Recently I was interviewed by Peter Perri for his Podcast on “Energy Media”. We talked for about an hour and I expressed my opinion on America’s dismal… “Lack of a Rational Energy Transition Policy”. It is just a Decarbonization Policy without provisions for providing power generation until technology and build out of new nuclear catches up. However, Mr. Perri got me thinking and he offered some information regarding the IRA Act 45Q, Provisions for Tax Credits for coal plants that capture and store carbon dioxide (CCUS). That was new to me. I consider myself well read on energy news, but I sure missed 45Q. The CO2 credit is up to $85/ton of carbon dioxide captured and sequestered or utilized. Not that I agree with the legislation or the practicality of CCUS, but it shows some sanity of the policymakers, that they understand America may get around to using its vast, God given Treasure of coal.
Energy=Life as we know it and it takes about 100 Quadrillion BTUs of Primary Energy to fuel our economy and way of life. As a review of previous posts I have made, here is a summary of approx. how the U.S. uses about 100 Quads/year of Primary Energy. Many folks (those who are not technically trained) do not appreciate or understand the concepts of Primary and Secondary energy. An example is a video on hydrogen that I recently watched discussed hydrogen as a form of primary energy. Hydrogen does not exist naturally in nature, it must be produced from primary energy.
- 37% Electricity Generation
- 27% Transportation
- 26% Industrial Production
- 10% Commercial and Residential
My point is it takes about 100 Quadrillion Btus to energize and make it possible for us to sustain our high quality of life, including keeping warm in the winter. Right here within our borders is the richest source of primary energy on earth. America’s Treasure of Coal. Why not use it to keep America Energy Independent? By the way, America and Canada have plenty of Uranium deposits in North America and few of the U.S. deposits are being used, but that is a topic for another day.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Sankey Diagram (below) shows the energy flows for 2021. Total energy use that year was only 97.3 Quadrillion Btus because of a slower economy. In 2019 energy use was over 100 Quads.
The “Leftists” and power hungry government Bureaucrats have done an effective job of Demonizing carbon dioxide. Their Rationale, if they demonize carbon, then we won’t use it. The demonization of carbon restricts use of a valuable natural resource. This combined with the fact that we now enjoy a high standard of living which coal continues to provide energy when needed. Coal is one of the most readily available, usable & affordable forms of energy that America is Blessed with. It is my prediction that coal will be more appreciated after a cold winter with some likely Blackouts. With winter approaching and expected scarce reserves of electricity generation capacity, coal plants may achieve new acceptance by society. They did in Germany. My November 25th Blog post discussed coal as America’s Treasure. Let me start with a bullet list of the facts and statements, as I understand them. These points are the premise for my suggestion that coal fuel will (and should!) look good again. So will all conventional fuels, including coal, oil, gas and nuclear. Kindly take a glance at the LLNL chart above, note that less than 5% of America’s Primary Energy was provided by wind and solar in 2021. This after decades of tax incentives. It is unreasonable to expect that we can “Electrify Everything” and power “Everything” with electricity generated from wind and solar.
Energy Realism Facts
- Everyone, including me desires clean air, clean water and a healthy environment
- Sustainable Life, as we enjoy it, requires a lot of energy about 860,000-1,000,000 Btus of per capita energy each day
- America uses and depends on about 100 Quadrillion Btus of primary energy each year.
- Fossil Fuels provide about 79% of the primary energy America depends on
- Wind and Solar provided less than 5% of America’s Primary Energy in 2021
- All of us, including me, are in favor of clean air and clean water. New HELE Coal plants can provide reliable, Dispatchable and affordable electricity. HELE = High Efficiency Low Emissions.
- According to the “Coalition for a Prosperous America” America’s Domestic Market Share of “Made in U.S.A.” products has declined from 77% in 2002 to below 67% in 2022
- Reshoring of American Manufacturing to recover lost Market share it will require more use of Energy for reshoring of Industrial production. Opposite of German recent experience of lost Industry due to energy shortfalls
- Currently in the U.S. the largest carbon-free electricity generation is from nuclear power plants
- Electricity generation uses about 37% of the U.S. Primary Energy
- Transportation uses about 27% of the U.S. Primary Energy
- The major forms of Energy within the U.S. Borders that can provide the equivalent of 100-150 Quadrillion Btu’s of energy supply for U.S. Energy Independence are: Uranium, Coal, Oil and Natural Gas.
Coal Power Potential to Provide 20+ Quadrillion Btus of Primary Energy
The total Primary Energy Flow chart shown below is from 2009. Back then, coal was the primary fuel for about 50% of America’s electricity generation. The U.S. used right at a Billion tons of coal/year and America’s Total Primary Energy Use was 102.75 Quadrillion Btus. The technology and Infrastructure remains to return to this coal generation capacity and to do it cleanly. We should be building new HELE Coal plants with future provisions for CCUS. This would be a Rational Energy Plan to embark on until new nuclear, hydrogen, storage and renewables technologies can advance to meet energy needs.
Reasonable Cost, Abundant Power and Clean Air Too!
The EPA has prepared a graphic below is the illustration that shows the Results of cleaning the air in the U.S. Between 1970 and 2019, the combined emissions of the six common pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10, SO2, NOx, VOCs, CO and Pb) dropped by 77 percent. This progress occurred while the U.S. economy continued to grow, Americans drove more miles, and population and energy use increased. The point is, the six public health related & objectional pollutants have been corrected. Further restrictions, rules and Regulations on coal power plants since 2019 are not for cleanng the air, they are for politically biased reasons.
Since 2010 over 102,000 MW’s of reliable, reasonable production cost coal and nuclear plants have been shut down. Worse yet, another 14.9 MW’s of the remaining 200 GW coal plants are planned to be shut down in the next few years. The “War on Carbon” although misguided and anti-American, has been very effective. It is not possible to replace the approximatley 117,000 MW’s of Dispatchable, reasonable production cost coal and nuclear plants with wind and solar. For folks that do not work in the electric generating field, let me digress and outline what 117 GW of reliable power generation looks like. Almost everyone has visited Niagara Falls and are aware that most of the water runoff from the Great Lakes drains through teh Niagara River and through the Robert Moses Hydroelectric Generating Station. The American share of that water flow generates about 2,500 MW’s of electricity. There fore replacing the 117,000 MW’s of coal and nuclear plants shut down since 2010 would require almost 50 generating plants the size of Niagara Falls.
Replacing existing or recently shut down coal plants with carbon-free nuclear is technically possible. However, the supply chain for new nuclear plant design, permitting, constuction and talent development will take years, maybe decades. I submit that for the near term of the next ten-20 years, a Rational Energy Policy would be to build technically proven HELE coal plants. Yes, planning for CCUS and using the IRA 45Q provision may help. Continuing the Mythical Net-Zero Carbon path of depence on wind and solar will (further) weaken America. America’s Treasure of Coal may be tapped, thanks to the provisions in the so called, Inflation Reduction Act, 45Q provision for CCUS.