Energy Security is
By: Barbara Altizer
“Americans demand energy. They don’t just need it, they don’t just want it, they demand it. They insist on having it. And when we have rolling brown-outs in California or a massive electrical blackout in the Northeast, you hear them loudly and clearly,” said Steve Griles, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior. Griles was a keynote speaker at the Eastern Coal Council’s 25th annual Conference recently in Kingsport, TN.
“Americans demand energy, to fuel our economy by creating jobs, commerce and tax revenue; to provide security for our homes and families and for our nation; and to provide for our people the highest standard of living in the world. The average American household uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. In 2001 Americans consumed about 97 quadrillion (97,000,000,000,000,000)
BTU's of energy. That’s 97 with fourteen zeroes after it,” said Griles.
Griles said, “when you’re talking about America’s demand for energy, that’s the kind of number you have to get comfortable with, because the Energy Information Agency predicts even bigger numbers are coming. American energy consumption is expected to increase to 128 quadrillion Btu by 2020, that is a 30% increase. And by 2025, total energy consumption is projected to reach 136 quadrillion Btu, an increase of another 6%.”
“America is facing a prospect that should make us uneasy, the gap between domestic consumption and domestic energy production is large and growing. Consumption of natural gas is expected to increase by more than 50 percent. Oil consumption will increase by 30 percent or more. Demand for electricity is going to grow by at least 45 percent. That means the U. S. will have to increase its exports from other countries. It means we may be importing 68 percent of our oil by 2025 and 15 percent of our natural gas. It’s clear that we can’t produce enough oil and gas to meet our needs now and that situation is not going to get any better,” said Griles.
“As America’s demand for energy grows, we’re going to find that coal is going to be the only energy source that can even come close to keeping up with demand. Other energy sources are just not going to be able to meet the increased need without resorting to higher imports, which is what we want to avoid, if possible,” Griles said.
“Coal already provides 52 percent of the electricity for this country and fills about 22 percent of the country’s total energy demand, Griles said. Nine of every 10 tons of coal mined in the U.S. is used to generate electricity. Coal is going to play a critical role in meeting that demand for energy.” The Department of Energy is projecting that 74 gigawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity will be constructed between 2001 and 2025.
Griles turned the subject to energy security and national security stating the need for this country to embrace a comprehensive national energy strategy. “If we want to protect our people, our way of life and our leadership of a global economy, we must do everything we can to make use of our own most abundant and secure energy source, coal”.
“I find it inconceivable that in a world with the kind of threats and insecurities that we are facing today, we have not yet managed to complete the vital job of ensuring that our energy needs are going to be met, at least for the next decade if not for the next generation,” said Griles.
Griles then turned the subject to the Department of Interior’s efforts to bring some stability and common sense to the regulatory system. The nation has the strongest environmental laws in the world. “What we want are strong environmental laws that make sense, that have requirements that can be met and that have a stability and durability that will enable our coal and utility industries to make rational plans for the future, Griles said”.
J eff Jarrett, OSM Director conducted a thorough review of the agency’s regulations. Of the 14 new rules being considered, he found that five of these rule makings could be eliminated resulting in other ways to address the problems they were intended to solve. “The way OSM makes rules has been changed, relying heavily now on nationwide rulemaking teams composed of subject matter experts from the field. The regulations that are currently under development will promote practices that minimize or mitigate environmental damage while maintaining coal production,” Griles said.
Griles addressed the reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fee. The AML fee is scheduled to expire in September if Congress does not renew it. The coal industry has already paid more than $6 billion to clean up mine sites abandoned before Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977.
The Administration has put forward a bill to reauthorize the fee, but there are competing bills in both the Senate and House. Here are the keys points of the Administration’s plan:
• Reduces the fee the coal industry is paying now because we recognize we’re collecting money much faster than the states can spend it.
• Envisions an “end game,” a point in the future at which we call the job finished and can start to think about relieving you of this fee.
• Proposes to put the money that the coal industry is paying where the biggest problems are. And that means in the East, where most of the historic mining has been and where most of the legacy of past mining practices remains.
“Because the President’s plan would let us put the money where the problems are, we would be able to reduce AML fees by $3 billion while still funding reclamation of all remaining Priority 1 and 2 sites in the country within 25 years.
Griles warned there were several bills being debated on the Hill and that the coal industry should watch them carefully and give thought to the long-term implications of all these bills. “Under the current formula, every year we’re able to spend less on coal reclamation. And every year, both Congress and the states are coming to think of the AML program as a way to fund other needs, like non-coal reclamation. While those are worthy programs, you need to think about whether you want this fee that only your industry pays to become a permanent part of your operating costs while less and less of it goes to the purpose for which it’s being collected,” he said.
Griles also talked about the need to continue funding for the Combined Benefit Fund saying the President’s bill includes provisions designed to ensure adequate funding for health care benefits for unassigned beneficiaries under the United Mine Workers of America Combined Benefit Plan.”
“Mining does impact the environment. But these days if you’re running a coal mining company, you’re also running an environmental reclamation company. Since SMCRA was passed 26 years ago the coal industry has mined 22 billion tons of coal, providing half of our nation’s electricity, while at the same time reclaiming more than 2 million acres of mined land, an area larger than the State of Delaware.”
“Coal has a great story to be told,” said Griles. cl
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