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Kemper Travesty is No Way to Save Coal Mining Jobs

January 3, 2017

Recently, members of Congress from both parties have put forth proposals to continue or increase subsidies for power plants that capture CO2.

The most notorious of these plants is the disastrous Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi.

These proposals are being made under the banner of saving coal mining jobs, which is a ruse.

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, met this month with president-elect Trump to discuss “a realistic path forward for coal,” saying Kemper was a “first-of-a-kind project that are often problematic.”

But, Kemper is not a first-of-a-kind project. Two other IGCC power plants have been built, both with terrible economic results.

Photo of Kemper Power Plant, courtesy of Mississippi Power Company

Photo of Kemper Power Plant, courtesy of Mississippi Power Company

The first IGCC power plant was in Tampa, Florida, where two such plants were to be built, but the second was cancelled after costly problems with building the first plant.

Another IGCC power plant was built in Edwardsport, Indiana by Duke Energy in 2013, with terrible economic consequences. Originally it was to be built for $1.9 billion, but actually cost over $3.5 billion.

IGCC power plants cost around $6,000 per KW to build, which is about the same as a nuclear power plant.

Quoting from the Wall Street Journal, “One of the bills, filed by Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, seeks to raise subsidies and continue them indefinitely rather than have them expire once 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide have been captured, a milestone under the current law that is expected to be reached by 2019.”

Continuing or increasing subsidies for IGCC power plants is a travesty against tax paying Americans.

An additional travesty is that no more ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants can be built in the United States because of the new EPA regulations, while a truly clean ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant was built by Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) in Texarkana, Ark. in 2012, shortly before the EPA issued its regulations on CO2 emissions from power plants.

SWEPCO’s, John W. Turk Jr. power plant, rated 600-MW, is a modern, ultra-supercritical plant, built for less than half what an IGCC power plant will cost.
Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants meet all EPA requirements except for the amount of CO2 they emit. They are 40% more efficient than traditional coal-fired power plants.

The John W. Turk plant was completed shortly before EPA issued its rules limiting CO2 emissions from power plants, where coal-fired power plants are limited to 1,400 lbs CO2/MWh.

Ultra-supercritical plant CO2 emissions are around 1,700 lbs CO2/MWh.

Modifying the EPA rule, even as a temporary method before eliminating the rules entirely, to accommodate ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants would be a far better method for saving coal mining jobs than wasting billions of tax payer dollars on subsidies for monstrous IGCC power pants.

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Nothing to Fear, Chapter 12, explains why carbon capture and sequestration will not work.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. donb permalink
    January 3, 2017 12:30 pm

    Murphy’s Law predicts that in future coal mining and coal use in the US will greatly decrease, along with the infrastructure for extracting coal. THEN, natural gas, whose extraction and use will increase, will experience some calamity that limits or decreases its availability. THEN the US will look back to coal and have to re-invent the infrastructure.

    • January 3, 2017 1:56 pm

      Could be, especially right now with NG being so cheap. Coal will have a tough ride, but ultra-supercritcal plants are the way to go, and will eventually prevail.

  2. catcracking permalink
    January 3, 2017 4:20 pm

    Let’s hope we push ultra-supercritical plants. I have always have some discomfort burning natural gas to produce electricity when we have coal. Natural gas has so many uses beyond coal including chemicals manufacturing and home heating.

  3. January 8, 2017 8:30 pm

    “Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, met this month with president-elect Trump to discuss “a realistic path forward for coal,” saying Kemper was a “first-of-a-kind project that are often problematic.””

    Is Sen. Heitkamp unaware of the cost-effectiveness of the ultra-supercritical coal plant, or is she blinded by the nonsense about CO2?

    • January 9, 2017 9:16 am

      Can’t be sure, but I think it is the latter.
      Thanks for your comment.


  1. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #254 | Watts Up With That?

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