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Daugaard Joins War on Coal, Says Gas Cheaper, Better with Wind

Hey, Republicans! Your own Governor Dennis Daugaard has joined the “War on Coal”:

I do think coal has seen its day. More and more power companies, notwithstanding what President Trump has done, see that the lead time on a coal plant is so long and the difficulty and expense of keeping a clean power plant going if it’s coal-fired, just makes gas a more attractive fuel source [Gov. Dennis Daugaard, interview, “South Dakota Moving away from Coal Power,” Hub City Radio, 2017.11.08].

Our greenie Governor says gas is cheaper and fits better with renewable energy generation:

It’s also much more able to be integrated with wind…. So if you’re using wind for example and the wind drops off suddenly, you can crank up a gas plant to fill that load demand much more quickly, and coal is much more difficult to do that with, so pairing it with wind, pairing it with other renewable sources, gas is an easier sell. And the price is better [Daugaard, 2017.11.08].

Governor Daugaard tells Hub City Radio that wind and hydro power push the percentage of power generated by renewable sources in South Dakota as high as 75%.


  1. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 09:08

    Just about every utility is planning for more wind and natural gas together. Those are off-the-shelf technologies that are cheaper on the front end to build or finance. If they get something from community solar, great, but that is not expected to be as big a player.

    The combo will still emit carbon when gas is burned (or it leaks), but just not as much as if coal were used.

  2. Jeff Barth 2017-11-09 09:14

    There have been many issues that Governor Daugaard and I have disagreed on. But Compared to where he started he has made steady progress on many things. None of us are always right. Given new information and time to reflect, honest, thoughtful people can change their opinions.

    We all need to keep working on it!

  3. Donald Pay 2017-11-09 09:29

    The problem that South Dakota leaders is that they tend to see things in the rear view mirror. Dennis finally figured it out about 20 years too late. I figured it out when the Big Stone plant decided to switch from coal to burning tires, garbage or anything else but coal back in the 1990s. It actually burned cleaner than coal! Sure, they still used coal, but they were looking for alternatives years ago. That big belching burner poured mercury all over Minnesota. The ash remains in South Dakota. Get prepared for the superfund site.

    Wind and solar, unlike coal and nuclear, create few legacy problems,. Anyone who claims to be conservative would have jumped on the wind and solar bandwagon decades ago. It was only the political donations that kept coal around for so long. But even that can’t cover up the truth of longer than two decades.

  4. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 09:54

    Sorry, wind and solar have an abundance of legacy problems. Particularly with the waste streams and what is left behind from the mining of the critical elements necessary to make them work. It’s just that those problems are happening elsewhere (like in China) for the most part.

    The half-life for the chemicals and heavy metals in wind and solar is…wait for it….wait for it….infinite.

    So the energy sources of wind and solar may be renewable, but the infrastructure to convert that energy into electricity and deliver it to the consumer is not sustainable today.

    Nuclear energy generates less waste per kilowatt-hour because it is so concentrated, and its own impacts would be reduced much further if we allowed them to. Right now anything that could help nuclear will be opposed, even if nuclear could help wind and solar process their waste products to become more sustainable.

    There is also some push back on technologies that would pull carbon out of the air to make fuel, since that is framed as helping the coal plants and the oil refineries (was on NPR yesterday). But that energy-intensive endeavor would be facilitated by nuclear.

  5. Donald Pay 2017-11-09 10:43

    Everything has legacy problems, but wind and solar have far, far less. Waste streams from nuclear are horrendous, whether from uranium mining to processing and upgrading the uranium to manufacturing into fuel rods. You have wastes generated at every stage, not just at the end of the fuel cycle. Ad to that the national and worldwide security state you have to have for the vast nuclear enterprise to assure nothing gets diverted into weapons or dirty bombs. Really, if we choose between coal and nuclear, I’d rather have coal. We don’t have to do that, though.

