates that the share of total U.S. generation fueled by natural gas during the first half of this year averaged 29%, down from nearly 34% during the same period last year. In contrast, coal’s share of generation rose from 28% in the first half of 2016 to 30% in first half of 2017.

— US EIA

The effect of natural gas prices on coal-fired power plant output is bleedingly obvious.  I randomly picked a large coal-fired plant in Ohio and plotted its output along with natural gas prices:

Conesville_Map

coal_v_gas_price

Conesville Power Plant, Ohio. Output as a % of capacity and natural gas prices 2001-2016 (US EIA).

Year Output MWh % of Summer Capacity  Natural Gas ($/mcf)
2001        8,693,451 65%  $                                3.96
2002      12,041,120 90%  $                                3.38
2003      10,868,871 81%  $                                5.47
2004        9,022,674 67%  $                                5.89
2005        9,716,702 72%  $                                8.69
2006        9,052,577 68%  $                                6.73
2007      10,342,353 77%  $                                6.97
2008        9,463,907 71%  $                                8.86
2009        6,189,984 46%  $                                3.94
2010        6,460,269 48%  $                                4.37
2011        6,993,013 52%  $                                4.00
2012        5,789,044 43%  $                                2.75
2013        6,362,810 47%  $                                3.73
2014        7,974,027 59%  $                                4.37
2015        5,168,266 39%  $                                2.62
2016        4,534,110 34%  $                                2.52

When natural natural gas is below $2.50/mmbtu, coal is dead.  When natural gas is above $3.00/mmbtu, coal is alive and kicking.

Featured image source.

18trumpcoal2-master675

Donald J. Trump at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., last month. His promises to bring back coal mining jobs helped him win in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Credit Dominick Reuter/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

Related Story: Was Trump Right About Coal?

Coal_v_Gas_Price_2

Revised based on information from Greg McCall’s comment on August 1, 2017 at 9:17 am.

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138 thoughts on “Coal is #1… again.

  1. The anti-coalers have Peter-Pan syndrome: they think that all they have to do to kill coal is to wish it so, deep in their souls.

    • Or they can be like Griff and just declare that any trend that they like will continue forever.

      • Hey the left doesn’t need to worry, they’ve already declared that Trump can do nothing to help the industry and that it is already dead. Dealing with these people has become like dealing with special needs children, most of the time you can just smile and nod.

      • Griff, while some countries are cutting back on coal for fear-mongered or simple economic reasons, others like China, India, Japan & more are ignoring the phobias and going full steam ahead (pun intended).

      • “Or be like Griff and declare the coal trend will NOT continue for ever! (or very long at all)”

        It is certain that neither you nor your children nor your children’s children are likely to see the end of coal at the Earth’s primary source of energy – unless something truly cheaper and less labour-intensive, ie not the current crop of expensive, inefficient, counter-productive ‘Unreliables’, appears, of course.

        Have you apologised to Dr. Crockford for lying about her professional qualifications yet?

  2. Happy USA, at least as far as energy reserves are concerned.
    Look at the jump from 2015 to 2016 in the case of the detected hard coal reserves (in millions of tonnes):
    https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/41297/umfrage/usa—nachgewiesene-kohlereserven-in-millionen-tonnen/

    Raw hard coal has an average threefold calorific value and a more than threefold heat value as raw brown coal.
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heizwert

    The US is a natural energy-source giant!

    • In the year 2015 the worldwide hard coal mining industry amounted to about 6900 million tons. But the US reserves established in 2016 would suffice to cover the world’s consumption for more than 36 years.

    • What I like best about coal is the CO2 it produces.
      Simple explanation, consider pure coal, pure carbon.
      Burn coal and add two atomic weight of oxygen to one atomic weight of coal
      12 + 2*16 = 44
      So for every 12 tons of coal, you get 44 tons CO2, greatest thing for plant life ever.
      The only downsides are the impurities like Sulpher and heavy metals, but that is an always improving situation.

    • I was joking with some of my oil field buddies the other day, telling them we ought to take up a collection and send it to the environmentalist groups in Australia. Maybe they can get fracking banned in all of Australia, not just Victoria.

      [W]e would anticipate that the uncertainty created by the Australian government’s reaction to the supply-demand balance could only help the U.S. projects’ competitive position.

