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Author Topic: Fossil Fuel Profits Getting Eaten Alive by Renewable Energy!  (Read 11241 times)

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From the keyboard of Thomas Lewis Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter @Doomstead666

A coal train once supplied the city of Holland, Michigan with fuel for its electric generating plant. They converted the plant to natural gas. Their costs are down, their emissions are down, and coal is down for the count. (Photo by wsilver/Flickr)

First published at The Daily Impact March 27, 2015

After bestriding the mountains of Appalachia, among many other places, like the proverbial Colossus for a century and more, the U.S. coal industry has been taken to hospice, a pathetic wasted shadow of its former self, its physical condition terminal, its thought processes derailed by dementia. It’s not a pretty sight (except perhaps to the survivors of the ruin, destruction and death it has brought to thousands upon thousands of helpless people) and there are those who say its fate foreshadows that of the oil fracking industry, which is now in the ICU, and the legacy oil bidness, which has started to have dizzy spells and occasional sudden hemorrhaging.

A report out this week from the think tank Carbon Tracker, titled “The U.S. Coal Crash,” itemizes the problems listed on the patient’s chart:

  • 26 coal companies bankrupt in the last three years;
  • Peabody Energy Corp., the world’s largest private coal company, has lost 80% of its share value, and that is representative of the industry as a whole (or as a hole);
  • 264 mines were closed in just two years — 2011-2013.
  • The last best hope for coal, China, which burns more than the rest of the world combined, has rendered much of its territory including its capital virtually uninhabitable because of the resulting air pollution, and is cutting back. A little. Down 3% last year.

Oh, and the dementia part? Peabody Energy issued a “forecast” this year “foreseeing” increased coal demand of 10-30 million tons, and global demand increasing by 500 million tons. Not only that, but the industry professes to believe in “clean” coal, and that its woes are caused entirely by President Obama’s “war on coal.” It’s sad, really, next we’ll find them wandering in the WalMart parking lot, unable to remember where they put their car.

What the industry calls the “war on coal” — the U.S. government’s limp-wristed efforts to reduce air pollution before it a) boils the planet and b) makes all the monuments in Washington invisible, like the skyline of Beijing — is not the primary cause of the industry’s demise. That mortal wound was delivered by the natural gas frackers, who in 2008 began to flood the market with cheap, fracked gas and inspired every electric generating plant that could do it to convert to burning gas instead of coal.

There went coal’s last reliable market, and that is why the doctors expect to see a flat line on the monitor any day now. Incidentally, the gas frackers did so well at driving down the price of their product that many of them went under, too, and the rest are hanging on with teeth and fingernails. You can’t get poetic justice to rhyme any better than that.

You’ve heard of those people who get diagnosed as terminal, check into hospice, and five years later get kicked out because they refuse to die? Coal will probably be like that for the remainder of the Industrial Age. It will remain the cheapest option for some, and cheap trumps everything else in our values-deprived world. Same with oil. It will endure long past its prime, in palliative care.

Yes, the mighty are falling, and it’s hard not to gloat, until we remember their ultimate justification: they were only giving us what we wanted.

Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Yes, the mighty are falling , and it’s hard not to gloat , until we remember their ultimate justification: they were only giving us what we wanted. 

It's ABOUT TIME the coal pollution stopped! And they gave us anything but respiratory diseases and cancer for "cheap" energy that cost us our health. That is NOT what we wanted.  They LIED. They were giving us what THEY WANTED FROM US, not what we wanted.

I just went through that in another article on Electrical monopolies. The coal corporations, like ALL fossil fuel industries, NEVER were about giving us ANYTHING but just enough addiction to be able to jack up the price with "resource" wars and "international instability" BALONEY.

I commented the following after this article:

Electricity’s Un-Natural Monopoly

 John Farrell 
 April 02, 2015


Excellent summary of the situation and proper analysis of the most reasonable way forward. I agree with you 100%.

But you left out the profit over planet agenda that has existed in this country for over a century. This agenda was based on the centralized power (both of energy AND political) "business model" based on fossil fuels.

