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Ripe for Retirement: Examining the Competitiveness of U.S. Coal Plants

This is Part One of a 3-Part Blog Series.

Today, the Union of Concerned Scientists released an update of our 2012 ground-breaking analysis, Ripe for Retirement, examining the economic viability of U.S. coal generators compared with modern, cleaner alternatives. Our new findings, published in Electricity Journal, show that nearly 59 gigawatts (GW) of coal power capacity are not cost competitive when compared with natural gas, and more than 71 GW are uneconomic when compared with wind power. These coal generators are prime candidates for retirement and their closure would provide substantial benefits for consumers and the environment. It would also accelerate the transition to a cleaner, more reliable and affordable energy system. Read More

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Coal Mining and Public Health: How the Coal Industry, Lawyers, and Doctors Have Betrayed Miners and Their Families

Recent news reports about coal mining have pulled me back to thinking about workers—having spent the bulk of my pre-UCS career in occupational health (teaching in medical schools and working for our country’s workplace health and safety research agency, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health/NIOSH). With the critical focus on climate change and the need to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases and other dangerous pollutants from coal-burning power plants, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the health impacts coal has on the brave souls who mine it and on their families who share in their suffering. Read More

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How Should California Design its Renewable Energy Future?

California’s landmark renewable energy policy, the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), establishes a clear blueprint for clean energy investment in the short-run: by 2020, all utilities are required to source 33 percent of their retail electricity sales from renewables. The big question now is what happens after that? What role should renewables play in California’s long-term goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050? Read More

Categories: Energy, Fossil Fuels  

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Who Is Responsible for Climate Change? New Study Identifies the Top 90 Producers of Industrial Carbon Emissions

Today’s publication in the journal Climatic Change by Richard Heede on Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010 provides a robust scientific basis for motivating fresh thinking and dialogue about responsibility for taking action to address climate change. Read More

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New CREW Report on Fracking Industry Contributions to Congressional Candidates

There’s nothing new about special interests using money to influence politicians. And it’s no secret that this spending has been on the rise across the board recently, notably following in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. Read More

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TVA Pulls the Plug on More Coal Plants; Others Will Surely Follow

Last week, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) board of directors voted in favor of retiring 3,300 megawatts (MW) of coal power capacity. This action is good news for consumers and the environment in the region. It also continues the drumbeat of retirement announcements nationwide and provides further evidence of the eroding economic viability of the aging U.S. coal fleet. A recent UCS analysis, Ripe for Retirement, documents why many more U.S. coal generators should also be considered for closure. Read More

Categories: Energy, Fossil Fuels  

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Seven Takeaways for the Warsaw Climate Talks from the New IEA Report

There’s a distinct lack of optimism here at the Warsaw climate meeting. A recent report from UNEP shows that we are falling far short of the emissions reductions necessary to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC working group 1 report points out the grave implications of our rising carbon emissions. But, like the previous reports, IEA’s World Energy Outlook released today shows that, despite the grim emissions trends, we do still have choices: yes, we can cut our emissions sharply and, yes, that means making serious policy decisions now. Read More

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Climate Science, Nuclear Power, and a Renewable Energy Future

Contrary to the public assertions made this week by some of our climate scientist friends, nuclear power is likely to have a limited near-term role in avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Renewable energy technologies are cheaper, less risky, and ready for deployment today. A look at where things stand with both nuclear and renewables bears all that out. Read More

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Colorado Towns Pass Fracking Moratoria, Bans Despite Big Spending by the Oil and Gas Industry

Does money in politics matter? Many (including UCS) would say yes. It can sway elections, influence what should be fact-based decision making, and determine who can run for office in the first place. But yesterday when it came to questions of whether or not three Colorado communities wanted to allow hydraulic fracturing within their borders, money did not win the day. Read More

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Congress Wants to Keep the Feds Out of Fracking: Bad Idea

In July, before our Science and Democracy forum on fracking, I wrote about the important role the federal government has to play, working with state and local government, to address the risks of hydraulic fracturing and the associated development of unconventional oil and gas resources. Apparently, members of the U.S. House of Representatives didn’t read my blog. Read More

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