  6. jerry 2017-11-09 11:00

    Mr. Pay, you are correct. Coal would be a much better, safer form of energy than nuke’s. So then, we now know that battery storage is becoming more and more reliable and if we did some new work on our grid systems, we could harness the sun from other parts of the country and the wind from other parts of the country if it becomes needed. The legacy of of nuke’s can be found in most of our throats to this day. Ask the doctors of this country how much Synthroid and like medicines are prescribed yearly. 23 million doses each month here in the United States from the best selling thyroid medicine ever That is a whole lot of meds for something that is needed for nuke exposure in the air and water.

  7. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 11:33

    There can’t be any security issues in becoming overdependent on other nations for critical elements in wind turbines, solar cells, or energy storage technologies. None whatsoever…..hmmm.

    And there is no way that we could use less uranium up front and isolate less waste on the back end for a much shorter time…..hmmm.

    Until we can provide affordable and sustainable energy storage for days at a time for large populations, we will simply burn more natural gas. Will you be satisfied if we end up emitting more carbon than we do today via the renewables + natural gas approach?

  8. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 12:00

    Using EIA data for 2016, coal generated 30.4% of our electricity, and natural gas generated 33.8% of our electricity.

    Natural gas generates half the carbon that coal does, so if I assign coal one carbon unit and gas one-half carbon unit, we produce .304(1) + .338(.5) = 0.47315 carbon units today.

    Let’s say we eliminate coal through solar/wind/gas, and let’s forget any other carbon footprints from the rest of the fuel cycle for now. If one-third of the energy that coal makes right now came from natural gas , that means an extra .101 added to natural gas, for a total of 0.439. In terms of carbon units, that is 0.2195 carbon units.

    If the economy grows at 2% per year, we get back to our present levels in 38.78 years.

    If natural gas supplies half the energy instead in that coal-replacement combo, we end up with natural gas at 0.49 and 0.245 carbon units. We get back to our present levels in 33.23 years.

    Nuclear is 19.74% of our electricity today. Let’s say we shut down nuclear altogether and replace both coal and nuclear with a wind/solar/gas combo, with gas at 33%. Natural gas would now be at .439 + .33*.1974 = 0.504142, which is 0.252 carbon units. We get back to our present levels in 31.8 years.

    Change that to 50% natural gas in the combo, then natural gas is .49 + .5*.1974 = 0.5887, which is .29435 carbon units. We get back to our present levels in 23.9 years with 2% growth in electricity.

  9. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 12:06


    Are you assuming that future nuclear power plants will use 1960’s instrumentation and operate without the NRC regulations that are in place today?

  10. jerry 2017-11-09 12:27

    No, I assume nothing. What I know is that nukes are not safe. The ones we presently have on line are past their shelf life so no matter what instrumentation devices that are there, the beasts are old and need to be shuttered. That then presents the age old problem of what to do with the waste. We here in South Dakota are already clear on what happens when the radioactive dust blows this poison around, we either take the medicine for it while hoping like hell that it will be maintenance for the issue, or we go to boot hill.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-09 12:54

    Whatever the replacement technologies, the political point is that the Trump/Powers rhetoric about the “War on Coal” is obviously false. Even conservative Republican Governor Daugaard is acceding to the logic and evidence presented by this blog, President Obama, and multiple other observers on multiple occasions in the past: coal is dying because its business case is dying, because the market is choosing cleaner and cheaper ways to meet our energy needs. Any one involved in a political debate over President Trump’s pro-coal policy should cite Republican Governor Daugaard’s statement first in rebuttal.

  12. Donald Pay 2017-11-09 13:00

    Dr. McTaggart,

    Don’t count on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Apparently there is a “Great job, Brownie” situation at NRC. The proposed new nuclear plants in South Carolina and Georgia aren’t going to happen because of cost overruns resulting from the lack of professional engineer involvement in drawing up plans. All this ended up bankrupting Westinghouse. But, better this happened before these non-professionally designed plants actually went on-line.

  13. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 13:06

    Technically the reactors are not past their shelf life, they are older than the original operational license that was granted. 80-100 years will be OK as long as you maintain them. And as seen above, if you eliminate today’s nuclear plants without new nuclear, you will emit more carbon.

