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Is a Coal-Free Future Possible

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EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E – The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Are we really heading for a coal-free power future in the U.S. or is this just an environmental pipe dream?                                                                         — Jack Summa, Boston, MA

Far from just an environmental pipe dream, the coal industry in the U.S. and around the world is in the midst of a major downswing. In 2011, coal dropped below 40 percent of total U.S. energy generation for the first time since the late 1970s, while in 2015 coal accounted for only 33 percent. And given the influx of cheap natural gas and the ascendance of renewable energy sources—not to mention recent coal mine safety lapses with tragic consequences—coal might not be able to mount a comeback.

“Technological advances have made natural gas, wind and solar—and efficiency—increasingly competitive,” reports John Brinkley in Sierra Magazine. “The once-robust overseas demand for coal is disappearing.”

Brinkley adds that a decade of sustained public advocacy for clean air and clean energy has left coal out in the dark. The Obama administration’s landmark Clean Power Plan that forces big coal fired power plants to clean up their acts dramatically or shut down has been one major factor in coal’s slide, while the Paris climate accord has sped up the process even more by taking a huge bite out of potential U.S. coal exports.

Over just the last five years, fully one-third of U.S. coal plants, some 232 different facilities, have been closed or scheduled for imminent retirement. Plans for another 184 new coal-fired plants have been shuttered—activists claim credit but the development of new technologies that make harvesting natural gas that much cheaper may have more to do with coal’s death knell. For the first time in 200 years, no new coal plants are on the drawing board in the U.S.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which collects data and reports on energy statistics for the federal government, some 13,000 megawatts of coal power went offline in 2015 as a result of coal plant retirements, while wind energy added 8,600 megawatts and solar tacked on another 7,300 megawatts. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign reports that coal’s downswing is just beginning, with another 50,000 megawatts of coal power predicted to go offline by 2030.

And the trend isn’t stopping at the border. “Many countries that used to be reliable customers for U.S. coal just aren’t into it anymore, partly because of last year’s successful UN climate change conference in Paris,” reports Brinkley. Even before the Paris agreement, China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, had been scaling back production and imports drastically in efforts to clean up urban air pollution and reduce its carbon footprint. In 2015, China cut imports of U.S. coal some 86.5 percent from 1.7 million tons to only 229,000.

Of course, coal is still big business in the U.S. and beyond, and it isn’t going away overnight. But how long it can stick around as a viable contender for Americans’ energy dollars is anybody’s guess. “The trajectory for the coal industry is clear, but the timeline is not,” sums up Brinkley.


CONTACTS: Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal, www.content.sierraclub.org/coal; Energy Information Administration, www.eia.gov.

EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of the nonprofit Earth Action Network. To donate, visit www.earthtalk.orgSend questions to: question@earthtalk.org.

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Alton “Fred” Allen

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Fred Allen

March 17, 1945 – May 15, 2022
RINGGOLD – Alton “Fred” Allen, 77, longtime resident of Ringgold, passed away on May 15, 2022 in Bowie.
The family received friends from 7 – 8 p.m. on May 17 at the White Family Funeral Home in Bowie. A graveside service will take place at 11 a.m. on May 18 at Cowboy’s Last Ride Cemetery in Bowie with Richard Allen officiating.
Fred was born March 17, 1945 in Decatur to Alton “Frank” and Zula Prestwood Allen. He was a lifelong worker in the oil field and in his free time enjoyed fishing, hunting and spending time with his grandchildren.
He is preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Dick Allen and Gene Allen.
Fred is survived by his children, Lynn Allen, Ringgold and Zula Carol Dietrich and husband Steve, Petrolia; grandchildren, Blake Allen, Brady Allen, Barrett Allen, Jason Gray, Jennifer Gray, Terry Dietrich and Timothy Dietrich; great-grandchildren Cody and Kendra Harralson and Lincoln Gray; sister Zelta Baker, Bloomfield, NM and numerous nieces and nephews.
Arrangements entrusted to the White Family Funeral Home of Bowie.
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Council facing lengthy agenda of new business

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Bowie City Councilors face a lengthy agenda of new business on Oct. 25 spanning outside audit proposals, amendments to the personnel policy and six planning and zoning commission requests.
The panel will meet at 6 p.m. in council chambers.
A pair of audit proposals will be reviewed from Edgin, Parkman, Fleming and Fleming, and Mathis, West & Huffines Group.
The personnel policy amendments center on paid quarantine leave and officer mental health leave.
A resolution for repayment of opioid-related expenditures and payment to abate opioid-related harms will be reviewed, along with the 2021 tax roll.
The council also will discuss the Richwood Lake Estates Park at Amon Carter Lake. This topic is a proposition on the Nov. 2 ballot.
An executive session will have the council discuss economic development negotiations on a project. Janis Crawley, executive director of the Bowie Economic Development Corporation, also will give the council an update on the recent Economic Development Administration grant that will provide $1,460,000 to the BEDC for infrastructure work at the Bowie Business Park.
City Manager Bert Cunningham will make his monthly report discussing the asset management program, the audit, search for a new finance director, a program with Honeywell that evaluates facilities on where the city can save money and an update from the Association of Rural Communities.
Public comments and the consent agenda wrap up Monday night’s council agenda.

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Fatality accidents

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Department of Public Safety officers are investigating a pair of multi-fatality accidents in Montague County Thursday night. One occurred at US 82 and FM 1806 and a half hour later one occurred near Star Travel Center outside Bowie. No details were available Friday but watch for updates.

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