“Coal Scrubbers Give Illinois Basin New Life” – Wall Street Journal, 9 January 2014

Natural gas has been dominating the news, and many feel that the influx of the major energy source has inadvertently waged a war on coal. US coal production dropped 7% in 2012, but now coal is making a resurgence, mainly due to the Illinois Basin, which extends from Illinois to Missouri, Indiana and Western Kentucky.

The Illinois Basin was a key US coal basin, until the Clean Air Act of 1970 passed, making the Illinois Basin unfavorable for mining. Illinois coal has elevated levels of sulfur, which is partially responsible for acid rain. However, widespread use of scrubbing technology has allowed for mines in Illinois to reopen—scrubbing technology can lift 97% of a coal-fired power plants’ sulfur dioxide. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted that Illinois would generate 56 million tons of coal in 2013, a 70% increase from 2010. The Illinois Basin is anticipated to produce more coal than Central Appalachia, another major US coal basin.

While natural gas has been a huge boost to our economy and is the cleaner energy source, the coal industry provides the US with many jobs. There will be more jobs available as the basin reopens near railroads and along the Mississippi River.

As the US inches towards a more desired energy independence and security, we must continue to pursue a prudent “all of the above ” energy strategy.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 21, 2014

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Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

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“Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement” – New York Times, 24 January 2014

Since June 2011, environmentalists have been rallying together to stop the approval of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline — XL meaning express line — which would send 800,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Canada sand formations to Texas refineries. Though it is unknown if Obama will authorize the project, environmentalists have taken their protests directly to the him.

In addition to transporting hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day, the pipeline will also involve an oil extraction process that expends more greenhouse gas emissions than any other means of production. Those in favor of the pipeline say that the oil will be transported regardless; without the pipeline, it would probably be carried by railway, which would cause more pollution.

The pipeline has been an issue that has banded all American environmentalists together, allowing climate change organizations, like 350.org, to grow to double its size in just two short years. People from all economic and financial backgrounds have donated time, energy and money to the cause, merging national and grassroots environmental groups who often argue over attention and resources.

Keystone XL would create a bypass to the Gulf of Mexico and would expand TransCanada’s current Keystone pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Nebraska, Illinois and Oklahoma; Keystone XL would be a more direct pipeline across the US, to Texas. TransCanada and ally American Petroleum Institute have taken the matter into their own hands by running TV and radio ads advocating the many jobs the pipeline will create.

Whether environmentalists’ protests are successful or not, it is easy to agree that the pipeline issue has forever changed American environmental politics, allowing various environmental groups to rally together, and forming a durable infrastructure.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 31, 2014

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“Coal’s Decline Hits Hardest in the Mines of Kentucky” – Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2013

Wall Street Journal

While the US’s stores of natural gas have been boosting the economy and lowering gas prices in unprecedented ways, the influx has also been hurting many Americans, especially those working in the Central Appalachian coalfields, primarily located in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Over the past two years, dozens of Central Appalachian mines have closed, causing massive layoffs, which are likely to be permanent for the area. The coal industry is now concentrating on two other major coal basins in Wyoming and Illinois that are cheaper to mine.

Data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration shows that 26 Kentucky counties are the hardest hit by mine closings — counties that have been mining for over a century. Before 2011, the number of mining jobs in the region never dropped below 11,400; however, after 2011, the number of mining jobs has declined to 8,000, the fewest number of jobs since the 1920s. Almost 100 mines Kentucky’s eastern coalfields have shutdown since 2011, from 256 active mines to 161.

Many of the unemployed miners blame the layoffs on Obama and the EPA for introducing new regulations that will limit emissions for coal-burning power plants, what many Republicans have deemed the “war on coal.” However, the coal industry sees the layoffs as the sum of many things: new fracking technologies have further depressed the coal market, and Obama’s regulations have only worsened the situation.

Furthermore, many of the affected Appalachian coal mines’ production costs are higher (with a cheaper selling price), more abundant and more polluting than steam coal (used for power generation). Metallurgical coal, on the other hand, requires less production and a lower selling price needed for exportable global iron and steel production.

In 2003, coal produced 51% of US electricity and natural gas produced 17%; in August 2013, coal produced 39% of US electricity and natural gas produced 27%. The EIA has calculated that, while coal will still be power plants’ biggest fuel supply, use of coal by electricity utilities will decline over the coming decades. Around 9% of coal-fired power plants will be closing between 2013-2018.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

December 12, 2013

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www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

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