Yes, the hydropower option was a function of the logical natural monopoly a utility should provide. In fact, by the early 1940's the electrical power percentage provided by hydropower was nearly 40%. That figure (yes, I know the grid has grown enormously - that was not a valid excuse for adding more dirty energy instead of renewable energy) has never been surpassed.

The bottom line is that the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil and gas) and the nuclear power industry obtained both visible and invisible "subsidies" that, when actually figured into the cost of providing electrical power to we-the-people, never were cost effective or natural monopolies.

If that had been the case, the massive subsidies, without even beginning to figure in the externalized GDP costs for health care (days absent from work, respiratory diseases, etc.) and deleterious biosphere impact, would not have been necessary when those technologies matured (after the 1930s for fossil fuels and after the 1970s for nuclear power).

But the taxpayer massive giveaways to these dirty energy welfare queens continue to this day. From Cleveland's electrical wind turbines put up in the late NINETEENTH century being taken down to the sabotage and burning of the Chemurgy refinery (plant carbohydrates to hydrocarbons for fuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals and textiles were a threat to the fossil fuel oligarchs) in the 1930s to the 1950s refusal to fund PV research and development until they needed electrical energy in space (and then only in limited fashion DESPITE recommendations AT THAT TIME by a Congressional committee to develop solar energy) to NASA's 1970s foiled attempts to power electrical utility unserved Native American settlements with solar power because the utilities didn't like the idea (worried it would force them to lower their rates) of solar power (despite claiming it wasn't "cost effective" to send power cables that way), it has been corruption and skullduggery in government circles to the detriment of the American public.

Then came Ronal Reagan with his single handed destruction of Wind and solar power subsidies along with a war over 25 years ago that cost the U.S. public over $400 a barrel of oil in subsides.

For those who think that s hyperbole, read the following:

The following quote from a peer reviewed book is of extreme importance to all Americans:

Dilworth (2010-03-12). Too Smart for our Own Good (pp. 399-400). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

"As suggested earlier, war, for example, which represents a cost for society, is a source of profit to capitalists. In this way we can partly understand e.g. the American military expenditures in the Persian Gulf area. Already before the first Gulf War, i.e. in 1985, the United States spent $47 billion projecting power into the region. If seen as being spent to obtain Gulf oil, It AMOUNTED TO $468 PER BARREL, or 18 TIMES the $27 or so that at that time was paid for the oil itself.

In fact, if Americans had spent as much to make buildings heat-tight as they spent in ONE YEAR at the end of the 1980s on the military forces meant to protect the Middle Eastern oil fields, THEY COULD HAVE ELIMINATED THE NEED TO IMPORT OIL from the Middle East.

So why have they not done so? Because, while the $468 per barrel may be seen as being a cost the American taxpayers had to bear, and a negative social effect those living in the Gulf area had to bear, it meant only profits for American capitalists. "

Note: I added the bold caps emphasis on the barrel of oil price, money spent in one year and the need to import oil from the Middle East.

This totally unjustified profit, never mind the needless lose of lives, then increases the power of the fossil fuel corporations to perpetuate a biosphere harming dirty fuel status quo. How? By "funding" politicians with rather large "donations" to keep renewable energy from competing with dirty energy.

There's more. It continues to this day.

Fossil fuels and nuclear power, when all the costs are computed, were never cost effective. They were never natural monopolies either. What they were, and continue to be, is a source of centralized political power and profit.

John, they are not going to give up that undemocratic power that they have stolen from the American public with their "subsidies" and 24/7 attempt to block distributed renewable energy at every turn.

In other words, despite the clear logic of everything you said, those people that profit from the dirty energy industries are not interested in cost effectiveness. They are interested in political power. They used (and still use) that power to turn a level energy playing field into an alpine slope. They sit at the top rolling bribed political boulders at Renewable energy.

That corruption is what has held Distributed, Democratic Renewable Energy back for over half a century (at least!) in this country.

But now, despite all the corruption of the dirty energy industries, Renewable Energy is so inexpensive for the average user that centralized power is going the way of the Dodo bird. Let us hope that centralized dirty energy political power goes the same way.

« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 12:19:52 am by AGelbert »
Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Ps. 97:11


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