By Bruce Stevens
August 7, 2017 - Coal continues to provide over 70 percent of Indiana’s power and we should all be thankful additional coal power is available when summer has us in its grip.
Opponents to coal often state that renewables are the future and reference that nationally the solar energy sector provided over 260,000 jobs, wind over 88,000 jobs, and coal 65,000 jobs in 2016. The fact is that for the same year wind provided less than 6 percent and solar provided only about 1 percent of the nation’s electricity while coal yielded over 30 percent. One must question who then is paying for the renewable energy workforce? The answer is the American taxpayer. The goal of America’s energy sector should not be to create as many jobs as possible but rather to produce the most electricity at the lowest cost. A recent letter refers to “sweetheart deals” benefiting coal plants. The sweetheart deal is instead that which renewable energy has had and still enjoys.
The letter alludes to market forces due to the abundance of cheap natural gas leading utilities to have no choice but to switch fuels. That statement is a misnomer. The main reason for the competitiveness between coal and natural gas is because the former federal administration issued regulation after regulation placing increased costs on coal mines and coal power plants. This is what made coal generated electricity prices increase and allowed natural gas to compete. It was a well-devised plan by coal opponents- but that plan is changing.
Coal mines and coal utility plants not only yield great employment opportunities but also provide huge tax contributions to the state and to nearby communities for schools and other public services. Indiana enjoys a 500 year supply of coal using today’s mining techniques. Unfortunately, Indiana produces little in the way of natural gas. A choice not to use a homegrown fuel that contributes substantially to Indiana’s economy and instead send Hoosier dollars out of state for natural gas is nonsensical.
Coal miners don’t want handouts. Coal miners don’t want to leave their communities. Coal miners don’t want to trade their high energy producing, high wage jobs for a lesser opportunity. Coal miners instead want the government to give their industry a chance to compete.
There is only one energy choice for Indiana that is reliable and abundant and that is coal. Natural gas must have an uninterrupted supply at all times and renewables simply do not have the ability to consistently perform. Coal has what other energy sources do not and that is on-site storage. Coal plants typically have a 60- to 90-day supply of coal present at all times and that is of great importance to ensure an uninterrupted power supply.
Changes are indeed underway. The current federal administration has already removed unnecessary and costly regulations and is re-evaluating others. The result allows coal to contend. This sensible approach should pave the way for utilities to reconsider their announced future pathways.
Indiana’s energy policy should not promote out-of-state fuels or a jobs program. It should instead be focused on fuels derived from within our borders and supporting our economy. Rest assured that Indiana coal miners stand at the ready to provide abundant and low-cost fuel to power the largest manufacturing sector in the nation and to furnish energy for all of our great state well into the future. Coal power is the right choice for Indiana.
Bruce Stevens is the president of the Indiana Coal Council.