The Dernogalizer

December 21, 2009

No New Coal Plants in 2009

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 5:41 pm
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Looks like the death of coal to me.  This is from the Sierra Club.

No New Coal Plants Started in 2009
Year End State of Coal

Washington, DC: No new coal plants broke ground in 2009, a result of a combination of widespread public opposition, rising costs, increasing financial risks and concerns over future carbon regulations. In 2009 twenty-six coal-fired power plants—which would have emitted 146 million tons of carbon dioxide annually– were defeated or abandoned, the largest number of new coal plants defeated since the coal rush began in 2001.  This progress opens the way for a transition to a clean energy economy, including a 22.5% increase in electricity generated from wind between 2008 and 2009.

Total coal use is down in 2009 according to the , as the Obama administration is considering new regulations for the safe disposal of coal ash, and limiting emissions of mercury, soot, smog and global warming pollution from coal plants.

From the mine, to the plant, to the ash, 2009 has not been a good year for the coal industry. The Obama Administration has blocked most new permits to bury streams with waste as part of mountaintop removal mining operations, and is also increasing oversight of existing mining operations in Appalachia. The largest new consumer of mountaintop removal coal, the Santee Cooper coal plant planned for South Carolina, will not be moving forward.

Neither will plans to significantly expand the export of coal from the Powder River Basin. After a decade-long fight, the Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railroad project was abandoned in August. The DM&E rail project would have carried enough coal to power about 50 medium size coal plants.

Among the coal plants defeated or abandoned this year are the massive American Municipal Power coal plant proposed in Ohio and the Big Stone II plant in South Dakota. Developers pulled the plug on both projects, despite having successfully finished the permitting process, because of rising concerns about the sharply escalating costs and the promise of future carbon regulations.  A new found that almost two-thirds of Americans support federal regulations to reduce global warming pollution from power plants.

Since the beginning of the coal rush in 2001 when there were more than 150 proposed coal plants announced, 111 proposed new coal plants have been defeated or abandoned, keeping over 450 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the air each year.  Tens of thousands of concerned citizens across the country have joined the beyond coal movement, helping bring about tangible change in the way America is powered.

“2009 has been a remarkable year in our fight for clean energy,” said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Although there are still about 90 remaining proposals, the landscape has shifted 180-degrees. Communities across America have become aware about the danger of coal and have organized to stop these projects from moving forward.  The public is rising up, demanding cleaner energy, and developers and investors are taking note. There is a shift going on across America as companies realign away from old dirty practices involving coal and toward cleaner energy options, including wind, solar and becoming more efficient.”

In 2009 several companies also announced plans to start transitioning away from existing coal plants, many of which are decades old. Progress Energy announced plans to close several coal plants in North Carolina, and the Tennessee Valley Authority is considering phasing out parts of its fleet of plants in Tennessee and Alabama.

Verena Owen, Volunteer Leader of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign concluded, “the grassroots movement to push our country beyond coal continues to gain momentum—whether it is pushing for cleaner energy; no new coal plants; beginning the transition away from the oldest coal plants; working to improve mining practices; or fighting to clean up toxic coal ash; people across the country are fired up about a clean energy future and are refusing to let coal block the way.”

The Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign is a nationwide campaign working to ensure coal is mined responsibly, burned cleanly, and disposed of safely. The campaign is working to lessen America’s dependence on coal and accelerate the transition to clean energy alternatives like wind and solar.

Visit to view our coal plant tracker, which shows a full list of proposed coal plants defeated, abandoned and still proposed.

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UK Climate Secretary Accuses China of Hijacking Copenhagen

Here’s a piece in the Guardian by the UK Climate Secretary Ed Miliband on the outcome at Copenhagen, and the path forward.  My perspective is still forthcoming.

The road from Copenhagen

Where do we go from here? That is the question we are all asking ourselves after Copenhagen. We have to begin by understanding the lessons of what went wrong but also recognise the achievements that it secured.

This was a chaotic process dogged by procedural games. Thirty leaders left their negotiators at 3am on Friday, the last night to haggle over the short Danish text that became the accord. To get a deal we needed urgent progress because time was running out. Five hours later, we had got to the third paragraph.

The procedural wrangling was, in fact, a cover for points of serious, substantive disagreement. The vast majority of countries, developed and developing, believe that we will only construct a lasting accord that protects the planet if all countries’ commitments or actions are legally binding. But some leading developing countries currently refuse to countenance this. That is why we did not secure an agreement that the political accord struck in Copenhagen should lead to a legally binding outcome.

We did not get an agreement on 50% reductions in global emissions by 2050 or on 80% reductions by developed countries. Both were vetoed by China, despite the support of a coalition of developed and the vast majority of developing countries. Indeed, this is one of the straws in the wind for the future: the old order of developed versus developing has been replaced by more interesting alliances.

Would it have been better to refuse to sign and walk away? No. Of course it was right to consider whether we should sign. But to have vetoed the agreement would have meant walking away from the progress made in the last year and the real outcomes that are part of this accord, including finance for poor countries. Some of the strongest voices urging that we agree the accord were countries like the Maldives and Ethiopia.

Countries signing the accord have endorsed the science that says we must prevent warming of more than 2C. For the first time developing countries, including China, as well as developed countries have agreed emissions commitments for the next decade. If countries deliver on the most ambitious targets, we will be within striking distance of what is needed to prevent warming of more than 2C. These commitments will also for the first time be listed and independently scrutinised, with reports to the UN required every two years.

We have also established an unprecedented commitment among rich countries to finance the response to climate change: $10bn a year over the next three years – starting to flow now – rising to $100bn a year by 2020, the goal first set out by the prime minister in June.

In the months ahead, these concrete achievements must be secured and extended. We must work to ensure that developed nations in particular, such as Australia, Japan and the EU nations, deliver on the highest possible emissions cuts. And as the US Senate considers its legislation, it is important it delivers not just the 17% reductions offered so far but the deepest possible.

Finance for poor countries must flow straight away, which the decision agreed last Saturday enables us to do. We must also agree new ways to raise revenue to meet these commitments, which the working group established by the accord will propose.

We should also mobilise all the countries that want a legal treaty to campaign for it. The voice of small island states and African countries were the most resonant at these talks. For their people, most vulnerable to climate change, they know we must have a legal framework. Together we will make clear to those countries holding out against a binding legal treaty that we will not allow them to block global progress.

There is a wider question, too, about the structures and nature of the negotiations. The last two weeks at times have presented a farcical picture to the public. We cannot again allow negotiations on real points of substance to be hijacked in this way. We will need to have major reform of the UN body overseeing the negotiations and of the way the negotiations are conducted.

The challenge for all of us is not to lose heart and momentum. The truth is that the global campaign, co-ordinated by green NGOs, backed by business and supported by a wider cross section of the public, has achieved a lot. We would never have had targets from so many countries, the engagement of leaders, and the agreement on finance without this sort of mobilisation.

My fear that Copenhagen would pass people by without comment turned out to be unfounded. But the lesson of Make Poverty History is that we must keep this campaign going and build on it. It needs to be more of a genuinely global mobilisation, taking in all countries.

Today many people will be feeling gloomy about the results of their efforts. But no campaign ever wholly succeeds at the first time of asking. We should take heart from the achievements and step up our efforts. The road from Copenhagen will have as many obstacles as the road to it. But this year has proved what can be done, as well as the scale of the challenge we face.

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