Writing about a fossil fuel might seem appropriate for me for several reasons, not least of which is I’m a bit of a fossil, myself. Case in point: I am not really sure what a “blog” is – even after looking it up and reading a few actual blogs.
Lack of blogging experience aside, writing about coal poses a conundrum for me since I don’t have any specific bias in favor of coal. That’s not to say I don’t have biases when it comes to power generation. I am biased toward low-cost, reliable, sustainable energy; toward the flexibility a solid fuel provides, and particularly toward the dedicated, hardworking folks at our power plants.
I am biased toward low-cost, reliable, sustainable energy; toward the flexibility a solid fuel provides, and particularly toward the dedicated, hardworking folks at our power plants.
I am biased toward science (the on-going, self-testing process of inquiry) and the Scientific Method (the scientists’ relentless pursuit to disprove their own hypotheses) – something about which many of today’s “scientists” have either forgotten, or just didn’t learn. Pity, since some of the biggest flops in human history have come from politicians dressing up their agendas as science and pushing them on the masses. Who can forget our grade school history classes, reading about the trauma “the world is flat” belief caused.
The problem is even more insidious today, with information, accurate or otherwise, traveling around the globe (turns out the world is not flat) at nearly the speed of light. Enter bloggers and opinion writers, whether homegrown or imported, purporting to provide a local view for Nebraska, and charged with a focused, single-minded agenda: shut down NPPD coal-fired power plants.
They have been fed enough information by their handlers to sound authoritative. They don’t know what they don’t know about resource planning, power generation, and the energy markets – and they don’t care. Finally, they view the livelihoods of our power plant workers as subordinate to the few, new green power jobs their agenda would foster.
Every type of electricity generation has consequences.
Coal generation is neither demon nor saint. On behalf of NPPD, it has powered Nebraska’s agriculture and rural economy with low-cost, reliable electricity for over half a century. But coal plants emit pollutants.
Since the groups that advocate shutting down coal generation are focused on Sheldon Station for the moment, so will I. We’ve quietly cut Nitrogen Oxide emissions from Sheldon Unit 1 by more than 50 percent in the last several years, with no regulatory driver. Nearly two decades before the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) went into effect in April this year, Sheldon Station’s acid gas, mercury and hazardous air pollution emissions were very close to meeting that rule’s limits, by virtue of our decision to retrofit the Sheldon units with baghouses in the late 1990s.
Sharing my lack of bias for coal, NPPD has looked, and continues to look, for innovative and practical alternatives to coal generation. These efforts have uncovered an opportunity to add a new fuel, hydrogen, to our generating resource mix at Sheldon Unit 2, which brings with it the prospect for further, significant reduction in Sheldon’s emissions.
You’ll hear other stories from those wishing to attack coal-fired power production. Stories that portray Sheldon’s ancient history as contemporary issues, latch on to inaccurate statistics ignoring corrections, and imply national averages apply to our power plants. Stories that beat the drum to push shutting down coal in favor of adding intermittent resources we can’t dispatch that produce energy we don’t need.
Personally, I like our story better. But you can decide for yourselves.