    Steamshovel operations for both rare earths and uranium extraction have issues. Sorry, but wind, solar, and energy storage share this issue with nuclear regarding the use of critical elements with unfriendly chemistries. We can extract them better and still keep the lights on.

  14. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 13:16

    The Westinghouse bankruptcy was exacerbated because we didn’t build new reactors as the original licenses were about to expire, so we lost some opportunities to build reactors on a regular basis.

    The NRC is always a subject of politics, doesn’t matter which administration it is. But the employees on the ground are dedicated to nuclear safety and security. They can stop operations if they see something.

    I think the ones in Georgia and elsewhere will get built, but you are right, they have to be built differently to avoid cost overruns. They still need the power, and it is not going to come from coal. Seems like the one thing we can agree upon :^).

    If we are not careful, the only ones building nuclear power plants will be China and Russia. So we should want the U.S. to be a bigger player in the world nuclear market to have a say in nuclear safety and nuclear security issues.

  15. jerry 2017-11-09 13:22

    Actually, we did not loose a thing. Nuke power needs to just die the death of deaths. If Russia and China want them, that is cool with me. If Saudi Arabia wants them, by all means. If Iran wants to build them, have at it.
    No more nukes here. Let us use our brains to make a better mousetrap than the immoral one that Westinghouse bit the bullet on.

  16. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 13:32

    Then in less than 25 years (see above) we will be right back where we started from with regard to carbon emissions.

    In under 60 years after getting rid of both coal and nuclear immediately (and 2% annual increases in electricity use), we will double our carbon emissions of today from coal and gas. If the world follows our lead, no more 400 ppm, we are talking 800 ppm.

    I don’t know about you, but I would much rather make nuclear work with renewables.

  17. jerry 2017-11-09 15:52

    No doc, we will be dead. In 60 years, even deader. We will be so dead that Mr. Evans will be able to quack carbon date us.

  18. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 16:23

    The United Nations estimates there are 7.6 billion people today and 11.2 billion in the year 2100, which is a growth rate of about 0.5% per year. However the growth rate is currently 1.12% per year, which would mean 20.5 billion people by 2100.

    And the need to emit minimal carbon still does not warrant consideration of nuclear energy?

  19. jerry 2017-11-09 16:38

    There are 85% of us that need to give up the ghost for starters. We don’t need nukes to help us, just a simple virus as we here in the United States don’t feel like spending the money for research, so we should be the first to go.

  20. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 16:52

    Everyone else will expect the energy to be there when they demand it, particularly if they are paying for it…that is just human nature. Wind/gas/solar will be fine for a few decades.

    The more nuclear we do now, the more time we will allow for any energy storage revolution to take place. But if that revolution never occurs (which is very possible) we will have been glad to have reduced our carbon emissions as much as possible with nuclear.

  21. jerry 2017-11-09 17:24

    The more nuke we do now, the more crap we have to find a place for when it is spent. Nuke is a bust, ask Westinghouse.

  22. jerry 2017-11-09 17:38

    Mr. Pay though had it right in my view. I would rather have the coal than the nukes. Coal is much safer. Dirty as it can be, but still safer than nukes. The governor also is correct in saying that coal has run its course the same one as nukes.

  23. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 18:16

    Acid rain is safe? Really? Plus the burning of coal distributes more uranium into the environment than nuclear ever does. And yet coal is not regulated for its radioactivity. Go figure.

    I would like the newer nuclear plants to be more flexible when it comes to load response. In the meantime I would like to simply re-direct the energy away from the grid to another purpose when there is too much wind, solar, or nuclear. We are not doing enough of that in my opinion, and probably won’t until more electric cars come on the market.

  24. leslie 2017-11-09 18:49

    the wyo gov just spoke, very bright individual, but going completely the opposite direction hoping to sell the coal for the next 100 years and actively researching how to reduce CO2 recognizing the rest of the world accepts global warming bad news. boy, if we just had a smart governor these last 4 terms. wow

  25. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 20:30

    Fukushima personnel didn’t secure their backup diesel fuel and generators against the tsunami. Plus they put 6 reactors next to each other but failed to staff them accordingly in case more than one of them had an issue.

