The Dubious Case for Appalachian Coal Subsidies

first_imgThe Dubious Case for Appalachian Coal Subsidies FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Financial Times:As technologies for renewable energy and grid management advance, the special position that coal has held since Thomas Edison’s first power plants in the 1880s has become much harder to defend.The call to subsidize coal is a sign of how the economics of power generation have been transformed. Just five years ago, it was renewable sources that needed subsidies to compete, but their costs have been plummeting. Now the US is phasing out its federal tax breaks for renewable energy, and it is coal producers that are pleading for help.The plight of Appalachian coal owes a lot to a factor specific to the US: the flood of cheap gas unleashed by the shale revolution. Elsewhere, though, there are signs that demand for coal is crumbling.World coal production fell by 6 per cent last year, according to the International Energy Agency, as demand from power plants dropped in the US, Britain and other countries. Even China, long seen as the consumer of last resort, cut its coal use by 1.8 per cent. In Germany, which plunged early into renewable energy when costs were much higher, and sent its electricity prices soaring as a result, coal made a comeback during 2009-13, but here too it is in decline.With the cost argument slipping away, defenders of coal have been shifting to the issue of reliability. (West Virginia Gov. Jim) Justice talks about his hoped-for subsidy as a “national security” incentive, guaranteeing coal to keep grids working.The argument is that as “baseload” coal-fired plants, available to run 24/7, have had to close because of unfavorable economics, grids have become more reliant on variable wind and solar power, raising the risk of blackouts.So far, though, there is little evidence that the rise of renewables has had any impact on reliability. In the US, the share of generation coming from wind and large-scale solar plants has risen from 0.7 per cent in 2005-07 to about 6 per cent in 2014-16, but the number of people affected by an “electric emergency [or] disturbance” has dropped from about 13m a year to about 11m.Other countries with higher use of renewable energy report similar results. Over 2006-16, the proportion of wind and solar power in Britain’s electricity supply grew from 1.3 per cent to 14.2 per cent, but the total number of minutes when customers lost power — excluding “exceptional” events — dropped by 41 per cent.The IEA has argued that countries can source up to 45 per cent of their electricity from wind and solar “without significantly increasing power system costs in the long run”.To go beyond that “calls for a system-wide transformation,” but the technologies to make that possible already exist. In a recent article in the Electricity Journal, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute lists options for balancing the grid that could cost less than coal-fired plants. These include greater efficiency and “demand response” — cutting use to avoid strain on the grid.The barriers to adopting those resources are mostly commercial and political. There is a strong incentive to overcome those obstacles. “Keeping the lights on” has been a rousing rallying cry in the defense of King Coal, but it increasingly looks like a rearguard action.More: ($) The lights are dimming on King Coal’s hold over energy marketslast_img read more

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Chile: Billionaire Beat Leftists, Now Faces Runoff

first_imgBy Dialogo December 14, 2009 Right-wing billionaire Sebastian Pinera beat three leftists in Sunday’s presidential election but failed to obtain a majority, setting up a runoff against a veteran of the coalition that has ruled Chile for two decades of democracy. The Harvard-educated Pinera had 44 percent to 30 percent for the ruling center-left coalition’s candidate, former President Eduardo Frei. Breakaway Socialist Rep. Marco Enriquez-Ominami had 20 percent, and communist Jorge Arrate had 6 percent, with 98 percent of the votes counted. The key question in the Jan. 17 runoff between Pinera and Frei is whether leftists can unify to fend off the most moderate candidate Chile’s right has ever had. A win by Pinera, 60, would install a right-wing government in Chile for the first time since Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship — but only if Pinera persuades enough leftists to take a chance on him. “We have to understand that this win doesn’t belong to us,” Pinera said in a victory speech to his party members. “It belongs to all Chileans, to the humble people, to the poor and the middle class, the people who most need change from their government.” Frei appealed for leftists to come together, saying he would take on his rivals’ ideas as if they were his own, that women and young people would have a prominent place in his government, and that he would push for reforms to end the big alliances’ domination of the political process. “The people have told us that there are things they don’t like, that things must change, and I share this mission,” said Frei, 67. But even though he may be encouraging a right-wing victory, Enriquez-Ominami refused to endorse Frei in his concession speech, instead inviting his followers to vote their consciences. “Eduardo Frei and Sebastian Pinera are too much alike,” he complained. “They don’t represent hope, nor change, nor the future.” Stability and experience are selling points for Frei, who governed from 1994 to 2000. “We don’t want leaps into the unknown, nor do we want to return to the past. We want a government that worries about the people,” he said after voting. “We don’t believe that the power of the market and money should have priority over a society.” But many voters are fed up with having the same government throughout 19 years of democracy following Pinochet. Promising change, Pinera and Enriquez-Ominami challenged the ruling coalition like never before. Outgoing President Michelle Bachelet has 78 percent approval ratings and Chile seems on track to become a first-world nation. Chile’s economy, negligible inflation and stable democracy are the envy of Latin America. Booming copper revenues and prudent fiscal policies have helped the government reduce poverty from 45 percent in 1990 to 13 percent today, raising per capita annual income to $14,000 in the nation of 17 million. But a huge wealth gap between rich and poor and a chronically underfunded education system have many voters feeling more must be done to redistribute Chile’s copper wealth. A study by the World Bank several years ago showed that the poorest 10 percent of Chileans benefit from only 1.3 percent of government revenues, while the richest 10 percent benefit from 40 percent. Pinera ranked No. 701 with $1 billion on the Forbes magazine world’s richest list. He built his fortune bringing credit cards to Chile, and his investments include Chile’s main airline, most popular football team and a leading TV channel. Whether Pinera can apply the same entrepreneurial spirit to the presidency will depend on voters who backed Rep. Enriquez-Ominami, a renegade Socialist and documentary filmmaker whose Communist rebel father was killed by Pinochet’s military in 1973, the year he was born. Some analysts predict that as much as a third of Enriquez-Ominami’s supporters will defect to Pinera, even though his alliance of right-wing parties once helped sustain the dictatorship. “The second round is going to be similar to the last two presidential elections — very tight, with the only difference being that for the first time, the opposition candidate has the advantage,” said Ricardo Israel, a political scientist at the University of Chile. Chileans also elected 120 representatives and half of the 38 senators on Sunday. In exchange for Arrate’s support, Frei promised to help Communists into Congress for the first time since Pinochet’s 1973 coup. Socialist Rep. Isabel Allende, daughter of ousted President Salvador Allende, was voted into the Senate. But Pinochet’s grandson, Rodrigo Garcia Pinochet, lost his congressional race to represent an upscale Santiago suburb.last_img read more