      The Real “Land Of Plenty” – Why U.S. LNG Won’t Face Australia’s Natural Gas Supply Problem
      https://rbnenergy.com/the-real-land-of-plenty-why-us-lng-wont-face-australias-natural-gas-supply-problem

      • Definition of lagniappe:

        : a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase; broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure The waiter added a cup of lobster bisque as a lagniappe to the meal.

        https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lagniappe.
        Thank you David for adding one more word to my still growing vocabulary. This word is the oddest one yet.

    • I notice in the article the following comment…
      “APR’s gas/diesel generators are faster than most but they still take minutes.”
      Total bullshit, Generator idling online takes little power and when a blackout occurs an automatic clutch engages the generator using the armature inertia and the diesel is up to full revs in less than two seconds.
      This is precisely the system we relied on in the Arctic back in the days I worked as Radar Tech on the DEW line. Worked like a charm, kept that radar humming and the hot line between Washington and Moscow never went down.

      • Not bullshit, just a completely different situation. For the DEW and other situations where 100% reliability is needed, it’s worth it to have rotating UPS attached to the generator despite the power draw and the significant maintenance expenses. For baseload power to an entire grid, rotating UPS aren’t used, it just isn’t worth the price.

  3. Does this mean that US CO2 production will start increasing as we switch back to coal?

    We’re all gonna die

    • no, you are quite safe, because US coal power plants keep closing, so less CO2 is going into the air.

      • Griff, you persist in this delusion. The article just showed that Coal mining and use is INCREASING!

        “According to the Energy Information Administration, which tracks energy use in production on a monthly basis, the single largest source of electric power for the first half of 2017 was… coal.”

        You are pathetic.

      • Any plants that close are older and less efficient. If coal remains more economical than natural gas, its edge will continue. “Renewables’ simply can’t compete, even with subsidies, which are liable to go away. The US simply can’t afford them, while spending a trillion more than it takes in every year.

      • 1600 + new coal power stations around the world, little griffy.

        PLENTY of lovely new atmospheric CO2 that feed the world for decades/centuries to come…

        YES… CO2 even feeds YOU, griffy. !

        And even better, is that all your mindless yapping will not make a single bit of difference to this massively beneficial enhancement of atmospheric CO2 levels.

      • unless you freeze to death due to overloads blowing transformers from brownouts when, in Feb, its -25+ F w/o wind chill as happens here often.
        thanks for nothing you idiot.

      • Try to follow along…

        Utilities Keep Closing Coal For Economic Reasons, Led By Gas, Efficiency And Renewables

        The central thread in these utility decisions is that coal is increasingly priced out of power markets by natural gas and renewables, or made obsolete by shrinking demand. New research by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy attributed 49% of coal’s collapse over the past six years to increased competition from cheap natural gas, 26% to lower-than expected electricity demand and 18% to expanded renewable energy.

        Declining electricity demand—which has steadily decreased since it peaked in 2007—may have been coal’s Achilles Heel, since it put further economic pressure on already uncompetitive coal as natural gas increased market share. Without this new demand, coal-fired generators saw reduced revenue as natural gas combined cycle plants become the relatively less expensive option in much of the country.

        Data suggests past is prologue for coal, except now wind and increasingly solar may play the role as coal-replacers-in-chief. Analysis by Moody’s Investor Services finds 56 GW of Midwest coal-fired generation is at risk of early closure due to falling wind energy costs. Related modeling of U.S. government data by the Energy Policy Simulator finds that even without the Clean Power Plan, U.S. coal capacity will decline from 266 GW today to 228 GW in 2050, and lower-than-forecast natural gas prices would cause an additional 26GW of coal retirements by 2050.

        https://www.forbes.com/sites/energyinnovation/2017/05/18/embracing-the-coal-closure-trend-economic-solutions-for-utilities-facing-a-crossroads/#bfd68521c997

        49% of coal’s “collapse” was due to low natural gas prices. 26% was due to lower than expected electricity demand.

        Natural gas prices have recovered to a point where coal-fired plants are operating at a higher utilization rate. If demand for EV’s ever actually does materialize, we will have much higher than expected electricity demand.

        Currently scheduled retirements of US coal-fired plants will cause generation capacity to drop from 266 GW to 228 GW by 2050.

        If coal-fired plants operate at 30% when gas is at $2.00/mmbtu and 50% when gas is at $3.00/mmbtu… 228 GW operating at 50% will burn 43% more coal than 266 GW operating at 30%.

        If natural gas averaged $6/mmbtu, coal plants would operate at about 70% of capacity. In this case 228 GW at 70% would burn twice as much coal as 266 GW operating at 30%.

