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Published on June 8th, 2017 | by Tina Casey


DOE To Coal Miners: Drop Dead (Or Work On A Wind Farm In Texas)

June 8th, 2017 by  

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has just pulled back the curtain on the Trump energy policy, and it ain’t pretty if you depend on coal for a living. In a new DOE blog post, Perry discusses the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and lays out the case for the US to “protect the environment” and create new jobs by continuing to exploit two key resources: wind and natural gas.

What about clean coal? Perry also provides a brief mention to oil in terms of creating energy jobs, but the word “coal” appears nowhere in the piece, clean or not.

Texas wind energy Rick Perry coal Trump

Rick Perry Being Rick Perry

The last time Secretary Perry wrote an op-ed, the Twitterverse was merciless and so was everybody else. The topic was an election in Texas, which partly explains it, but more specifically the topic was that Texas A&M student president race in which the son of a major Perry donor won the vote by a wide margin but was disqualified.

The topic of the new blog post is the Paris Agreement on climate change. It would have attracted a lot of attention last week, when the Paris climate accord was big news, but it only popped up on the DOE website on June 7.

Considering what else is going on in Washington this week, it probably won’t get too much play. That’s probably a good thing because if you only look at the beginning and the end, the piece displays Perry at his ridiculous best.

Under the heading, “Rather than preaching about clean energy, this administration will act on it,” Perry launches with this observation:

During his address in the Rose Garden, the president laid out a convincing case detailing how this rather one-sided agreement is not in the best long-term economic interest of the United States.

There is probably some celebration going on somewhere over the Paris withdrawal, (that includes China among other nations with global leadership aspirations), but CleanTechnica does not hear much convincing going on. If you can find some, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Meanwhile, in closing off the op-ed Perry takes that first thought to its logical conclusion:

Under the president’s leadership, the United States will serve as an example to the rest of the world on how to achieve economic, energy, and environmental goals simultaneously.

And in the process, he will allow us to determine our own future, and that future will indeed be brighter.

Bam! Done and done.

Rick Perry Killing Coal

Okay, so that sounds pretty laughable if you’re not a big fan of the President, but read through the whole rest of the piece and you’ll see that Perry is coming from the same school of thought that has motivated major oil and gas companies to support the Paris Agreement: Paris is an amazing opportunity for natural gas stakeholders to drive that stake right through the heart of coal.

After a long passage extolling the growth of energy jobs in Texas — including oil, gas and wind — Perry hits the stake…

Pennsylvania is also determining its own future, taking a leadership role in America’s energy revolution. The development of Marcellus and Utica Shale has created thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in new investment, and is having a global impact.

…and then he gives it a twist:

This happened in Texas and Pennsylvania because of smart strategies and bipartisan leadership.

For those of you new to the topic, the Marcellus and Utica shale formations are rich in natural gas. Coal has nothing to do with it. Like other US states, Pennsylvania has been bleeding coal jobs for generations and the shale gas boom isn’t helping.

For the record, Perry does argue that Texas and Pennsylvania became “leaders in domestic energy production” on their own initiative, which is not quite the case.

The shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, Texas and elsewhere has been widely attributed to the creation of a federal water protection loophole during the Bush Administration that has masked risks and impacts.

For that matter, fugitive methane emissions from drilling sites and elsewhere along the natural gas supply chain are creating new headaches in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

Also for the record, right near the end Perry appears to throw a bone to the coal industry, but it’s a rather tiny one. You kind of have to peer at it closely and imagine that he might possibly be hinting at clean coal technology (emphasis added so you don’t miss it):

This country has been and must continue to be a leader in energy technology, development, and delivery. This leadership will not occur if we disqualify sources of energy as we did through the Paris agreement…

If you can figure out what that means, let us know.

Meanwhile, Wind Energy!

CleanTechnica noticed a while back that Perry has been pumping out the good news about wind and other renewables all through his tenure at DOE, despite the Trump rhetoric on coal.

The new blog post hammers that home. After noting the ongoing oil and gas boom in his home state, Perry observes:

Texas is also the country’s largest (and currently No. 6 in the world) producer of wind energy. Texas has two of the largest wind farms in the Western Hemisphere, and during my time as governor we invested $7 billion in transmission facilities to distribute that new, clean energy.

That’s just the stake. Here’s the twist:

At the same time, Texas power plants reduced their output of carbon by 17 percent, sulfur dioxide by 56 percent, and nitrous oxide by 66 percent.

Thanks, wind and natural gas. The latest figures from ERCOT, which oversees the Texas grid, show that the state’s generating capacity in 2016 consisted of 52% gas, 22% coal, 20% wind (catching up to coal!) and 6% nuclear with a bit of biomass and other renewables thrown in.

Just three years earlier, in 2013 the natural gas share was only 40.5%, with coal at 37.2% and wind clocking in at a measly 9.9%

Perry doesn’t say as much, but the future outlook for coal is even gloomier. Our friends over at the Houston Chronicle note that most coal-fired units in the state were built before 1990 and have reached the end of their expected lifespan.

Meanwhile, there are now wind farms in 50 Texas counties, up from only 14 counties just ten years ago.

And, that’s where the jobs are.

Image (screenshot): US Department of Energy.



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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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