Thursday, April 14, 2016

ECO:nomics | The Wall Street Journal

ECO:nomics | The Wall Street Journal:

The WSJ's big forum on ECOnomics seems to have been a great learning and sharing session for divergent ideas on how to blend economic growth/development with environmental needs.

A special report in the WSJ on Wed, April 13, 2016 offers several takes and interviews covering the spectrum of associated topics.

A couple base statistics are that coal generated electricity has dropped from half of all US generation to less than 1/3 within about 10 years. The big gain is Nat Gas, but that too is changing. In 2015 solar was the #1 install base with 9.5 gw (37% of new), NatGas 8 gw (31%), wind 6.8 gw (26%). Only 4% new nuclear and fractions of other.

Related to the switch from coal to NatGas, this is only a stop-gap measure: moving from one really bad non-renewable, coal; to a relatively better non-renewable, NatGas. Michael Brune from the Sierra Club comments on the methane and other issues that brings NatGas closer to parody with coal (really ugly vs. relatively ugly).

Coal is really taking a hit, as Peabody goes bankrupt this week, bringing down all of the big coal companies. No victory laps here; the pain and suffering in the mining communities is going to be horrendous. (Also, bankruptcy doesn't mean the mines will all stop, just that the debt associated with the companies will replace the equity positions.)

Even against crashing oil/coal prices, solar & wind are winning major solid footing. Even with the likelihood of subsidies going away, are now starting to be very price competitive (especially if you consider externality costs). BUT when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine (night) we still need regular power generation. Or battery-type storage.

You have to marvel at the gain of renewables during the second year of record low fossil fuel costs. That is really, really impressive.

Check out all the articles on the ECOnomics conference and interviews at the special business & energy section of the WSJ:

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