        EIA reference case has natural gas prices in the $4-5 range over the near future…

        The marginal price for most shale plays is around $4/mmbtu. Basic resource economics will eventually rebalance the market to that level. However, if the Marcellus peaks prematurely, $7-10 gas is a real possibility. This would have most coal-fired plants operating at 70-80% of capacity instead of 30-50%.

        A lot of coal capacity can be retired and coal demand could still double because most coal-fired plants are operating at a low utilization rate due to recenrly low natural gas prices.

        That’s just the domestic market. EIA has OECD coal consumption flat out to 2040; while non-OECD coal consumption continues to rise…

        US coal export terminals are currently operating at a fraction of their capacity.

        There’s plenty of room for exports to grow without addind new capacity. Just getting exports back to the pre-war-on-coal level would be huge.

        Coal won’t return to its early 20th century dominance; but it will play a major role in US energy dominance of the 21st century.

        Instead of relying on the Sierra Club for energy information, you should try the Energy Information Administration.

  4. So if this is all driven by the price of natural gas, how is it anything to do with Trump? Why is an increase in the price of natural gas anything to celebrate?

    • The point is, coal is the insurance against potential rise in natural gas prices (whose price has been near historic lows), it sets a ceiling on gas prices, so it’s great to have it as part of the energy mix.

      • Just as societies relying on a single carbohydrate staple are vulnerable to famine if that crop should fail. France in Pre revolutionary times relied on wheat and rye, when those were devastated by ergot blight, they had no bread. Plus those eating what they salvaged were poisoned by ergotamines and were mentally impaired. This led to potatoes in Ireland which too were blighted decades later.

        Stable energy prices require a mix of sources, fungible or substitute works because value is energy content.

    • AndyL,

      Obama’s jihad against coal and other fossil fuels is no longer:

      Trump’s Energy Policy: 10 Big Changes
      https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2016/12/26/trumps-energy-policy-10-big-changes/#49178c0b7cd9

      1. Goodbye to the Clean Power Plan.

      3. Coal gets a reprieve. Restrictions on coal production and coal power have reached unprecedented severity under the Obama administration. Coal is unlikely to be saddled with any new environmental restrictions under the Trump administration. Just as importantly, the Trump administration is likely to rescind many of the restrictions imposed by the Obama administration, such as a new slate of restrictions announced last week. This may not revive coal power, which faces strong competition from inexpensive natural gas. Nevertheless, coal will face fewer regulatory restrictions under the Trump administration.

      5. Wind and solar power loses disproportionate subsidies. Wind and solar subsidies during the past decade have dwarfed those of all other energy sources, imposing expensive and unreliable power on American consumers. The wind and solar industries claim their products are falling in price and insist they can provide power on a cost-competitive basis with conventional power. Expect the Trump administration to hold the wind and solar industries to their word, reducing subsidies and restoring a level playing field for competing energy sources.

      10. Natural gas exports increase. Natural gas is in high global demand to reduce pollution in an affordable manner… The Obama administration has blocked the construction of natural gas export terminals that would allow American energy companies to deliver natural gas to countries that need it. Expect the Trump administration to reverse course on this short-sighted policy. More natural gas exports will bring environmental and strategic political relief to countries abroad, while simultaneously providing America economic and strategic political benefits.

      What will be the impact of these expected changes in federal energy policy? The answer is more abundant energy, more affordable energy, and environmental policy that addresses true environmental concerns rather than serving as a protection racket for politically favored energy sources.

    • Because Obama was distorting the market, attempting to kill coal. Trump has reversed that – just in time, too, or electricity prices would “necessarily skyrocket” – a quote by Obama, who saw thought of exorbitant electricity bills as a feature, not a bug.
      As for slightly higher (better) natural gas prices this year vs. last year, the price of anything can fall too low. Just as it is folly to think “if one vitamin is good, maybe I should eat all of them right now!” so also it is folly to think “if a low price is good, then even lower prices must be better”. Remember, in the Great Depression virtually EVERYTHING was incredibly cheap. that was not only a symptom of the economic disease ravaging that time, it was a glaring clue as to the root cause of it.

      • The reason things were cheap was that those were the only prices that ordinary people could support with their low wages. Wages were low because unemployment was high. Unemployment was high because large firms went into bankruptcy when their stock crashed. The stock crashed because it was overvalued …and everyone was jumping on board (easy money, thanks to the Federal Reserve System). But, if you really wanted to be spendy, you could still buy yourself a Duesenberg.

