Why Less Coal

I have been assuming that gains in electricity generation by natural gas were the reason for loss in generation by coal. This is not quite true. In 2016 coal generation was down by about 750 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) from its 2006-2008 average, a 38 percent drop. About two-thirds of the drop was due to natural gas and about one-third to renewables.

Source EIA Electric Data Browser, accessed 21 June 2017

Sources of CO2

Cynthia Allen recently stated the people are unwilling to make the kind of sacrifices that are needed to combat climate change (1). Her column shows a limited understanding of greenhouse gas production.

Ms. Allen is wrong when she implies that home heating and cooling are a major source of energy wastage. Actually, homes and businesses together generate a small fraction of greenhouse gasses. The three largest sources are electric power plants, motor vehicles, and industry.   Together they account for over three-quarters of greenhouse gasses (2).

But there is good news on all fronts. Emissions from power plants have been dropping sharply (3). Bloomberg recently predicted that electric cars with efficient motors will become cheaper the gas autos within ten years (4).  And industry has been saving energy (5). All in all carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 14 percent in the last ten years (6).

We are living in an era of great technological change. There are many opportunities for people to save money by saving energy. But we need to realize that the big changes will come from outside the home.

References

(1) ‘Few are willing to support climate control at home’, Columbus Dispatch, June 12, 2017

(2) US EPA ‘Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions’, http://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions, accessed 13 June 2017

(3) Georgina Gustin, ‘U.S. Power Plant Emissions Fall to Near 1990 Levels, Decoupling from GDP Growth’, Inside Climate News, 14 June 2017, insideclimatenews.org/news/14062017/us-power-plant-co2-carbon-emissions-fall-1990-ceres

(4) Jess Shankleman ‘Pretty Soon Electric Cars Will Cost Less Than Gasoline’, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-26/electric-cars-seen-cheaper-than-gasoline-models-within-a-decade, Bloomberg, 26 May 2017

(5) U.S. energy Information Administration, Electric Data Browser http://tinyurl.com/EIABROWSER

(6) ‘Retiring nuclear plants may undercut climate goals’, Columbus Dispatch, June 14, 2017

Cost of Withdrawal from Paris Accords

Ohio’s electricity sources are diverse, as shown in the following table:

Sources of Ohio’s Electricity, 2016

Data from electric Power Monthly, Feb. 2017

Source

Percent
Coal 47
Natural Gas 20
Nuclear 11
Renewables 2
Imports from Other States 19

 

The difference from 2008 is that coal has lost ground to both natural gas and imports.

The distribution in the table appears to be ideal for supporters of withdrawal from the Paris Accords on climate change. However, it would be expensive to sustain. Specifically, additions to all residents’ bills would be about $11 per month minimum due to coal, and perhaps much higher. Also, Ohio residents in the First Energy area would have an added $5 monthly charge to support nuclear plants.

Note: Coal costs are from the LSC Fiscal Analysis of 132-SB155. Nuclear costs are from testimony on 132-HB178. Data in the Table is from Electric Power Monthly.

Decrease in Ohio Shale jobs

Shale jobs have been decreasing for several years. According to the latest data, there were only about half as many core jobs, such as drilling and pipeline construction, as there were three years earlier (1). At under 10,000, job creation is a small fraction of the Chamber of Commerce prediction of 60,000 (2)

Only part of the difference between prediction and reality can be attributed to auxiliary jobs, such as truck driving. Since Jobs and Family Services (1) only has the total number of truck drivers, they assign those drivers to shale jobs, even the unknown number working for FedEX and other companies. Therefore the tens of thousands reported auxiliary jobs (1) are likely to be greatly exaggerated.

References:

(1) Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, Ohio Shale Quarterly Reports, http://ohiolmi.com/OhioShale/OhioShale.htm, accessed 21 April 2017.

(2) Ohio Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation; Economic Potential for Shale Formations in Ohio, n. d.

 http://www.slideshare.net/MarcellusDN/research-study-economic-potential-for-shale-formations-in-ohio

CONSEQUENCES OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

Several years ago Pfund & Chhabra showed that electricity rates are similar in states with large and small amounts of renewable energy. (“Renewables are Driving up Electricity Prices, WAIT, WHAT” DBL Investors, March 2015). I confirmed this finding via an update (A.R. Rosenfield,  “Testimony on HB114, posted on LWV Ohio web site).

The same holds for unemployment for states with less than ten percent hydropower.(see graph with data from Energy Information Administration: Electricity Data Browser; Bureau of Labor Statistics: Table 1. Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population)  I eliminated hydropower because significant hydropower is unlikely in Ohio and it is believed to lower rates and bias the evaluation of renewable energy.

In the graph each each dot represents one state. Fourteen states have levels of renewable energy equal to, or greater than, Ohio’s eventual goal of 12.5 percent. As can be seen  from the graph, the states with large amounts of renewable energy show similar unemployment levels as those, such as Ohio, with little renewable energy.