The benefits of fossil fuel energy to society far outweigh the social costs of carbon (SCC) by a magnitude of 50 to 500 times, according to a study released by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).
“It is without question or debate that our national and global societies have benefited from fossil fuels. And those benefits will continue to be realized from coast to coast and around the globe for generations to come,” ACCCE President and CEO Mike Duncan said. “If this administration attempts to calculate the future costs of carbon, it’s imperative that policymakers also consider the actual and potential benefits of our carbon-based economy. Fossil-based energy has powered three industrial revolutions, including today’s technology revolution.”
According to the study, over the past 250 years, global life expectancy has more than doubled and incomes have increased 11-fold. This has been due in large part to increased energy production and delivery, most of which has been fossil-based. And although a Federal Interagency Working Group (IWG) estimated the social cost of carbon (SCC) to be $36 per ton, the actual societal benefits of carbon — as a by-product of energy production — is 50 to 500 times greater than the perceived cost, according to ACCCE.
“Even the most conservative estimates peg the social benefit of carbon-based fuels as 50 times greater than its supposed social cost,” Dr. Roger Bezdek, lead author of the report, said. “And the benefits are actual fact, founded on more than two centuries of empirical data, not theoretical summaries based on questionable assumptions, dubious forecasts, and flawed models.”
Coal is the world’s fastest growing energy source and has increased nearly as much as all other sources of fuel combined, according to the report. Much of this growth is in emerging economies like China and India, and it is expected that coal will continue to be the leading feedstock for electricity generation around the globe for at least the next three decades. Additionally, according to the Energy Information Administration, fossil fuels will provide 75 to 80 percent of the world’s energy for the foreseeable future.
In the United States, coal remains the largest feedstock for baseload electricity generation, supplying nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity. But the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule for new coal-fired power plants, the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS), has been widely criticized as unachievable. NSPS requires the use of a technology that is not yet commercially viable — carbon capture and storage (CCS) — for all new coal-fueled power plants.
These regulations seem to ignore the $130 billion the industry has invested in clean coal technologies that have already reduced emissions by nearly 90 percent over the past forty years.
“Fossil fuels have provided the energy to improve farming yields, grow manufacturing and business, and are now powering data servers and even the Cloud,” Mr. Duncan said.
“And while we have all benefited from reliable, clean coal electricity, there are still those who seek to end this American form of power. More and more, this Administration has abdicated its energy policy to the EPA whose regulations will shutter existing coal power plants and thwart the construction of new ones. We would hope that evidence in support of the benefit of fossil fuels, including clean coal, will help bring common sense to the regulatory process.”
Recent reports that electricity supplier PJM is asking regulators to lift the power price cap because of the high cost of natural gas this winter season joins mounting evidence that the United States needs a diversified energy portfolio to ensure affordable, reliable electricity, according to ACCCE.
“This waiver is proof positive of the challenges our nation’s electric grid faces should the current Administration and environmental activists achieve their goal of shutting down clean coal plants in the United States,” said Laura Sheehan, ACCCE’s senior vice president. “Coal provides nearly 40 percent of the baseload electric power in this country, supports manufacturing, heats homes, and energizes communities from coast to coast. Unfortunately, because of an overreliance on natural gas in some areas of the country, many Americans will see a price spike in their heating bills this winter. And this is a result of just one cold snap. The implications of an entire winter season with reduced coal-fired power, or none at all, would bring serious economic harm to families and companies across the country.”