Sunday, April 02, 2017

Trump's War on Coal Country and Humanity

From The Roanoke Times editorial, "Trump breaks a promise to coal country":


Whenever Donald Trump campaigned in Southwest Virginia last year, he invariably talked up his support for coal. He also talked up a specific way he’d do it – by investing in the “clean coal” technology that can scrub some of the carbon out of coal emissions...

The technology – officially called “carbon capture” – does work. What doesn’t work – not yet anyway – is a business model that makes carbon capture profitable. That hasn’t stopped the research, though. Some of that research is taking place through the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, which since 2009 has used an $11.5 million federal grant to test carbon capture at mines in Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia.

Carbon capture research may have the goal of creating environmentally-friendly coal but environmentalists haven’t exactly been keen on it. They see “clean coal” as prolonging an industry they’re reflexively against. Still, if even Barack Obama – famous for waging a “war on coal” – could see fit to include more than $3 billion for clean coal research in his stimulus package, surely Trump would do even better, right?

Wrong.

Trump’s proposed budget cuts funding for energy research by almost 18 percent — $2 billion. Because the proposed budget came with few details attached, it’s unclear just how much, if any, money would remain for the Office of Fossil Energy to spend on clean coal research. It’s notable that some conservative groups – specifically the influential Heritage Foundation, whose ideas formed the basis for Trump’s budget – had proposed eliminating the office entirely....

Something is not right with this picture: Obama did more for clean coal research than Trump is, yet it was Trump who ran on a platform of “we’re going to go clean coal.” ....the budget that Trump has proposed undercuts the region’s ability to develop a new economy at almost every turn:

n Trump wants to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission, an agency that awards grants for economic development projects....

n Trump wants to eliminate the Economic Development Administration, an agency that awards grants for economic development projects in economically-distressed areas across the country....Want to know something else curious? Obama directed the EDA to pay special attention to coal communities; now Trump wants to get rid of the program entirely.

n Trump wants to eliminate the Abandoned Mine Land program, which has provided $90 million for the nation’s three biggest coal states – West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania – to turn old mine sites into potential economic development sites....

Appalachia gave Trump its love – and its votes. In return, Trump backhands some of his strongest supporters....The Trump vision for coal counties seems to be limited simply to hoping traditional coal mining will come back and nothing more....

Is that really what people in the coalfields voted for?

Trump may help some CEOs out, but it's not just the future of the rest of the world that Trump is screwing over, it's coal country's possible future. I've noted the repeated failure of carbon capture and sequestration, and its failure is no victory for environmentalists - the pathways limiting climate change to 2C or less rely often (always?) on negative carbon emissions, and CCS is key to that.

Trump says the words "clean coal" and then eviscerates environmental regulation of coal mining and funding for CCS. As the editorial shows, he's trying to cut funding that would give any alternative future to coal country, and of course he won't do the coal miner pension protection that Hillary proposed.

All this on top of the lies about climate change and the attempted rollback of major American programs like the Clean Power Plan and vehicle emission regulations. The world is kicked in the teeth, and coal country is no better off than the rest of us.

19 comments:

Canman said...

Bernie Sanders could've saved coal by banning fracking. With all the anti-nuke fanatics he'd of brought in, coal would have a bright future, just like in Germany.

Fernando Leanme said...

Maybe Trump's "clean coal" is similar to my clean coal: high thermodynamic efficiency plants equipped with very efficient scrubbers.

I've directed engineering studies to understand the feasibility of CCS. It starts becoming much more feasible if the CO2 storage site can be allowed to leak a small amount (say 0.01 %/year of the total volume injected can start leaking after 20 years). The problem I see is that these CCS systems have irrational design requirements. Allowing some leakage increases feasibility a lot. But the people who lay out requirements are zealots. Which leaves reasonable types like me scratching our heads and moving on to geoengineering.

David B. Benson said...

"negative carbon emissions" Nope. Carbon is a harmless solid, used in pencil leads and also industrial grade diamonds for cutting stuff. Oh yes, a little bit in gem diamonds.

It is carbon dioxide that needs negative emissions. Do pre-law students skip basic high school science classes?

Nigel Franks said...

There is no bright future for coal in generating electricity in Germany. Its share in the generating mix is still declining: https://www.destatis.de/EN/FactsFigures/EconomicSectors/Energy/Production/Tables/GrossElectricityProduction.html

Canman said...

The coal reductions look rather modest and renewable energy sources appear to be topping out. The thing that really sticks out is the jump in natural gas. And don't forget that that chart is for electricity generation only, which is probably less than half of all energy production.

