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If you live in North America or pay attention to what is said by U.S. politicians you will have will have heard the term or sound-bite " the war on coal". Does it really mean that certain parties have actually declared a war on coal and if so how do they know if they have won?
For any company to be a lasting success there needs to be a sustainable business plan that helps to guide everyone in the company to a common set of goals in a strategic way. Is it any different for governments? Should they not also have a sustainable business plan?
In the last decade around the world coal production has been falling, while the required amount of energy has been increasing. So why has coal fallen out of favor? Is it a conspiracy by environmentalists and elite thinkers?
Let's look at what has replaced coal during this time frame. Natural gas, wind-generated electricity and now solar-generated electricity have all but replaced coal electric power.
What do these three technologies have in common? They are all more efficient than coal electric generation and maturity has taken them to the point where they are also cheaper.
In 2015, fifty-one percent of all new power generation projects in the United Stated were solar renewable - either wind turbines or solar photovoltaic. New wind electricity is now the cheapest electricity in the country.
Small natural gas wells have sprung up all over the U.S. thanks to a new drilling innovation known as hydraulic fracturing ( or fracing ).
To add to this situation, anthracite coal which is the hard diamond-like material having the highest efficiency and lowest emissions of any type of coal is all but gone. Mined out as it were from deep dangerous underground mines.
What is left is bituminous coal which is soft, closer to peat in nature and is mined in a highly automated way by taking the tops off of mountains and strip mining it. The residual chemicals and mining affluents are left run into local mountain streams and waterways.
Other than needing a job why would anyone want to live near this, until the day the mining company moves to the next hill?
With all of that in mind let's examine this war on coal idea with an energy expert Ben Reed.
So what's all this about a War on Coal? What does it have in common with some other economic wars? What recent changes make the outcome all but certain?
About Ben Reed.
After teaching Finance at the graduate and undergraduate level, Ben Reed started and has run Winpower West - a renewable energy (RE) focused business in Billings, for the last 27 years. He is a member of the Montana Renewable Energy Association, the Northern Plains Resource Council, and several other environmental and public policy groups in Montana. He has actively advocated for fair and balanced RE policy measures across the state and at the state legislature and consults with utilities throughout the state about their RE policies.
Ben currently serves on the Governor’s Main Street Montana Energy and Utilities Key Industry Network, and as a stakeholder/advisor for Northwestern Energy’s Community Solar Initiative.