‘Coal is a dead man walking’ — Bloomberg

Source: Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted coal-fired power generation today during a high-profile Energy Department innovation summit just outside Washington, D.C.

“The king is dead. Coal is a dead man walking,” Bloomberg said during the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) conference. “We are heading toward the sustainable future that we all want.”

Bloomberg celebrated the ongoing spate of coal power plant retirements. Flying into Washington’s Reagan National Airport, the high-profile mayor said he marveled at the closure of the Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria, Va., below. “There is no more coal,” he said.

Citing studies about the related impacts of coal power plant production, Bloomberg said it “doesn’t deserve its reputation as a cheap fuel.” He added, “It’s coal that is killing Americans.”

Bloomberg’s hostility to coal is nothing new. He recently donated $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. And like others at the conference, he spoke about natural gas as a cleaner bridge fuel toward more renewable sources.

“Natural gas really does have the potential to benefit us for decades to come,” Bloomberg said. “But only if drilling is done right.”

But others at the conference struck a different tone. Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander spoke about the importance of continued funding for clean coal energy research.

“If you can capture and commercially use the CO2,” he said, “then you will have made an enormous advance, not only in the United States but also the world.”

An executive with American Electric Power Co., which scrapped a carbon capture and sequestration project in West Virginia in 2011, said the economics would need to improve before such projects are widely viable. “We did that, and we ended up eating a lot of the money,” said Chief Operating Officer Bob Powers.

Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman talked about the benefits of combining carbon capture with enhanced oil recovery and foreign partnerships. “Public policy is going to continue being important to the viability of this,” he said, assuring skeptics that the Obama administration was not giving up on CCS.

Earlier this year, National Mining Association CEO Hal Quinn warned about policymakers relying too much on natural gas, especially when he expects prices to eventually increase along with demand. And while coal power will continue facing head winds, Quinn and other analysts expect the United States to keep a smaller but more efficient coal fleet (Greenwire, Jan. 17).

Even with strong competition from natural gas, Mike Duncan, CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, this weekend blamed the Obama administration for many of the power plant retirements and for making technological upgrades more difficult.

“If you’re going to add marginally to the efficiency of your coal plant, you may get kicked into new source review,” he told “Platts Energy Week.” “And at new source review, they put in impossible standards to be met.”

As with gun control, Bloomberg has committed his financial muscle to fighting coal. Duncan, however, said the industry would continue taking its case to the public, including during upcoming elections.

“The more we can educate people on where electricity comes from and the price of electricity, the better off we are,” he said. “I think you will continue to see overreaching by regulation as a major issue.”