Obama ignores coal

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama completely ignored coal in his State of the Union address yesterday, prompting Peabody Energy to launch a stinging attack on the administration’s “ill-advised” power plant proposals and its obsession with eliminating carbon.
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Anthony Barich

"It's unacceptable that we as a nation would allow growing pain at the plug to replace the pain at the pump that has been recently eased by falling oil prices,” Peabody chairman and CEO Gregory Boyce said.

“If we are really serious about providing clean, low-cost electricity, we should be doing everything we can to support broader use of advanced coal technologies."

Obama said that as a nation and government, “we believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet … and today, America is number one in oil and gas”.

“America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008 … and thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump,” Obama added.

Boyce called on the US administration to support technology solutions with advanced coal as vital to protecting America's supply of clean, low-cost electricity for families and businesses.

Coal still supplies 40% of US electricity at the lowest cost of any major fuel, Boyce said, so maintaining affordable energy access was “especially important” as over half of Americans have said as little as a $US20 increase in their utility bills would create hardship and nearly a third of the population, a record 115 million Americans, qualify for low-income assistance with energy bills.

“The Administration should reverse its ill-advised power plant proposals, which will force soaring power costs on American families,” Boyce said.

He cited a recent study which concluded that the Obama administration's series of power plant regulations would cause nearly $700 in annual power and natural gas increases for the typical household in 2020 compared to 2012. These costs would continue to increase year after year.

“The clear path to achieve our economic and environmental goals is continued use of today's advanced ‘supercritical’ generation, which is being broadly deployed and is available off-the-shelf,” Boyce said.

“These highly efficient, commercial technologies are essential to accelerate the transition to low-carbon, high-efficiency energy systems around the world.

“Each large plant also delivers an equivalent carbon dioxide benefit of removing 1 million cars from the road.”

He said that longer term, next generation carbon capture use and storage should be prioritised for commercialisation along with development of a “clear legal and regulatory path”.

“CCUS should enjoy the same incentives as all energy sources,” he said, referring to Obama’s emphasis on wind energy in his SOTU address.

Boyce said the US “carbon-based economy” also benefitted dramatically from coal, which enables modern conveniences that improve health, longevity and quality of life.

He also cited a study on the “social cost of carbon” which concluded that the benefits from fossil fuel energy outweigh the so-called cost of carbon by a magnitude of 50 to 500 times, based on empirical data versus modelled predictions.