Retiring Of The 150th Coal Plant, Thanks To Sierra Club, Celebrites, Community

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Chas Redmond Flicker  Sierra Club and CoolMom held a joint awareness -If you haven’t checked out the Full Cost of Accounting for the Life Cycle of for Coal, you should check it out. The very short take-home point is that coal costs the US approximately $500 billion a year. Coal is a drain on the pocketbooks of  hundreds of millions of Americans. Never to be one on the sidelines of energy and activism, Sierra Club has been working hard to push for the closure of coal plants across the US in order to cut those costs.

As such, the Sierra Club was recently happy to report the retirement of the 150th coal plant. This is another significant event in its continuing campaign to cease coal production around our country. The Sierra Club’s alliances are of course made of local, regional, and national partners. Among its supporters are many celebrities. (In my opinion, one of the best reasons to become a celebrity is because you can then become such an influence, a force of nature, for change and education.) In the video below, the Sierra Club uses a little bit of celebrity power to highlight the closing of the 150th coal power plant in the US:

Here’s more from the Sierra Club:

With today’s announcement that the Brayton Point Power Station in Massachusetts would retire by 2017, the campaign officially marked 150 coal plants that have announced plans to retire since 2010, spurring record increases in clean energy.
Pollution from burning coal contributes to four out of five of the leading causes of death, in addition to being a major cause of asthma attacks. According to the Clean Air Task Force, retiring these 150 dirty and outdated coal plants will help to save 4,000 lives every year, prevent 6,200 heart attacks every year and prevent 66,300 asthma attacks every year. Retiring these plants will also avoid $1.9 billion in health costs.

Folks from the entertainment community have been speaking out. Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Villaraigosa have endorsed the transition. The end of coal is coming for communities across the country.

Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer / Foter / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer / Foter / CC BY-SA

Beauty oftentimes has brains, as with model Elle Macpherson. Here’s a quote from the beautiful and thoughtful Sierra Club Ambassador:

I’m so inspired to know that the U.S. is now leading the world in reducing carbon pollution – showing that we can stop climate disruption. As a mom and as an advocate, I’m happy to share the good news that we’re cutting our pollution and leading a global movement to protect our kids and our planet. Climate change isn’t just an environmental issues, it’s a humanitarian issue that leads to suffering around the world. It’s important for us to act now.

And the following are more quotes from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Michael Brune, Edward James Olmos, and Ian Somerhalder:

“The closure of the Brayton Point Power Station is a powerful example of how local action can have a global impact,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City. “Over the last three years, action by individual communities – in partnership with the Sierra Club and Bloomberg Philanthropies – has led to the closure of 150 coal plants, one at a time. We will continue to support those who are on the ground working to close the nation’s dirty coal plants, which kill 13,000 Americans every year and threaten the future of our planet.”

“Plant by plant and community by community we are not only curbing our country’s carbon pollution, but we are also saving lives,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “By moving our country off of dirty, dangerous coal, we are creating new opportunities for clean energy and thousands of new American jobs to protect workers and public health. The transition from coal to clean energy can and will transform our economy by establishing a huge new sector of good jobs that power our communities without poisoning our children.”

Quote from activist Edward James Olmos:

“This is the most significant advancement in our history thus far to help usher in a clean energy future for all. I commend the Beyond Coal campaign for their work protecting families in low-income communities
who suffer the most from toxic, cancer-causing coal pollution. We must also continue to fight for good union jobs and a guaranteed livelihood for coal workers, who go to work every day to support their families and deserve safe and secure jobs. We can power our country without poisoning our children.”

Quote from actor and environmental activist Ian Somerhalder:

“It’s amazing to see how many people from different backgrounds have come together to build this movement. It fills me with immense hope to witness our youth standing up for their future — young people recognize most that keeping the old, outdated energy is much like staying in diapers. Our diverse, creative, collective youth present the single greatest resource out there – we must continue to enable and support them to innovate and champion smarter, more sustainable energy solutions.”

As utilities and energy companies realize that coal is an increasingly bad investment, they are transitioning their resources to cleaner, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar. Today, the United States has more than 60,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, enough to power the equivalent of 15 million American homes. States including Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota already get more than 20% of their energy from wind power.

While we’re on the subject of the Sierra Club, don’t miss seeing the inspired origin of the Sierra Club in the film A Fierce Green Fire by Mark Kitchell, who also produced Berkeley in the Sixties. The first narrative is a visually stunning sharing of the conservation movement of the ‘60s, the Sierra Club, David Brower, and the battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon. The other 4 of the 5 stories shared in this film are likewise captivating.

Read more about this article and the community supporting clean energy transitions at Beyond Coal.

