Commentary: Politics of Status-Quo Energy Policies Are Failing
The “decarbonization” of the economy is gaining momentum, even with stiff political resistance in Washington, as gains in technology continue to translate into cost advantages that favor wind and solar over fossil-fuel-fired electricity generation. “The renewable energy future is already pretty much here,” writes the author.
Study: Emissions-Permit Program Has Turned Into a Job Creator in Nine States
New research shows that nine eastern states have gained $1.4 billion in economic benefits over the past three years from an air pollution “cap-and-trade” policy that requires utility companies to pay for emissions permits. The program wasn’t designed as an economic-development initiative, but has become one nonetheless: “The biggest payoff came in investments in energy efficiency programs, which have led to more businesses and jobs in activities such as energy audits and installing energy-efficiency equipment.”
Public School Teachers Across the U.S. Press for More Education Investment by Energy Companies
Grassroots movements by teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are calling for coal, gas and oil companies to invest more in local education. The movement is rooted in the premise that tax policies favoring corporations and the wealthy have not been in communities’ best interests. “Shared prosperity and natural resource extraction tend not to go hand in hand,” noted one advocate for change.
A Coming Boom Seen in Virginia’s Emerging Solar Industry
The Solar Energy Industries Association sees a nascent solar industry in Virginia tripling in generation capacity over the next five years and powering more than 200,000 homes. Growth is spurred by declining installation costs and demand from consumers. “Some industry officials and clean-energy advocates expect even-sharper growth during that timeframe and say the solar expansion almost certainly will accelerate across Virginia in the decades beyond,” says a newspaper report.
Study: ‘The Easier Coal’ Has Already Been Mined in Central Appalachia
A new study that compiles data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission finds that low natural gas prices, stagnant demand for electricity, and rising production costs have driven the decline of mining in Kentucky and West Virginia. “In central Appalachian coal is deeper in the ground and the seams are thinner,” one expert said. “Because we’ve been mining coal for so long and so aggressively, we’ve already taken out all the easier to get coal.”
Report: Owner of 2 Wyoming Mines Paid $20 Million for Another Company to Take Them Over
New company filings show that that the owner of two well-known coal mines in Wyoming paid more than $20 million for Blackjewel Inc. to takes possession of them in December. Contura Energy had owned the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines as a result of Alpha Energy’s bankruptcy reorganization in 2016 during an industry downturn that has continued: “Some say the deal heralds bad days to come. Others are more diplomatic about the challenges for Wyoming coal, but agree that the sale is telling of how the sector has changed in a few short years.”
In West Virginia, programs like Refresh Appalachia, Reclaim Appalachia, and the Appalachian Bee Collective are helping former coal workers, and communities, create a path forward. "...the idea is to create a new generation of small-holding Appalachian farmers who will contribute to a larger agricultural community—one that’s appropriately scaled, diversified, and vertically integrated. "
Corporate Miners in Appalachia Are Showing Little Interest in the Economic Future of the Region
Advocates for diversification see over-reliance on the coal industry continuing to impoverish much of Appalachia. But local ownership of economies offers a way forward as corporate interests abandon much of the region: “Those people don’t have any stake in the communities there. They don’t have any reason to reinvest in the human capital and public services and goods."
Renewable Energy Additions Outpaced Traditional Power-Generation Sources 2-1 in 2017
Renewable energy capacity additions beat out new fossil fuel projects globally by more than two to one in 2017, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the United Nations. The surge in renewables is led by solar but includes wind, biofuels and geothermal energy. “We are at a turning point ... from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” one commentator said. “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.”
GAO Urges Federal Government to Stop Letting Coal Companies ‘Self-Bond’ on Cleanup Obligations
The Government Accounting Office is recommending termination of a federal program that allows coal companies to “self-bond” against mine clean-up costs. The practice lets mining companies promise to pay for reclamation, even though they may be in no financial position to do so. The recommendation to amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act would protect taxpayers but come at no small expense to already-struggling coal companies.