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Trump's New “Clean Power Plan” Comes With Deadly Consequences
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Trump's New “Clean Power Plan” Comes With Deadly Consequences

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WEST VIRGINIA — August 23, 2018

“We love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal,” Trump announced to supporters at the Charleston Civic Center while mocking renewable energy and natural gas, which have displaced coal in electric utilities across the US. “We love [coal]," he said. "You know, it’s indestructible stuff. In times of war, in times of conflict, you can blow up those windmills. They fall down real quick. You can blow up those pipelines real quick. You can do a lot of things to those solar panels, but you know what you can’t hurt coal. You can do whatever you want to coal.”

West Virginia is second only to Wyoming in coal production. Yesterday, President Donald Trump opened a new Clean Power Plan. According to Trump, the changes will lead to better regulation of carbon dioxide emissions in power plants, and will allow older coal plants to continue to work.

Trump's edict called "Energy Independence" has already been met with hostility by 23 States and environmental groups which promised to challenge it in the courts. The main purpose of Trump's edict was the action plan for the development of "clean" energy (Clean Power Plan), adopted by former US President Barack Obama. This plan requires all States to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, according to the US commitment with 200 countries, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

However, according to experts, the most important part of the edict is that now US Federal agencies can ignore the fact of climate change in the assessment of certain infrastructure projects.

Speaking of climate change, Trump has repeatedly said that he doesn’t believe in global warming and called this phenomenon "fiction", according to his tweets.

Environmental groups naturally opposed Trump’s plan, saying that his decision is dangerous and it goes against the global trends of transition to clean energy technologies. They were joined by the authorities of States such as California, which is a US leader in the implementation of 'green' technologies, Massachusetts, Virginia, and the cities of Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boulder (Colorado).

"Trying to keep fossil fuels competitive in the face of the rapid growth of the green renewable energy sector, given the clean air and jobs that it provides, is contrary to the direction of the economy," said the former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on climate change Christian Figueres.

The Obama Program assumed an overall reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 32% by 2030 compared to 2005, with the vast majority of States already beginning work to meet these requirements.

"These actions contradict American values, threaten the health, safety, and prosperity of Americans. Trump is deliberately destroying programs that create jobs, protect our air and water -- this all in order for those who pollute them to profit at our expense," said President of NexGen Climate Tom Steyer.

Solar and wind power depend directly on the weather, which means that the power generation can sharply fall during a thunderstorm or long periods of calm, which could lead to massive power outages and stop production at factories. From this perspective, the use of fossil fuel power plants, including nuclear power plants, is more reliable, experts say.

Today such support means investments in market segments that are rapidly losing annual income. Coal and nuclear power plants are closing generating facilities, and wind and solar power lead in terms of power growth. According to researchers, in the future, it will increase the vulnerability of the national grid to abnormal weather events. The Trump administration will likely appeal to these points in Congress, but it is unlikely congressmen or businesses will accept it. The report contains graphs that, on the contrary, show the positive role of renewable energy.

In the US hundreds of power plants and five reactors have closed in the past seven years. But at the same time, the consumption of natural gas has increased dramatically, which ensures the stability of the power system even during such extreme events as a Solar Eclipse.

The arguments about a rise in energy prices also don't seem credible, because of the cost of energy for households has increased slightly in recent years.

At the same time, the number of coal-fired power plants and their capacity is rapidly falling. It is not only about the cost but also companies unwillingness to use non-environmental fuel with volatile prices.

In addition, Trump’s plan doesn’t take into account the main factor. State officials say that the plan would increase carbon emissions and air pollution.

On page 176 of the 289-page document, US Environmental Protection Agency officials assembled a colored map of the United States showing the number of deaths per 100,000 people due to respiratory ailments from tiny particles of soot (also known as particulate matter, or pm-2.5). Under the four scenarios of increased coal-fired electricity production under the new plan, West Virginia is shaded in the darkest red. That indicates it is the epicenter for the highest number of additional deaths from particulate and ozone pollution in the United States. Southwest Pennsylvania and parts of the upper Ohio Valley — regions of both coal mining and coal-fired electricity — are in the next-reddest group for additional deaths.

According to an analysis by the Department of the environment, the increase in coal combustion under the trump plan will result in a surge of particulate matter emitted into the air, and as a consequence, it could lead to an additional increase in mortality from 470 to 1400 people per year by 2030 due to respiratory diseases.

Critics say the Trump plan will do nothing to help slow the effects of climate warming and will allow some utilities to spew out more harmful air pollution. “This is absolutely a rollback that will result in more pollution,” said Benjamin Longstreth, deputy director for federal policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that opposes the new EPA plan.

These are toxic emissions from coal combustion. Greenhouse gas, burning coal produces sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, mercury, and dozens of toxic chemicals that are associated with consequences for human health.

In particular, oxides and macro particles combined with sunlight, which form smog; cause various respiratory diseases in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Mercury, which comes out of coal-fired power plants into the atmosphere, returns to earth in the form of precipitation, which then washes into streams and ponds.

According to the EPA website, mercury then accumulates in fish and moves up the food chain, where it represents a neurological health risk to pregnant women and children who eat fish.

According to the EPA, coal-burning power plants account for 42 percent of all sources of mercury in the US. But when it comes to US energy, coal has been a big loser for the past decade. The one-two punch of cheaper natural gas and power from solar farms and wind turbines has cut the amount of coal-fired electricity powering US homes from 50 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2013.

That big drop was the result of cheaper natural gas and renewable, not more environmental regulations, according to a May 2018 study in the American Economic Journal by Harrison Fell, associate professor of agriculture and resource economist at North Carolina State University, and his colleague Daniel Kaffine, a University of Colorado Boulder associate professor in economics.

Fell says that the same market forces are continuing to push coal out of the US energy stream. He believes the new EPA power plant proposal might prolong the agony for some coal miners and coal producing areas, but it won’t change the equation for utilities that have cheaper alternatives. “I doubt you will see a massive reinvestment in coal-fired generation,” Fell said. “It’s not going to lead to a whole bunch of new coal plants, but it will stave off retirement of some of them.”

One bit of good news for those West Virginia miners: Even though the state's coal production is expected to continue dropping through 2030, according to a new study by West Virginia University, exports to coal-hungry India, Ukraine, and Brazil might keep some of them working.

Author: USA Really