        Noting wrong with low prices. If you think otherwise, I’m sure you can urge more money on any merchants you purchase from. And you are free to purchase the MOST expensive computers (computational technology having been the most dramatic recent example of continual price reductions).

  5. On this site I know there is a bias towards anti-man caused global warming and I remain skeptical too, but one issue I have with coal is the pollution aspect. Although I believe coal can burn “cleaner” than it has in the past, I wonder how much of the world has scrubbing capabilities?

    I look at places like China where the air pollution is really bad and wonder. My brother in law was stationed in Japan and he showed us how bad the air pollution was by taking down pictures off the wall. The contrast in one year was amazing. He could literally rub “dirt” off the walls :(

    • The point is, that is China’s problem, not ours. They know how to fix their problems with air pollution. In other words, pollution is a local, regional, and national problem, and it is up to them whether they have enough of the will (i.e. money) to clean it up.

    • Doug, in most of the world pollution controls are nowhere near as strict as in the developing countries. While this is an issue regarding coal, it is a much, much larger issue regarding trucks and cars, particularly diesels.

      Not much can be done other than to improve the economy of those countries. Until it is fairly wealthy, a country simply can’t afford to clean up its water and air.

      Best regards,

      w.

    • Most of their new USC coal generation does have scrubbers starting in 2017. The problem with coal in China is it is also the primary industrial and residential heat source, where scrubbing isn’t practical. Think London in 1880. In the US, the primary industrial and residential heat source is natural gas. Therein lies the difference.

    • All of the world has scrubbing capabilities. The only question is, do the people have sufficient political power to demand it.
      In China, in the past, they didn’t. However even China has changed and all new plants are scrubbed.
      PS, most of the smoke in Chinese cities is coming from individual heating and cooking fires, not power plants.

    • China could reduce its pollution without adding scrubbers simply by buying US coal, which is clean and high in BTU content. But US Pacific ports refuse to handle “death trains” of coal, so it has to go via Canada, at greater cost. We could sell lots more coal from WY and MT if state and national governments permitted it. Which would also help reduce out balance of trade deficit with China.

    • The contrast in one year was amazing. He could literally rub “dirt” off the walls

      You ought to have lived in Manhattan. If I left my windows opened all days, the sills were covered in soot.

  6. So if this is all driven by the price of natural gas, how is it anything to do with Trump?

    Maybe because what drive the price of goods depend also from politics choices? Offer and Demand law?

  7. well here is a thoughtful analysis of why US coal export boost is temporary
    http://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/coal/u-s-coal-exports-surge-but-thank-china-not-trump-russell/59842509

    “While U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration would no doubt like to claim credit for reviving the coal industry, it’s likely there has been virtually no structural change that will ensure a sustained boost for U.S. coal exports.

    Rather, the situation of the previous years remains intact, which sees the United States as a swing supplier of coal, with additional exports largely dependent on whether prices in Asia are high enough to make the economics of the long sea voyage possible.”

    I say again, while US coal power plants continue to close, US coal will not recover. The gas price has to go up a long way before US coal plants stop closing. And a long, long way before building new US coal plants becomes economic.

    • Try to follow along…

      Utilities Keep Closing Coal For Economic Reasons, Led By Gas, Efficiency And Renewables

      The central thread in these utility decisions is that coal is increasingly priced out of power markets by natural gas and renewables, or made obsolete by shrinking demand. New research by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy attributed 49% of coal’s collapse over the past six years to increased competition from cheap natural gas, 26% to lower-than expected electricity demand and 18% to expanded renewable energy.

      Declining electricity demand—which has steadily decreased since it peaked in 2007—may have been coal’s Achilles Heel, since it put further economic pressure on already uncompetitive coal as natural gas increased market share. Without this new demand, coal-fired generators saw reduced revenue as natural gas combined cycle plants become the relatively less expensive option in much of the country.

      Data suggests past is prologue for coal, except now wind and increasingly solar may play the role as coal-replacers-in-chief. Analysis by Moody’s Investor Services finds 56 GW of Midwest coal-fired generation is at risk of early closure due to falling wind energy costs. Related modeling of U.S. government data by the Energy Policy Simulator finds that even without the Clean Power Plan, U.S. coal capacity will decline from 266 GW today to 228 GW in 2050, and lower-than-forecast natural gas prices would cause an additional 26GW of coal retirements by 2050.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/energyinnovation/2017/05/18/embracing-the-coal-closure-trend-economic-solutions-for-utilities-facing-a-crossroads/#bfd68521c997

      49% of coal’s “collapse” was due to low natural gas prices. 26% was due to lower than expected electricity demand.

