Home > Economics, Environment > Concerning Coal, Some Numbers and a Thought

Concerning Coal, Some Numbers and a Thought

Below is an excerpt from the Oil Drum:

When I started posting to this site, one of the last things that I intended was to become an apologist for either the mining or petroleum industries. I worry however, sometimes, that if there is only one side of a debate being given visibility, then, by default, a public picture is painted that may not reflect reality, and which may in the future have unfortunate consequences. The immediate cause of the comment was the Jeff Goodell’s editorial in the Post last weekend. And while I recognize that editorials have different rules, nevertheless the choice of adjectives in describing the various participants and activities leaves little doubt as to which side of the line the story falls.

Over this past week the editorial has continued to ferment in the back of my mind. I very much agree with the opening comments about the invisibility that is usually the miners’ lot, and the neglect that mining issues usually get in the Congress. But from that point on it takes an unmistakable tack against the industry. Why should this be of concern? Well consider, for a second, these costs, which I got from the Energy Insider this week.

Solar costs about 25 cents a kilowatt hour. That’s compared to about 9 cents a kilowatt hour for natural gas and 5 cents a kilowatt hour for modern coal-burning plants, as well as 6 cents a kilowatt hour for wind energy if tax considerations are included. The good news is that the cost of solar power is falling all the time. It once stood at $1 a kilowatt hour and advocates say that it could soon cost 12-16 cents a kilowatt hour.

To put those numbers in perspective a little, the NYT had an article in January on power costs around the nation, noting that costs in Chicago in 2006 varied from $0.01 to $0.365 per kWh with an average around $0.0825, and in New York from down around $0.01, to up around $0.50, with an average of around $0.14 (estimating from the graph). (The cost varies with season and time of day). (Oh and, for Gail, it takes around 12 kWh per ton to mine coal, if you want a baseline average number).

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Categories: Economics, Environment
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