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Netanyahu pledges ‘immediate’ annexation steps if re-elected

first_imgA day ahead of Israel’s third election in a year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Sunday that if re-elected he would annex swathes of the occupied West Bank within weeks.In an interview with Israeli public radio, Netanyahu said annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank was his top priority among “four major immediate missions”.”That will happen within weeks, two months at the most, I hope,” he said in the interview aired 24 hours before polls were scheduled to open.  “The joint US-Israeli mapping committee started work a week ago,” he added.US President Donald Trump’s widely-criticised Middle East peace plan, unveiled in late January, gave the Jewish state a green light to annex the area and proposed a committee to set out the exact borders of the territory to be annexed.Netanyahu listed his other priorities as signing an “historic” defence treaty with the United States, Israel’s key ally, and “eradicating the Iranian threat”, without elaborating on his plan for Tehran.He has repeatedly pledged to stop the Islamic republic from developing a nuclear weapon and has not ruled out the use of force. He has also acted to roll back Iranian and allied forces active in neighbouring Syria.Israel routinely fires missiles at what it says are Iranian targets in Syria, where elite Iranian forces and allied militia play a key role in the country’s conflict.Netanyahu on Sunday said that his fourth “immediate” goal if he wins another term — despite facing trial on multiple corruption charges — would be major economic reform to bring down Israel’s high cost of living.After inconclusive elections in April and September, latest opinion polls put the right-wing Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz neck and neck in Monday’s vote.Topics :last_img read more

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LaCrosse is victorious at 141 Speedway

first_imgBy Greg AregoniFRANCIS CREEK, Wis. – With 146 cars jam packing the pits Saturday night at 141 Speedway, racing was the real deal with hard-fought races just to make the feature events. The IMCA Xtreme Motor Sports Modifieds have had a stacked field all year long and Benji LaCrosse finally notched his belt with a win. Many drivers with multiple feature wins sat on their trailers to watch the Modified main. Mike Wedelstadt opened as the leader with R.M. VanPay running second. A couple early cautions kept the field on the back bumper of the leader.LaCrosse started 12th and charged his way through the field. A final caution allowed Johnny Whitman to join the fun up front with eight laps to go. VanPay used a great restart to get around both LaCrosse and Wedelstadt for the lead. LaCrosse shot into second with Whitman right behind. LaCrosse was the first to catch VanPay and made his move outside with six laps remaining. LaCrosse evened up with VanPay and used the momentum from the top of the track to drive to victory. LaCrosse picked up his first win of the season with Whitman securing second over VanPay late in the race. Mike Mullen came back from an opening lap incident and beat Wedelstadt to the checkered flag for fourth.Other winners included John Heinz in the IMCA Sunoco Stock Cars, J.J. Anderson in the Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMods, Charlie Sancinati in the Grand Nationals, Jerry Winkler in the Street Stocks and Matt Brehmer in the 4 Cylinders.Heinz grabbed the lead with eight laps left and held off Rod Snellenberger for the Stock Car checkers. Anderson’s in came on a green, white, checkered finish.last_img read more

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