Power Plants

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions from 2005 to 2019
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Power producers still intend to move forward with coal plant retirements despite a Clean Power Plan replacement under the Trump Administration. S & P Global Market Intelligence spoke with several major utilities with pre-existing plans to retire coal capacity. Taylor Kuykendall, a co-author, found the Affordable Clean Energy rule isn't changing anyone's minds.

Net generation by select fuel source - notice the share of goal increasingly goes down from 2010 to July of this year
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Domestic coal-fired power plants are set to shut down at double the rate of last year. The retirements would remove about 6 percent of all coal-generated capacity in the U.S. This comes despite the Trump administration's promise to extend a lifeline to the coal industry.

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When we talk about energy efficiencies, we’re usually talking about efficiencies at home – turning off the lights, unplugging appliances. But power plants have efficiency issues as well – a LOT of energy is lost when we burn fossil fuels to make electricity.

We’re thinking about this because we received a question from a student, as part of our IE Questions project. Garrett Bess is 14, and he just finished up eighth grade at Wellington Middle School in northern Colorado. Here’s his question:

Dan Boyce

Mark Fix has been ranching outside of Miles City, Montana since the mid-1980s, raising cattle, alfalfa and grain on his 9,700 acre plot of land. But severe weather events have been stacking up in recent years: a tornado tore through his barn, flooding stranded his cows. It’s impacting his bottom line, and he’s convinced it’s from human-caused climate change.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture starting a program that pays people to deliver dead trees to power plants that can convert them to biomass fuel.  Large swaths of Wyoming’s forests have been killed by pine beetle infestations and some say they pose a fire danger. Todd Atkinson with the Farm Service Agency says he hopes money will give people the incentive to harvest from more remote areas.

This week the EPA unveiled a new rule to drastically cut carbon emissions from the nation's power plants. While Wyoming Republicans say it will devastate the economy, Matt Laslo reports from Washington that some experts say their outdated thinking has set the state back in the new energy economy. 

The White House isn't waiting around for this Congress to help it tackle climate change. The new EPA rule will require Wyoming to slash it's carbon emissions by 19 percent. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis says the state's energy producers are worried. 

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It didn't take long after the Obama administration unveiled new rules this week regulating carbon emissions from power plants for people to start naming winners and losers. Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, and a huge coal consumer, was immediately billed as a loser.

Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration said Monday that it intends to aggressively reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, or greenhouse gas pollution, produced in the United States. To boost these ambitions, the White House will partner with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce varying rules state-by-state to be carried out by power plants that produce the gases.

If successfully implemented, the regulations will deliver a 30 percent decrease in carbon emissions by 2030.

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The predicted effects of continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at current rates range from dramatic sea level rise to extreme weather to famine and drought. Power plants are among the largest carbon dioxide emitters, and on June 2, the Obama administration is scheduled to release new rules regulating those emissions. Utilities and trade groups are already warning those rules will have some dire consequences of their own.

Governor Matt Mead is proposing that Wyoming set aside $15 million to open a research center focused on new uses of carbon captured from coal-fired power plants.

The state already has an institute which looks at the use of captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery, but Mead’s policy director, Shawn Reese, says this facility would be used to develop additional uses of carbon like fertilizers, building materials, biochemical products, and synthetic gases.

The federal government is getting ready to unveil rules for carbon emissions at new coal-fired power plants, and they probably won't be what industry had hoped for.

Wyoming leaders say the state's energy-based economy is suffering under recent Obama administration environmental initiatives.

Republican Gov. Matt Mead plans to testify next week in Cheyenne against a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to restrict emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Mead says the rule will cost Wyoming's five coal-fired power plants about $1 billion initially and perhaps $100 million a year thereafter. He says implementing the regulations won't affect haze.

Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power and Black Hills Power received approval from the Wyoming Public Service Commission to build a new natural gas fired electric generating facility in Cheyenne.  Construction on the 237-million-dollar facility will begin next year. 

The most detailed data yet on emissions of heat-trapping gases show that U.S. power plants are responsible for the bulk of the pollution blamed for global warming. The data released today reveals that power plants released 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010. Wyoming is among a handful of states that are home to high-polluting power plants, according to the data.