The Future For Electrical Power After Waxman Markey And Kerry Boxer (Part 1)

Posted on Mon 11/02/2009 by




This post started out as a small single post on a specific subject, but as is always the case with my posts, further research always seems to be required, and that sometimes throws up something else, which, rather than just allude to, I actually prefer to explain, and in that way readers can get the whole story.

You may think that the current Bills before Congress are in the main part aimed specifically at those coal fired power plants, but in actual fact they are aimed even further than that when it comes to the electrical power generating sector.

You are told at great length that both the Waxman Markey Bill in The House, and the Kerry Boxer Bill in The Senate are structured purposely to decrease Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions, and you are told that the largest culprits here are those coal fired power plants. Any decreases brought about by these Bills will be so small when viewed in the overall picture. These decreases will not be because of the Bill, because people’s use of electrical power is something that they actually make a conscious decision about using, and when there are 125 Million Residential users, (making up 37% of overall electrical power consumption in the U.S.) 18 Million Commercial users, (35%) and almost one million Industrial users, (27%) any decrease will be so small as to not even register. Those decreases will not come about because of people becoming more aware of using that electrical power in a frugal manner, but because those coal fired power plants will be closing down.

Result achieved, you might think, but those plants will not be closing because of these Bills, but because they have reached their end of their useful operating lives. Keep in mind that the average life span of a coal fired power plant is around 50 years, and the U.S. average for the whole inventory is between 45 and 48 years now. No new plants of large size are coming on line, so effectively, there is nothing to replace them with as they close. That is where the reduction in the burning of coal is taking place, and it has nothing at all to do with these two bills. These Bills are only designed for one thing. To place a cost on that CO2 emission. That cost is then passed directly down to you as the consumer.

That cost will not just be on your electricity use alone, but on everything you do or buy, because the cost of production of that item has increased, and that cost also will be passed on in increases in the price of all goods. All the food and goods you purchase at Supermarkets in your weekly ‘shop’ will also be affected as well, because that food will be purchased from supermarkets and stores, now also facing large hikes in the cost of the electricity they also use. Think about perishable goods in the cool storage aisles of your Supermarkets, because they will still need to be kept cold 24 hours a day. All places of work will still require their electrical power. Every structure taller than 2 stories will need the same power they always have, because the only way air is circulated inside those buildings is with the conditioners on top of their roofs, that air not just warmed and cooled as the title might suggest, but actually required to keep fresh air circulating inside those buildings.

So it’s not just a conscious decision you might make to cut back on your personal use of electrical power. In every part of your whole life this new tax will be felt.

So, remember how we are told that this is aimed squarely at those coal fired power plants, because they emit the bulk of the CO2. A large coal fired power plant of around 2,000MW nameplate capacity burns on average 6.5 million tons of coal each and every year. Each ton of coal produces 2.86 tons of CO2, so you can see that they actually do ‘seem’ to produce a lot of the stuff, in fact around 18.6 Million tons of CO2 each year. When viewed in isolation the U.S. burns just under one billion tons of coal each year to produce the near 50% of all consumed electrical power. This produces 2.8 Billion tons of CO2, and now you may think we’re talking huge numbers. Keep in perspective that on the surface of the whole Planet, an amount of 50 Billion tons of CO2 is emitted each year.

I have gone to great lengths to explain many times that even though this number is huge, the actual amount of CO2 in the air around you is so minute as to hardly register, only making up 0.0388% of that air around you. So when it is told to you with great flourish coal fired power in the U.S. emits 2.8 Billion tons of CO2, that amount is quite small indeed.

However, while the concentration is on coal fired power generation, those other producers of the electricity we all use sort of drift into the background.

These Bills are also aimed squarely at those other sectors of electrical power generation as well.

We are told at length that these Bills will result in reduction of these CO2 emissions. In fact, the very people who have proposed these two Bills have gone to great length to change the titles to make them more acceptable to the public, the thinking being that with a different name, then how could people object to them. This struggle is a clever use of language, rather than actually explaining what the intent is, and thinking that with a catchy title, then members of the (voting) public will understand (the title) a little better.

In Part 2 tomorrow, I will explain how these Bills will be aimed at those other electrical power generating sectors other than the coal fired sector.