Read more about Full Cost of Accounting for the Life Cycle of for Coal.

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

Cynthia Shahan has 946 posts and counting. See all posts by Cynthia Shahan

38 thoughts on “Retiring Of The 150th Coal Plant, Thanks To Sierra Club, Celebrites, Community

  • Not to rain or anyone’s parade, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that governmental regulation and economics have more to do with the closure of these plants than any campaign by well meaning people? (which I fully endorse by the way)
    In the end it will be economics and not public sentiment that will kill the fossil fuel industry.

    • Ask yourself what drove the change in regulations. Possibly groups and individuals pushing for changes in regulations?

      Might even want to extend that to why the government set up the support programs that got renewable energy kick started. Again, probably didn’t appear out of thin air, but from pushing by groups and individuals.

    • Public sentiment is much, much more powerful than you think.

  • $3.50 nat gas had a lot more to do with this than anything else mentioned in this piece. Thank you, shale gas producers.

    • Natural gas has been a great help in getting coal plants closed.

      And now that wind is cheaper than NG and solar getting there we will be able to start showing gas to the door as well.

      • If solar could beat nat gas, that would be great. We’ll see.

    • Yeah. It is a good comment. But you know, it is not as if utilities just said, “Hey look Bob, gas is cheaper than coal… shut er down.” Gas turbines are expensive, and coal fired plants are already paid for. So… a little more is going on here than just natural gas prices.

      It might be that gas turbines can be started and stopped more easily, which means that they will entail less waste when used with renewables. Therefore, the expected falling prices of solar and wind might be driving the shift away from coal. It might even be diesel fuel prices. Moving a mass of coal across the country might get really expensive compared to gas pipelines. It might even be true that someone is anticipating the use of hydrogen as a fuel someday.

      There are lots of reasons to move away from coal. Price might have less to do with it than you think.

      • The cost of complying with EPA regulations is a major reason coal plants are closing in the US. We’ve got a lot of coal plants which were built back thirty years or more. Upgrading them to comply with current/coming emission standards simply doesn’t make financial sense.

        The capital cost of a natural gas plant is relatively low. Gas plants, both turbine and combined cycle have the lowest of all overnight capital costs and they install quickly meaning that they don’t accumulate large financial costs as do new coal and nuclear plants.

        If you’re a utility that has a responsibility to keep the lights on 24/365 then installing gas plants as you “last resort” source and then using less expensive wind and solar when available makes great financial sense.

        In a few years those gas plants will have paid for themselves.

        Storage should be a lot more affordable, it will make sense to install storage and avoid gas purchases. But those paid off gas plants will be there if they are really needed and running them with expensive gas will be an acceptable deep backup strategy.

        • Yes. We fundamentally agree. You are being extremely vague in your explanation, though.

          The capital cost of a natural gas plant is not “low”, and relative to what? To a coal plant? Of course. A coal plant needs a rail head, and all that infrastructure for coal and ash, scrubbing, etc. As I noted, a pipeline for gas is a lot cheaper than running coal cars back and forth, and scrubbing is not necessary. There are many reasons to prefer using gas.

          But just because something installs quickly does not mean it has lower “financial costs.” GE is charging top dollar for its gas turbines these days, and they ain’t cheap by any measure. In contrast, you can buy old coal plants dirt cheap and ship them to the third world for a song.

          What STEEPLE asserted, and it was STEEPLE to whom I was replying, was that the unit price of natural gas had “more to do with the decision than anything else.” I think that is egregious. If you read my reply to STEEPLE, you can’t seriously find anything objectionable, can you? And if not, why not let Steeple reply if he has something to say?

          “In a few years those gas plants will have paid for themselves.” You can say this about anything, really. If you are an accountant, we could have a meaningful discussion about this.

          • I gave you the link Rocky. You can check the relative to what stuff there.
            Construction time means accumulated interest. Understand that? Or would you like some explanation.

            What GE charges for its turbines is capex.

            It does not take an accountant to understand basic math.

            This is an open forum. If you want to have private conversations with someone then contact them by email.

          • Sorry Bob, you lose. I don’t think you know what you are talking about, and your link is not impressive in the least. Basic math huh? Well, basic math lets you play fast and loose with definitions, accounting is a little more complicated and precise. For instance:

            Construction time MIGHT imply that one pays more for interest on some capital outlay, but that is not necessarily true. And other costs might dwarf interest costs, so saying that rapid installation MEANS lower cost is certainly not necessarily true, and might be very UNtrue.

            Oh, ok. So before you told me to have an email party with someone and now you want to keep an open forum. Well, whatever you say.