Brian Schmidt said...

Fernando - no, Trump's clean coal isn't like yours. He's given it zero thought beyond uttering the words.

David - come on.

Canman - coal seems to be on a steady decline, although that chart is too short a time period to draw many conclusions. Speaking of which, saying renewables are topped out based on one year without a change is a little much.

David B. Benson said...

Brian --- Many people are confused by the use of "carbon" where carbon dioxide is meant. Let us do try to call things by the right name.

Canman said...

Here's a chart that shows where their Kohlendioxid (CO2) emissions have been heading. They appear to me to be asymptotically approaching a horizontal line that diverges from their targets. In fact, the only thing moving in line with their targets appears to be their use of nuclear power!

Canman said...

Looking again at that chart, I see that the time scale for the projections has been compressed by a factor of five, but they still diverge from the trend.

Canman said...

I would like to suggest that if you're worried about CO2 and nuclear meltdowns, that resources would be better spent developing next generation nuclear plants that can't melt down instead of making piddly reductions of CO2 at the margins.

Windchasers said...

Brian --- Many people are confused by the use of "carbon" where carbon dioxide is meant. Let us do try to call things by the right name.

Really? I've literally never met anyone before who was confused on this point.

Nigel Franks said...

Canman I don't find a link in your post. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. Here are a couple of links to coal and lignite usage including in the steel industry and for heating as well as electricity. http://www.ag-energiebilanzen.de/index.php?article_id=29&fileName=steinkohle_jahr_2016.pdf

http://www.ag-energiebilanzen.de/index.php?article_id=29&fileName=bk-kj16.pdf

I don't know where you get the idea that renewables are peaking: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/lightbox_image/public/images/factsheet/fig2-gross-power-production-germany-1990-2016.png?itok=g2Jep3Vm

Btw here's some facts that the renewable hates forget: reneeables lower the wholesale cost of electrify through the merit order effect. You can see it working here: https://www.energy-charts.de/price.htm
In addition, the German "Green Transition" is funded by a levy on electricity which, for the small users is about 6 Euro cents per kWh. Thanks to efficiency measures that the green transition subsidises the average German uses less than 1,000 kWh per year. So the green transition costs them about €60/ year. That's only pennies per day. This is why Europeans are stunned by the US refusal to adopt renewables because it will​ "destroy your economy".

Canman said...

Nigel Franks,

Sorry about that. Here's my link:

http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/384/bilder/2_abb_thg-emissionen_2017-03-17_0.png

It's a chart of greenhouse gas emissions and it looks like CO2 is stuck for the last three years at 800 millionen tonnen. They've reached a point where intermittency is causing diminishing returns for wind and solar. Their prospects for reaching their targets look pretty poor.

David B. Benson said...

It dispoils the precise language used by scientists.

Mark said...

I think Trump's real goal is to bring back the Company Town, with its Company Store, Company Scrip, and Company Houses.

Canman said...

Great video on the clean power plan and the Energiewande:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9emMtMU6lc

David B. Benson said...

At least TNYT agrees with me that it is 'carbon dioxide pollution", not "carbon pollution".

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

So asphalt is somehow not pollution in your world David?

Mal Adapted said...

Canman: "resources would be better spent developing next generation nuclear plants that can't melt down instead of making piddly reductions of CO2 at the margins."

Oh, come now. It's better to make major reductions in CO2 than piddly ones, and anything but complete elimination is more-or-less piddly. Piddly is better than none, though. Each emission reduction "at the margins" yields a corresponding marginal reduction in the rate of warming. Enough marginal reductions will eventually bring the slope of the trend in GMST to zero.

AGW is a Tragedy of the Commons: the "invisible hand of the market" is what's causing it, and the invisible hand won't change the ending on its own; collective interference in the market is required. A TOTC can only be averted by "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon" in Hardin's phrasing.

You want next-gen nuclear? Lobby your congressional delegation to internalize some of the marginal cost of AGW in fossil-fuel prices, so we're all coerced into taking AGW into account when we fill our gas tanks. Advocate for a carbon tax on fossil-fuel producers at the mine/well/port-of-entry and a corresponding Border Adjustment Tax on the embodied fossil carbon in imported goods, with all revenue to be returned to the taxpayers in periodic equal-size dividends.

Then leave allocation of R&D resources to the vaunted invisible hand of the market. Maybe you get next-gen nuclear in the mix, maybe not. What matters is that the globe gets a halt in the warming, by the quickest politically-feasible route.