      Natural gas prices have recovered to a point where coal-fired plants are operating at a higher capacity. If demand for EV’s ever actually does materialize, we will have much higher than expected electricity demand.

      Lets assume that US coal-fired generation capacity drops from 266 GW to 228 GW by 2050 and assume that natural gas prices average $3.00/mmbtu from now to 2050.

      If coal-fired plants operate at 30% when gas is at $2.00/mmbtu and 50% when gas is at $3.00/mmbtu… 228 GW operating at 50% will burn 43% more coal than 266 GW operating at 30%.

      If natural gas averaged $6/mmbtu, coal plants would operate at about 70%. In this case 228 GW at 70% would burn twice as much coal as 266 GW operating at 30%.

      A lot of coal capacity can be retired and coal demand could still double because most coal-fired plants are operating at a low capacity due to low natural gas prices.

      • OK… coal demand for US power plants holds up, despite some still closing and no new ones being built, because prices mean more coal burned in existing capacity, which then becomes fully used.

        Hmmm.

        Plausible. sort of.

        Assuming renewables are not an even cheaper option.

        I note many firms are going for their own renewable/soalr supply as it fixes their costs… in a continuing high electricity price market due to increased gas prices…

        That’s not a recovery or expansion of US coal though, is it? No more mining jobs would be created?

        More an optimistic view of the decline?

      • Apart from California and other socialist States, the US is not high electricity price market. The same market forces that will drive natural gas up will also drive up coal-fired utilization. Renewables, particularly wind, will tag along, but that’s about all they’ll do.

      • Just drove from western PA to Cape Cod over the last two days, saw lots and lots of wind mills along I80 and I95, the majority of them idle. Boy and I made a game of counting the ones turning, at least till I got bored with it.

    • Griff,

      That’s about exports, not US electrical power production, which is what David’s post was about.

    • Griff, you write

      The gas price has to go up a long way before US coal plants stop closing.

      Next time read the article you’re commenting on. You have it backwards. Scroll up and read:

      When natural natural gas is below $2.50/mmbtu, coal is dead. When natural gas is above $3.00/mmbtu, coal is alive and kicking.

  8. The price and production fluctuations to some extent are occurring because the rise of natural gas was so sudden. Power companies either by themselves or in the market use futures contracts to try and maximize profits. Coal and gas are a perfect pair with a mix of power plants operating. Coal provides mostly base load power. Depending on the power plant mix, gas can either provide baseload(CCGT) and some peaking power(OCT) with near instantaneous response(in power plant terms).

    The purchasing departments and legal departments play a key role in structuring purchase contracts to maximize flexibility and the ability to provide the system regulation. One only needs look at the recent events in South Australia- last September a combination of bad weather- tornadoes downed some power lines and a tropical storm unexpectedly caused a large fraction(9 of 13)of the wind farms producing 40% of the power to shut down along with an earlier shutdown of the only coal plant caused a total blackout of the whole state. It took 2 weeks to get everything back on line because windmills require a reliable supply of electricity to start up. The complex of bad planning for reliable power(no natural gas or electricity from western Australia), a coal plant shut down for CO2 reduction, poor design to control the distribution, windmills that shut down unexpectedly, and a plan that overloaded the only backup source from Victoria, and using “load shedding” to black out parts of the system have caused further rolling blackouts.

    • Well, SA is now putting in a grid storage battery system, which is ideal for ‘black start’ of grids… shouldn’t have that problem in future

      and if those windfarms had been set up with proper trip control, as has been standard in Germany for a decade, they would not have gone down in the first place.

      • After they have spent about $10Trillion on these batteries, they might be getting close to having enough.
        Of course by then, most of the first installs will be ready for replacing.

      • “now putting in a grid storage battery system”

        ROFLMAO,

        oh poor gullible griffy.

        It will last about 10 minutes.

        It is nothing more than watch battery. !

      • I suggest you get you facts straight about SA. The battery back up will only have the capability to cover 60,000 homes, then only for a short term. Batteries have to be made and then get rid when they past their short service life. Of course that doesn’t create any pollution. Dream on! Like I say, get your facts before making a pie in the sky comment! We are looking forward to our summer, more black outs.

      • “shouldn’t have that problem in future”

        You really haven’t got the first clue, have you?