          • Did you not bother to open the link and look at overnight capital costs which would have addressed your capex issue?

            Do you not understand how interest accumulates over time?

            Do you not realize that as plants are being built the owners are essentially having to borrow money to make payments on the money they have already borrowed?

            Do you not understand that the number of years that it takes to complete a coal or nuclear plants can roughly double the capital costs? That a wind farm, solar array, or gas plant come on line much faster and start creating revenue streams thus avoiding many years of accumulated interest?

          • Bob, I think you need to stick to your worship of “basic math” over accounting. It is a lot more convincing.

            Your assertion was that a gas plant can be installed quickly, which MEANS that it has lower “financial costs”. That is patently absurd.

            I think you don’t know what capex really means. You are missing its implications based on some kind of slurred explanation of the jargon.

            Yes, interest CAN accumulate over time, but it might not. As I said, it might not even matter. Other costs might be much more important.

            Again, yes, they have some cost of capital, but it is not always borrowed capital. And that might all be amortized anyway. Ugh. And that is an expense anyway, not a capital outlay. You know what that means, right? Do you know what it implies?

            Sure it can double the capital costs, but the costs might be very low in the first place OR the returns might be higher AND you are forgetting an important feature of such capital costs. Can you tell me what it is?

            I said earlier that if you are not an accountant, you don’t have anything very useful to say about this. I was right. You don’t know what you don’t know, and your arguments are general and vague. You need to go persuade someone else.

          • How do you contact people via email? I don’t see email addresses displayed anywhere.

            And Rocky is basically saying the same thing you are. Maybe on some other post he didn’t but on this one he is.

          • Give them yours or ask for theirs.

          • I was hoping for a less public method.

          • While I have access to everyone’s emails I don’t use them. I set up a second email account that I post on line and then only check when I’m anticipating a reply. Once I make contact via that address I give the individual my normal address.

          • That is a fantastic idea. Thanks.

    • This article is about the US, your Bloomberg article is talking about global demand. Most of the increased demand for coal will come from Asia. And they are just projections, straight from the crystal ball. The combination of bad reputation, ghg regulations, cheaper renewables will have an effect and I don’t think all these planned capacity increases will be implemented. Coal will suffer.

      • II wonder if the person who wrote the prediction of huge increases in China coal consumption knew about China’s statement that they are going to cap coal use down to 2011 levels starting in 2015?

        Bloomberg published pieces on it.

        There’s a more recent statement that seems to say that it may take them until 2017 to meet that goal.

        “China will aim to cut total coal consumption to below 65 per cent of total primary energy use by 2017 as part of a comprehensive new plan to tackle air pollution, the government said today.

        Coal consumption accounted for 66.8 per cent of total use in 2002.

        To help meet the target, it would also raise installed nuclear capacity to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2017, up from 12.5 GW at present and slightly accelerating a previous target of 58 GW by 2020.

        Beijing will stop approving new thermal power plants in key industrial areas such as the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in the north and the Yangtze and Pearl River delta regions in the east and southeast.

        China would also aim to raise the share of non-fossil fuel energy to 13 per cent by 2017, up from 11.4 per cent in 2012. Its previous target stood at 15 per cent by 2020.

        By the end of 2015, it said it would add 150 billion cubic metres of natural gas trunk pipeline transmission capacity to cover key industrial areas like the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in the north and the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas in the east and southeast.

        China would speed up the closure of old and polluting industrial capacity and “basically complete” work to relocate plants to coastal areas, as well as tackle pollution and overcapacity in the sectors by 2017.

        It said a 2015 target to close outdated capacity in industrial sectors would be accelerated to 2014, and it would also halt construction of all unapproved projects in industries facing overcapacity.”

        It’s also not clear how India will increase coal use as Bloomberg is claiming. The lack of water and the cost of fuel to move the coal is starting to drive the price out of reach. Toss in the rapidly dropping price of wind and solar and I doubt India will be greatly increasing coal use.

        Then, how many countries which have no coal mines/resources are going to build a coal plant and spend huge amounts of money importing fuel when they have cheaper alternatives?

        Most countries can’t even borrow the money to build coal plants. Many large banks and the World Bank have stopped funding coal builds.

      • Japan’s and Germany’s increases are temporary.

        Japan has all of its nuclear capacity shut down. It’s pushing very hard to install more solar and wind along with storage. (They already have a very large amount of pump-up hydro from their nuclear days.) Japan will burn more fossil fuel in the short run because that’s the non-nuclear capacity they have on hand. And they’ll back off fossil fuels as they bring more renewables on line.

