Robert Bryce: It’s Not ‘All of the Above’ After All
Robert Bryce, who was the keynote speaker at the ACC 2010 Coal Market Strategies Conference in Tucson, AZ, has a new NationalReview.com article describing the recent EPA GHG rule proposal. Bryce argues that the proposed rule is a wasteful and damaging sham that fails on a variety of fronts. He focuses on two reasons in his NRO article;
- Coal is an “essential” fuel, both here and around the world, and
- Even a complete sacrifice of U.S. economic well being and competitive advantage – in the form of shutting all coal-fueled generation – would have no impact on worldwide CO2 emissions.
Bryce explains that,
While it’s true that coal has been losing market share in the U.S. to natural gas over the last few years, regulators need to keep a diversified portfolio of fuels in the electricity-generation mix to help avoid unexpected price shocks from reductions in supply. And that’s where coal’s value becomes apparent: The U.S. has about 237 billion tons of coal reserves — about 28 percent of the world’s known deposits. That’s 241 years of supply at current rates of domestic consumption.
Since one ton of coal contains about as much energy as three barrels of oil, U.S. coal reserves total about 711 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
America isn’t the Saudi Arabia of coal; it’s the entire Middle East of coal. U.S. coal deposits contain about the same amount of energy as the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates combined.
Bryce’s argument demonstrates that leaving this wealth of affordable, abundant, domestic energy in the ground while relying on, often unfriendly, regimes around the world for a secure energy supply is a fool’s game. He notes that coal is (and has been) an “essential” American energy source since the earliest days of the industrial revolution. Ignoring that fact and deliberately hamstringing our industry and economy is catastrophically naive policy. The Obama administration’s assertion that we can simply outlaw and abandon half or our energy supply without “additional cost” to industry only serves to reinforce this transparent naivety.
On the issue of abandoning U.S. workers and our competitive advantages (in the form of cheap and reliable energy) to chase the fleeting dream of environmental purity, Bryce notes,
(This is) where the inanity of the EPA’s proposal becomes apparent. Between 2001 and 2010, domestic coal consumption fell by 5 percent. Over that same time period, global coal consumption soared, growing by about the same amount as oil, natural gas, and nuclear combined. Coal use increased by about the equivalent of 23 million barrels of oil. Oil consumption grew by 10 million barrels per day, gas increased by the equivalent of 12.9 million barrels of oil, and nuclear rose by the equivalent of 510,000 barrels.
Over the last decade, largely because of increased coal consumption, global carbon-dioxide emissions rose by 28.5 percent. Over that same decade, U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions fell by 1.7 percent. And here’s a stubborn fact that the EPA and its allies on the Green Left simply refuse to acknowledge: Over the past decade, even if U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions had gone to zero, global carbon-dioxide emissions still would have increased.
Why? The answer is simple. The rest of the world wants what we take for granted: cheap, abundant, reliable electricity. Demand for electricity is a key reason that China’s carbon-dioxide emissions jumped by 123 percent over the past decade. Over that same time period, Africa’s emissions jumped by 30 percent, Asia’s by 44 percent, and the Middle East’s by 57 percent.
“Why should the US tie one hand behind its back while China, India, Brazil and other rising economic powers were exempted from Kyoto limits – that is, they received a free pass even though these nations were rapidly becoming not just the primary but the overwhelming source of carbon emissions into the global atmosphere.”
Burgess went on to describe how forcing the U.S. economy and industry to make do with fewer and more expensive energy options is a much larger issue than just the future of coal. The administration’s allegedly ‘all of the above’ strategy, which happens to ignore half of our energy options, will demolish our national capacity to promote a robust economy, to sustain economic growth, or to provide reliable and affordable electricity. In response, Burgess argued that it was time for a determined coalition of business leaders to stand up and join the war on reliable and affordable American energy.
Bryce’s suggested policy option was equally effective. He closed out his article by recognizing that banning coal in the U.S. won’t have any impact on the global carbon cycle. It will however, have an enormous impact on the average electricity user. Hammering a sluggish economy, already reeling from high unemployment and decimated housing markets, with an additional carbon tax will only harm people further. Bryce, therefore, suggests that it is time for Congress to step up and to take the reins back from the EPA.