>"To me, the biggest impediment for a company going out today and building a coal-fired power plant is regulatory uncertainty," Begger said. "Until you can find some sort of carbon agreement, if that's legislation or regulatory, technology, whatever, until there is some way to take that off the table, you're not going to have a lot of interest from utilities."
The US government's plan of inaction on carbon regulation is clearly hurting industry here.
Many (most?) energy companies are including the cost of a carbon tax in their future projections and planning, and in their investor communications.
The energy industry is willing to impose a carbon tax in the
US in exchange for immunity from lawsuits from emissions up until now:
That's how certain everybody is about the need for legislation, that an industry would invite a tax that amounts to $0.36/gallon of gas.
The lack of political leadership, led by the desire to deny widely accepted science, is hurting business and planning.
This uncertainty probably helps in the deployment of less-risky resources like wind, solar, and storage. But I think that clear carbon taxes, at $40-$120/ton, would help both the environment and the proper structuring of our economy.
Uncertainty about regulation can be worse than the regulation itself.
There's no amount of clarity on regulation that can save coal in its current form.
These projects have a 50 year outlook. Even if we impose a carbon tax right now there will be tremendous uncertainty whrther that wkll be raised significantly higher 10 years from now. And the best bet is it will be raised until coal isn't viable anymore because if the price is low enough that coal burning is not dropping we will continue to be screwed.
The only thing that can save coal is technology. Unfortunately new coal is already as if not more expensive than new renewable. New technologies wkll only make it more expensive.
The other part is that the natural gas industry suffers from the same uncertainties. Yet it's destroying coal. The uncertainty is likely a very small factor at best.
For natural gas, and for oil (transportation), we will see similar death throes as the carbon-free alternatives become cheaper than natural gas and oil. That's probably 15 years out, but the time will come, with or without the carbon tax.
An economic system is more efficient and overall wealth increases if externalities are priced closer to their costs.
The cost to the consumer is higher with uncertainty. Uncertainty means lower overall investment and therefore a higher cost of electricity. Investors face risk on both sides: if they invest in renewables, they might lose money to coal. If they invest in coal, they might lose money to renewables. That causes them to invest in other industries and opportunities.
A tax gives a quantifiable return and makes the industry as a whole a better investment. Pigovian tax is best tax
Of course they would agree to a carbon tax in exchange for immunity. They would be getting immunity and their customers would be paying the carbon tax. They'd be getting immunity for free.
> That's how certain everybody is about the need for legislation, that an industry would invite a tax that amounts to $0.36/gallon of gas.
But they aren't inviting it. They are demanding immunity for it.
> But I think that clear carbon taxes, at $40-$120/ton, would help both the environment and the proper structuring of our economy.
Clear to whom? How is a carbon tax going to help the environment?
Carbon tax has nothing to do with the environment. It's a global regulatory control platform for the financial elite to control energy. It's a way to unify and control the global economy and skim off a percentage from the entire world via a tax.
And it wouldn't properly structure our economy. It would distort it by creating arbitrary taxes.
If you want to help the environment, you write environmental laws and enforce them.
> Uncertainty about regulation can be worse than the regulation itself.
And terrible regulation can be worse than uncertainty.
The only coal plant being built is a tiny one for a university in Alaska. Three more have been in regulatory hell for so long that they're no longer profitable compared to every other energy source, especially natural gas. Coal is dying but no one told Trump.
It's also worth mentioning that steel can theoretically be produced electrolytically (like aluminum). It's... essentially vaporware, but who knows. It's one of the Big Dreams: more energy efficient and pure oxygen as a byproduct.
He also knows that by being the one guy who promises to prop it up with government support, he can gain the support of groups that might otherwise vote Democrat.
The people who care about the environment and efficient running of the economy based on facts weren't going to vote for him anyway.
With his track record of not listening and blaming FBI, NSA, and CIA, I think Trump is just too lazy to listen.
Also I think he lives in an alternate reality, his tweets are riddle with lies and also anger.
On a hunch from playing a bit too much Factorio, I tried to look in to coal and plastics, which seems to be a relatively recent (or at least recently commercialized) use for coal. The most reliable thing I can find is a press release.
In the beginning of 20th century it started to be displaced by the cheap and abundant oil.
Coal's major role in electric power generation is relatively recent. Although coal continued to be a major source of important petrochemicals such as benzene into the 60s, the coal industry underwent a major crisis in the beginning of the 20th century and in the US in particular was saved by the country's electrification.
I expect that this pendulum will swing the other way. Coal is posed to become a major source of materials and chemicals once again.
Some helpful links:
On the otherhand fracking probably changed that timeline for Canada and the USA with the tradeoff of freshwater for oil so we'll have to wait and see how that turns out and moves the end date for our estimated petroleum reserves.
Hell, (char)coal can be made from regular organic material, with the bonus that the process of driving off non-carbon atoms produces flammable energy-containing gases.
Much more likely is an innovation in the battery sector. Utilities are finally waking up to the huge value proposition of batteries on the grid. They can be used instead of upgrading transmission and distribution infrastructure. They can be somewhat easily relocated to new sites if projections of electricity demand were wrong.
There are a ton of flow technologies that are on the cusp of being really useful. Lithium ion tailored for the grid is already the cost winner for several applications.
I do hope that we come up with some carbon sequestration innovations, but I doubt that they'll be tied to coal in any way. Possible, but extremely unlikely. If there was any horse to back in the race, there's more than enough money for horse to get out of the gate. There are a lot of people with assets that are close to getting stranded.
Back of the envelope math: the electric grid would cost ~5 trillion to replace. At $200/kWh that's 25,000,000,000 kWh. The US uses 11,152,000,000 kWh per day- that's 2.24 days of storage. Doubling the effective power of the grid using a day's worth of storage is trivial AND cost effective (at $200/kWh). Add in renewables and that storage gets several times more valuable, too.
The numbers you posted there are remarkably similar in the amount of storage in passenger cars as we shift to an EV fleet. 260 million vehicles in the US with 50 kWh batteries on average is 13,150,000,000 kWh.
With smart charging at the cheap times, passenger vehicles can serve as fantastic time-shifters as demand increases on the grid. Just some of those pesky logistics and coordination tasks to solve...
>With smart charging at the cheap times, passenger vehicles can serve as fantastic time-shifters as demand increases on the grid. Just some of those pesky logistics and coordination tasks to solve...
Yeah... and being actively fought against, annoyingly. Variable rates aren't even available to most people.
Australia has a lot of variable rates though, so that's nice for them.
Hawaii's economics are midway between Australia and the mainland US, they won't be able to resist for very long. At the least, the utility companies there can't resist buying solar for themselves! http://fortune.com/tesla-solarcity-battery-solar-farm/
So how would any new tech not end up like the coal gasification attempts?
Seems we bette off putting money into research at university levels for across the board energy projects then transfer to commercial sector after.