        Germany has burned a bit more coal, but that won’t hold. Germany is replacing its old coal plants with state of the art ones. Once the switchover is compete and the old plants closed Germany will produce more electricity with less coal. Furthermore the new coal plants will be able to load-follow to some extent which will further reduce coal use.

        Australia is reducing coal use. They’ve now closed 9 GW of coal plants with more to come. Their utility companies are panicking. Demand is crashing as people become more efficient and install rooftop solar.

        I just don’t think the author of that Bloomberg piece is well plugged in.

  • My friend, Jay O’Hara was one of the two people who blocked a coal freighter from delivering 40,000 tons of coal for a day, to the Brayton Point power plant:

    On May 15th, Jay O’Hara [and Ken Ward] used a 30-foot lobster boat to obstruct a coal barge on its way to Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. On July 28th, thousands of people are converging on Brayton Point to demand its immediate closure:

    Yes, they claim it is losing money, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that this closure announcement comes after these protests.

    • That’s great, Neil. Perhaps I should block your access sometime when you are doing something I find objectionable.

      • There is nothing more “objectionable” than burning huge amounts of fossil fuel. I am still driving a gas car (sadly) but I am building an electric car (see my avatar) that will hopefully go 300-400 miles on a single charge – and then I can drive on sunshine and other renewable energy.

        We need to stop burning *any* coal, and soon we need to stop burning all oil and natural gas, too. That is what is largely causing climate change – and this is immoral.

        Way beyond objectionable.

        • You are to be commended for doing anything and making a contribution, but… and you know this…

          once you give up the gas-driven car, you will be recharging with electrons moved probably by a fossil fueled generator to your home.

          The closing of coal plants is all well and good, but if one takes a larger view, we can make a lot of progress if we increase efficiency with production AND consumption. Some of the most heroic and creative stunts do little good, and some of the most mundane decisions, such as LED light bulbs and smaller refrigerators, can make a huge difference.

          A Prius today might be better than getting an electric car five years from now.

          • If one charges an EV off 100% coal-produced electricity then driving a hybrid would be a bit better for the climate. But few of us live where coal produces even 90% of electricity. Currently coal produces about 40% of all US electricity.

            If one can use a current EV, isn’t hampered by range restrictions, then they can do a lot to help the planet by moving to an EV. We need sales to grow so that EVs are manufactured in larger volumes.

            Greater manufacturing numbers will create economies of scale and bring down prices.

            The extra cost of EVs is largely due to battery cost. Battery cost is largely an issue of low manufacturing volume. I recently read a statement by the CEO of a battery factory who reported that his plant was running between 10% and 20% of full capacity. Battery plants are capital intensive which means he has to spread capex and finex costs over a relatively small number of batteries. If we can get sales numbers up then battery prices will come down.

          • Well Bob, I don’t live in the US, and I don’t know of an EV that is not hampered by range restrictions. I didn’t say that generators were fueled by “coal”, I said “fossil fuels.” And I didn’t say that a hybrid would necessarily be “better for the climate.” I also did not propose that as a performance criterion.

            And Neil was saying he is BUILDING his own EV, which puts his economies of scale down to…. um…. zero.

            So. Although you have some interesting points, none seem to be relevant to my comments, or to Mr. Blanchard’s. But thanks for sharing anyway.

          • In the US the grid average for fossil fuels is around 70%, so an EV on the average US grid would be cleaner than running a hybrid.

            I did not claim that EVs were not range restricted (although the Tesla S with its rapid charger network is about there), I said that if one could live with the current ranges.

            As for relevance, do you not recall posting this –

            “once you give up the gas-driven car, you will be recharging with electrons moved probably by a fossil fueled generator to your home.”

            If you’d prefer a private conversation with Neil might I suggest email?

          • Yeah. I remember posting that. I said fossil fuels, and you went running off about coal. Remember?

            Ugh. And now you switch your performance criterion to “cleaner than running a hybrid.” Gee Bob. It is hard to hit a moving target. Mr. Blanchard is BUILDING his own EV, so how can you say it would be cleaner than a hybrid? The EV he is building does not even exist. What if it has lead acid batteries?

            You can suggest email. I refuse. Meanwhile, you don’t need to go making assumptions about people, making irrelevant points, and butting in. Just go away. It’s easy. I did not go out of my way to ruin anyone’s day, you are just annoying.

          • I gave you the results of a couple of studies comparing 100% coal-produced electricity charged EVs to hybrids. It seemed that you were unable to generalize from 100% coal to 100% fossil fuel so I attempted to give you some guidance.

            Again, on this site people are welcome, even expected, to join in conversations. You’ll have to live with that.