        Mind you, as all you do is regurgitate the bollox from the Guardian and all the other loony Left ‘Green’ drivel blogs like Carbonbrief you haunt, that’s not surprising.

    • if you actually followed railroad news you would know (well most would, not sure you are callable) CSX is speaking about their unit trains (you got any idea what that is????) in the CURRENT regulatory environment.
      that can change. Norfolk Southern is already gaining some unit train movement and BNSF/UP from Powder River Basin has stabilized but not really increased.

      Harriman, who just took over CSX a few months ago, is trying to return profitability to a carrier that has failed at everything from intermodal to 28 hour dispatch schedules to alleviate congestion. course thats all greek to you, you just see a headline and cream over it.

  9. Whether it is 10, 20 or times the person hours per megawatt for solar and wind versus coal/oil/gas there is one hell of an economy of scale for solar and wind which will needs to be found. No wonder they have to be subsidized.
    Businesses aren’t in business to employ as many people as possible, rather they are in business to make money in the the most efficient manner possible. How is it so many fans of “renewable” energy miss this completely?

    • I think they took this quote from Keynes to heart:

      If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.

      Book 3, Chapter 10, Section 6 pg.129 “The General Theory..”

      • “…the above would be better than nothing.”

        Insane. You have to be really smart to be that stupid.

  10. Looking at the graph with coal and natural gas going neck and neck, they want to eventually replace everything to the left of wind and solar. It is currently difficult to drive 50 miles in Illinois without encountering a vista dominated entirely by wind turbines. If they get their dream, we will have a constant vista of turbines. Only to find out we still need all those other sources for back up and we have to pay them to stand idle and to build new ones as they age. Environmentalists are short sighted with blinders on when they’re in full movement mode. But having politicians and academics join them there is a monumental achievement of mob mentality.

  11. Trump has nothing to do with it. This increase in coal is a temporary blip. The article said it was mostly due to higher hydro generation in the west. California had its wettest year on record so more hydro. Once we go back to drought Ina few years natural gas will climb again.
    Trump controls the weather about as well as we do.

    • Hydro helped coal get back to #1, but it didn’t help coal increase use or market share, which also happened. Increased hydro just lowered the demand for natural gas far more than it lowered the demand for coal due to the mix of power plants out west. And it wasn’t just a temporary blip caused by heavy rain, it was a return to average capacity for reservoirs; hydro produced more power than 2016 in 13 of the preceding 19 years.

  12. Liberals complain that coal activity isn’t a major producer of jobs because the industry is producing a lot more coal with a lot fewer workers. That is absolutely true. Ladies and gentlemen, that is called productivity.

    and with a lot fewer deaths and injuries. See here. Peak US coal miners was in 1923 at 862,536 with 2,462 fatalities (0.2854%). In 2016 it was 81,485 miners and 8 fatalities (0.0098%) . Compare that with annual coal production (unfortunately only covers 1949-2011) and you can see that in 1949 485,306 miners produced 480.6 million short tons of coal while incurring 585 deaths (0.1205%). But in 2011 143,437 miners produced 1094.3 million short tons while incurring 20 deaths (0.0139%). Much better productivity; much better jobs, but fewer of them.

      • Those are direct fatalities. There is a ring of increased mortality that surrounds mountaintop mining sites.

        The health risks of coal mining are still substantial.

      • Mary Brown: I don’t have figures for fatalities in surrounding mountaintop sites, so I can’t calculate whether that is getting worse, better or staying the same. My point was that mining has gotten much safer for the miners. But I would guess that the move to open pit mining reduces health effects on nearby populations as well, but that’s just a guess.

      • Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 August 1, 2017 at 2:28 pm
        Mary Brown: I don’t have figures for fatalities in surrounding mountaintop sites, so I can’t calculate whether that is getting worse, better or staying the same. My point was that mining has gotten much safer for the miners.

        Black lung still occurs among open cast miners, far fewer employed per million tons of coal so the absolute numbers have dropped. It was felt that underground miners were most likely to get this because of the confinement of the dust, however recent results show it is still a problem. Also the surrounding areas are subject to the dust. By the way does the cost of opencast mined coal reflect the cleanup after the mining has finished or do the companies do a Peabody and declare bankrupcy?

