Saving The World From New Mexico’s Coal by Peter Burrows email@example.com silvercityburro.com 10/10/15
For the past few years, Public Service of New Mexico (PNM) has been under an EPA mandate to reduce the haze around their San Juan Generating Plant. To meet EPA standards, PNM proposed shutting down two of four coal-generating plants at San Juan and replacing the lost power with natural gas nuclear and solar generated power.
You would think this would be a simple process, and you would be wrong. PNM has been battling over the details with a number of intervenors. (Intervenors are somewhat analogous to individuals or groups filing amicus curiae briefs in court cases, advocating a particular court decision.) Last month, PNM reached an agreement with a majority of these groups and submitted a proposal to the Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) which accepted the agreement and scheduled hearings to start October 13, with a final PRC vote hopefully by year end.
At those final hearings, objections to the PNM agreement will very probably be voiced by Santa Fe-based New Energy Economy (NEE), an environmental group that did not sign on to the agreement with most of the other intervenors. That’s because NEE wants to replace the power from the two to-be-shuttered coal-generating plants entirely by wind and solar power.
From an 8/14/15 article in the Silver City Daily Press: NEE Executive Director Mariel Nanasi claimed that PNM’s plan was both environmentally and economically unfeasible. “Coal is a loser compared to solar and wind. Check out who’s going bankrupt. Check out who’s losing market influence and spiraling job loss. Check out the very serious risks and liabilities from coal and the viable and cheaper solar and wind alternatives,” Nanasi said in a press release. (1)
Ms. Nanasi’s assertion that wind and solar are cheaper alternatives is an opinion not held by America’s richest liberal and ardent Global Warmer, Bill Gates, who said the cost to use solar and wind to replace conventional fuels would be “beyond astronomical.” Plus, Gates’ occasional bridge partner and America’s second richest lib, Warren Buffet, said this about wind farms: “They don’t make (economic) sense without the tax credit.” (He should know. His firm Berkshire Hathaway is one of the largest, if not the largest, wind farm operator in the country.)
Such realities aside, Ms. Nanasi may be correct that “coal is a loser” in the U.S., where it is being regulated to death, but what about the rest of the world?
A March 2015 research report, “Boom and Bust – Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline” co-authored by the Sierra Club, shows that around the world coal is a big winner. Net new coal capacity totaled 733 gigawatts for the nine years 2005 through 2013, and as of 2014, there were 276 gigawatts of new coal generation capacity under construction and 1,083 gigawatts in the planning stage. (2)
If only half of the planned capacity is built, that half plus the total under-construction means new coal capacity would be 884 times as much as will be retired at PNM’s San Juan Generating Plant — 884 times as much! (3)
Hmmmm. Seems the rest of the world does not want to be saved from the global warming and deleterious health effects blamed on burning coal. There are even a few people right here in New Mexico who may not want to be saved. You may become one of them after you check the “Renewable Energy Rider” surcharge on your PNM bill.
Surcharge? What about the claim that renewables are cheaper? Only if you add in humongous health costs society allegedly pays due to breathing air polluted by burning coal, and equally humongous costs the world will eventually pay due to predicted global warming costs, although none — none — of those alleged global warming costs are yet apparent.
By the same reasoning, you could say that the automobile industry imposes huge costs on society because of all the foul air we breathe from auto exhausts, plus the huge toll from auto accident deaths and injuries, plus all the green stuff we could grow where highways are now. I’m surprised there isn’t a movement to shut down the auto factories and force people to ride bicycles and take rickshaws until electric autos take over, speed limit 20 mph.
If you’re like me, you’re tired of paying for other peoples’ causes. I would like PNM to assign all renewable surcharges to people who advocate renewables. In a perfect world, if not enough people paid for renewables, there wouldn’t be more renewables shoved down our throats. Ain’t gonna happen.
The best that PNM can do is something called the Sky Blue program, where PNM’s customers can voluntarily choose to pay extra for a renewable mix of 85% wind, 15% solar. I’m told there are a couple thousand customers actually doing this but, alas, the list of such customers is confidential.
I wonder if NEE’s Mariel Nanasi is on the list. I wonder if PNM could publish a list of Sky Blue customers who had no objections to being identified. I would think such environmental champions would be quite happy to be recognized for their green bona fides. Of course, the idea is to identify those environmentalists NOT on the list. I can’t think of any nice, libertarian way to do that, can you?
(2) Boom and Bust – Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline
(3)Wild Earth Guardians: Powering Past Coal at the San Juan Generating Station. This report notes the four coal-fired generators produce 1,848 megawatts of electricity. One half is 924 megawatts or 924,000,000 watts. From (2), under construction = 276 gigawatts + one half of the 1,083 gigawatts planned = 276 + 541 = 817 gigawatts or 817,000,000,000 watts. 817,000,000,000/924,000,000 = 884
Note: A http://www.PowerForProgress.com report I received from a PNM employee puts the San Juan Generating Station current capacity at 1,683 MW, of which 836 MW will be retired. Using that number: 817,000,000,000/836,000,000 = 977 times as much capacity coming on stream around the world, at least, than the amount to be retired by PNM. This report uses the lower figure of 884 to be conservative. If one assumes 100% of the proposed coal capacity is actually built, the equation is 1,359,000,000,000/836,000,000 = 1,626 times as much coming on stream. Regardless, anything New Mexico does to reduce worldwide coal burning is trivial and meaningless in the real world.