          • You gave me useless information based on your assumption that everyone on the planet lives in the US. I think you might need the guidance. Guide yourself to consulting a globe.

            Your contributions to my conversation were glaringly irrelevant. I told you so, politely at first, and you have continued, struggling, clawing to feel relevant. Why? You are not adding to my knowledge on this subject at all, and your points rely on false assumptions and irrelevant statements. I’ll have to live with that?

          • You’ll have to live with yourself.

            My condolences to you….

          • Thanks for the quip. I see you are maintaining your chosen level of relevancy.

          • Any EV is at least 2X more efficient than a Prius, and electricity from renewable energy is the only way to go in the future. The more electric cars we have, the better. We have to have them in order to be able to move to renewables.

            Also, gasoline does not appear out of thin air – it represents more “overhead” carbon than electricity does. It takes at least 7.5-8.5kWh of electricity PER GALLON of gasoline, so that electricity alone would move an EV 25-40 miles, and all the oil could stay in the ground.

            We can conserve more than what EV’s would use. And we can put solar PV panels on our roofs to offset ALL our electricity use. My brother and his wife each drive and EV, and their electricity bills for the past three months (including A/C in the house) have totaled a credit. So, with the panels, they will pay less than 1¢ / mile, and their electric bill will be a fraction of what it used to be.

            I’m already getting (near) Prius mileage in my Scion xA anyway. I’m averaging about 46MPG year round.

          • Hmm. Well Neil. I have a plug in and I have solar panels, and I am not thinking it is 2X more efficient than a PRIUS. One of the problems is the big battery it has. Carting that around gives it worse mileage than what a PRIUS gets. We are many generations along the line of combustion development, so expecting to be able to have batteries to match a gas tank pound for pound and dollar for dollar at this stage of the game is a stretch of engineering. I am sure you are confronting similar problems in your development. The battery is just one problem, of course. I know how that is going to be solved, but it will be a few years. Maybe you have figured it out already.

            Thanks for telling me that gas does not appear out of thin air. I don’t know what is wrong with the tone on this site, but everyone is either scrambling around stating the bloody obvious or spouting irrelevancies. You seem like an intelligent person. It is such a shame because I have a lot of things to talk about, and I love the site, but with all the prickliness and Bob Wallace buttinskis, well, life is too short.

            Maybe it is this tacit assumption that everyone needs to be “taught” or “informed” about everything. Bob presumes to teach me about “basic math” and you want to tell me about the carbon footprint of a gallon of gas. It grates. And it is the same old stuff.

            Yes. Well. Good for your brother and his wife. I have a similar outcome and I am pretty happy about it. Unfortunately, where I live DOES generate with coal and other fossil fuels, so I wanted to try to engage you on some points. Good luck with your car.

          • What plugin do you have? The Volt? I was referring to EV’s which is a different thing than a plugin hybrid. The Plugin Prius weighs more than the regular Prius, and they get virtually the same FE in hybrid mode, while in EV mode, the PiP gets ~2X the efficiency as it does in hybrid mode.

            Weight certainly matters, but I think it matters far more for ICE cars; as an ICE is 2-3X *less* efficient than an EV. An EV wastes so little in accelerating the weight, and it coasts without idling, and it has regen.

            Aerodynamic drag is the most important factor *after* the drivetrain in the overall efficiency of a vehicle. Weight comes in at the third most important factor.

            You made the “long tailpipe” argument, which is fine; but you get defensive when the equivalent point is made about gasoline. The fact that it takes a lot of electricity and a lot of natural gas (which has its own electricity overhead!) and with fracking, there is also a lot of water used – and that water has yet more electricity overhead – all this means that the overhead for EV’s is MORE than negated by the overhead for ICE’s.

            The long tailpipe argument is essentially moot. And electricity CAN come from many different renewable sources. So, driving an EV is *already* much better than driving an ICE – and as time goes by, EV’s will get cleaner and cleaner. The opposite is true for ICE’s.

            That is why I think that we need as many EV’s on the road now, so that as we continue to transition over to more and more renewables, we can take full advantage of that.

            All coal plants need to close, ASAP. The mercury alone is enough for this to be true, let alone the fly ash and the climate change, and the mountaintop removal.

            I am completely aware of the challenges of getting long range with an EV’s. My CarBEN EV5 is planned around a ~55kWh lithium pack, which is equivalent to ~1.63 gallons of gas. If I can get 300-400 miles of range, then it will be one of the most efficient cars ever. I’m working very hard on lowering the aerodynamic drag – hopefully a Cd of 0.15-0.20 or maybe even less. Gasoline has made most car designers “lazy” in my opinion.

            Many of us are happy to engage with others, and thank you for doing the same.

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