  13. The situation for Conesville plant is a bit more complicated and makes your graph a little less dramatic (capacity factor less sensitive to natural gas prices). In 2000 there were five coal-fired units for a total capacity of 1,945MW. Units 1&2 were retired after 2005 and the last three years of operation of units 1&2 included some natural gas (co-fired with coal, but not much). From 2006 through 2012 the total capacity was 1,695MW when unit 3 was retired. There were also a couple years where the generation was a bit off form company records (2002 and 2012).
    Around 2010 Ohio fully deregulated electric power generation and the impact of that is difficult to know.
    The net effect is that the capacity factor line still declines but is somewhat flatter. But in general, your point still holds.

    • I literally did pick that power plant out at random… And I was kind of shocked how well the output matched natural gas prices.

      The EIA data are only for units 4,5 and 6… 780, 375 and 375 MW respectively (1,530 total). Units 1, 2 and 3 aren’t included.

      • But Units 1-3 ARE included in the earlier years with the EIA data you provided above (EIA must be providing total plant generation – 90% capacity factor in 2002 for those units is not reasonable). When I redo my numbers for just units 4-6 it makes your point even less.

      • Getting closer. A few years are off. For units 4-6 from 2000 I get: 65.5, 51.6, 61.5, 65.4, 55.4, 66.4, 63.9, 72.6, 64.6, 42.8, 44.1, 50.7, 55.8, 47.5, 59.5, 38.6, 33.6. All these three units have had some long outages the last two years for SO2 scrubber work.
        I know, I know…. I’m getting way into the weeds.

      • What are the odds? I pick a power plant at random and someone familiar with that power plant reads the post and contributes to it!

  14. I think that it would help all that read and contribute to this site, to ignore any comments made by Griff. I have no doubt he/ she will try a comeback under another name. Someone will spot it.

    • I beg to disagree. It’s good practice for everyone to read any comment that cites data to make a point and verify that data for themselves. I don’t think I have ever agreed with Griff, but I have benefited from tracking down his citations and finding the flaws for myself. I do not recall that he has ever been nasty.

    • you are free to ignore me, but my hope is you will follow up such links as I post and come back with any relevant info which contradicts… that is engage in a debate.

      (I thank Alan and David for their kind words.)

  15. Coal with the technology of Carbon Capture Utilization can be combusted putting less CO2 into the atmosphere than combusted natural gas. The CO2 gets transformed into useful-saleable products. Jobs are created because of the CO2. Waste Is Not A Waste If It Has A Purpose, and combusted coal exhaust has a purpose.

  16. The problem is that future administrations may well enact further regulations, aided and abetted by the EPA, to simply make coal uneconomic. Whatever the underlying economic realities, government has the power to drive most industries to extinction if the desire is strong enough. Griff understand this all too well. Obama stated such intentions.

    What is being done to defend against these attacks, which are quite likely in the future? Serious EPA reform is needed as a minimum. Even that may not be enough.

    • Well, yes, I was going to ask…

      you could get a Democratic president at some point… in which case this flip flops the other way again?

      (That may seem unlikely, but in modern politics I’m only placing bets on 1000 to 1 chance candidates from now on…)

  17. Coal’s future remains gravely in doubt. Extracting it is fraught with human health hazards.

    • The same is true for extracting silver (often the exact same dangers as coal) and other materials needed for solar panels. Wind turbines require far more area than coal plants, and according to the NIH, living near them causes human health problems. Depending on what you want to be worried about, there is no energy source with a certain future.

    • All industry has hazards. Today workers are far more engaged protecting themselves, and items available to protect us from hazards are much more readily available and cheaper. The only thing putting coal’s future “gravely in doubt” is the insane crap being vomited forth by environloons.

  18. have not had chance to read all comments so forgive if mentioned before

    http://hotair.com/archives/2017/08/01/south-carolina-nuke-plants-scrapped-may-return-coal/

    http://start.att.net/news/read/article/the_associated_press-utility_votes_to_stop_building_billiondollar_nuke-ap

    ********************
    Billions of dollars spent on two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina went up in smoke Monday when the owners nixed plans to finish them after years of delays and cost overruns, dealing a severe blow to the industry’s future.
    **********************

    But Monday’s decision may eventually result in the utility putting a coal-fired unit idled earlier this year back in operation. Another option for supplying power needs in the decades to come include building a natural gas unit.

    “Absolutely, this pushes us back to more carbon, whether it’s natural gas or coal,” Carter said.
    ****************************************
    sad really, coal has many uses so am looking at railroads to see if uptick (nothing really definitive yet) but the cost of bringing a nuke online is killing us.

    • I don’t know, theres a new sheriff in town and we may just see all this obstructionism towards nuclear power begin to be obviated. With all the money the greendiots are going to start dumping into fighting coal, again, and all the extra money the greendiots are going to have to start dumping into stopping the further expansion of gas drilling, pipelines and export their money is going to be getting a bit thin. And scab-kneed ambulance chasers don’t work pro bono. In fact they have been steadily upping their hourly billing rates for quite some time.

  19. The US has fantastic strength in electricity generation based on wise decisions dating back more than 60 years to diversify the source of supply (see Margaret Thatcher and coal miners in UK). With competition between gas, coal, and nuclear, and gas facing upward pricing pressures due to projections of higher demand for LNG exports and feed stocks for a rejuvenated US chemical industry, this sector of the American economy will be just fine without subsidies for the rent seekers offering solar and wind jobs.

    For the combined electricity sector covering coal, gas, and nuclear, one worker produces electricity for 1,000 Americans (1:1000). In wind and solar, it could be from 5 times to 20 times that (e.g., for roof top installations). This is one of the most highly efficient sectors of our economy and the politicians want to mess it up by ‘creating jobs’. They are singing the old saw (mis-)attributed (?) to Milton Friedman, ‘If You Want Jobs Then Give These Workers Spoons Instead of Shovels.’ (or exercise bikes connected to generators)

  20. A great American and wonderful human being imbued with mega-doses of humility and humor.
    Modern day discourse could use both.

  21. All my friends in the coal industry are back to working overtime and their employers are hiring new people. But wait! All my friends in the gas/oil industry are back to working overtime and their employers are hiring new people. And this is odd, people I know in the fabricating industry, equipment maintenance industry and services companies are all back to working overtime and hiring new people. I’m a startin’ to see a pattern here! And the ecotards ain’t gonna be too happy about it! And add to this lots of the people I know in these various industries now don’t have the extra time to do their own yard work and landscaping and home repair so they are hiring people to do these things for them. I tell ya, that bastich Trump, making all these people have to go back to work!

      • Ah, ain’t you precious?!? Barri phucked everything up and DJT is fixing it just by talking about fixing it, and that makes you sad.

      • US unemployment was 10% in October 2009 and fell to 4.6% in November 2016 under Obama, whereas the latest figure is 4.3%. Doesn’t look that Trump has done anything yet.

      • Ahhh, poor widdle baby! Wipe those tears away, you lost, get over it. Obama’s war on the economy is over, coal is back, gas is back, oil is back, jobs are back, and you can’t stop any of it, sweety! Employmnet began to recover as soon as people knew Trump had won. Tell yourself whatever lies you want, play games with statistics all you want, rewrite history all you want, it changes nothing. America won, you lost, suck it.

      • Again, tell yourself whatever you need to in order to make it through the night, it changes nothing. America won, you lost, Obama phucked the economy and it is recovering since he got the boot. Taking solace from lies told by Democrat Party scumbags seems to be all you got. How sad. Out here in the real world America has Trump, the economy is growing rapidly and nothing you do or say can stop it.

      • Not sure what planet you’re living on! It was, of course, Bush who missed up the economy and Obama who saved it. The Obama recovery continues and as yet Trump has changed nothing. The statistics I quoted are from the same source that Trump uses, of course he claimed they were ‘fake’ before he started using them.

      • Tom Halla August 5, 2017 at 12:51 pm
        Pure spin. Phil, do you read the HuffPost or is it Mother Jones?

        Neither, the facts I presented came from the Bureau of Labor, here’s another plot of them:

      • I was not challenging the employment statistics, Phil, just your take that the current economic situation is all due to His Holiness Obama. There was a degree of discounting in the market expecting Hillary Clinton to win, and the withdrawal of regulations and the lack of what Hillary promised is having a positive effect.

      • Obama presided over the weakest recovery since at least 1947.


        Reagan is the curve that goes off the top of the chart. Bush-43 presided over the second weakest recovery; but he at least managed three years of >3% growth.

        Obama is the first president in US history who managed to hold economic growth below 3% in every one of his years in office.

        http://www.multpl.com/us-real-gdp-growth-rate/table/by-year

  22. Coal miners unite! Celebrate by a coast-to-coast trip on a coal train while showing Al Gore’s new film in the passengers cabin non-stop the whole trip. Send Gore an invitation to be the guest of honor

  23. If I were three years old, I would be terrified of Al Gore’s eyebrows and nostrils.

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