    Puerto Rico solar farm personnel didn’t secure their solar panels or their transmission infrastructure against the hurricane, or have backup solar panels somewhere underground ready to go. I sense a pattern…

    Not sure if Wyoming coal is suitable for use in making steel instead of for power. We still need infrastructure.

  26. jerry 2017-11-09 21:05

    Yes, there is a pattern, they are called catastrophe’s. See, in Japan, there was an earthquake that suddenly developed a huge tsunami that came into being very quickly. So fast that nothing could be done. The question is why have those nukes in the first place? In a place that is prone to quakes? Very dangerous and turns out, very stupid.

    Puerto Rico was and is broke. Those Americans have been shafted worse than our agriculture folks here in South Dakota have. They may have had about as much solar as we have here in our state. Somewhere underground, hmmm does seem to be a pattern with storm surges and tsunami’s.

    What infrastructure you talking about? The 1 trillion that your boy blathered about? That is gone like the shifting sand of an hourglass. Now the only trillion they speak of is the tax giveaway to the rich boys.

    For once, the governor of our state is correct. Coal and for that matter nukes, are like mule flatulence in front of a one bottom plow, for the history books.

  27. Donald Pay 2017-11-09 21:12

    Western coal is not suitable for steel production.

    Most western coal has low sulfur content, and, thus, was used preferentially to generate electricity as a means to limit production of sulfur dioxide, which is a contributor to acid rain. That was one reason why western coal was developed. The other was easy of mining. There were also regulations placed on coal-fired power plants to limit further the acid generating components of coal flumes.

    Regarding the radioactivity in coal, you are correct that some western coals have high levels of radioactive elements. Most of the radioactivity in the coal after burning ends up in the bottom ash, some in the fly ash. In some uranium mining in the 1950s, they actually burned certain coals to concentrate uranium in the ash. Then they processed the ash for uranium. The coal industry long has resisted tighter regulation of their ash pits, and it is one of the regulations the Trump administration is looking to loosen.

  28. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 21:18

    The tsunami wasn’t a surprise…it happens in Japan! The hurricane was not a surprise to Puerto Rico…it happens in the Caribbean!

    Nevertheless, Japan is slowly starting their nuclear reactors up again. Why? Because they are an island nation without fossil fuel resources. They have to generate a lot of power (very hi-tech nation). And they want to actually meet their low-carbon targets.

    The costs of solar and wind would go up if they had to deal with wastes and emergency preparedness like nuclear has to. That is why solar and wind avoid doing that.

    And who is my boy? Ric Flair?

  29. grudznick 2017-11-09 21:24

    I agree with Dr. McTaggart, as I normally do. I have to point out, mostly for Mr. Pay’s irritation, that it was I, grudznick, who created this polite atmosphere of clean air in which many call Mr. Pay, Mr. Pay. It does give me a deep, satisfying sleep at night, as long as they bring me the right medicines and leave me alone until the morning.

  30. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-09 21:39

    Yes, they have tried to develop their coal and uranium resources. But I would think that Wyoming would do very well in both wind and geothermal.

  31. Donald Pay 2017-11-10 11:38

    Following up on the coal ash discussion, the link below showed up in one of my sources of info: coal in China has more radioactivity than most of our Western low-sulfur coal.

    The article talks about use of some coal ash in dry wall, cement and other building materials. That sort of “recycling” of coal ash is very problematic. I recall decades ago reading an article about sidewalks in a black community being made of “recycled” coal ash, and how, as it cracked and broke down, it poisoned the neighborhood. Beware of the bamboozlers who tell you ash from coal plants is safe to “recycle.”

  32. jerry 2017-11-10 11:58

    doc thinks we are all just stupid enough to think that this is as far as technology can go, we are not and we continue to find alternatives for steel. Steel for infrastructure is a bust. The Romans did not use steel in their construction. In fact some of the most durable concrete work in the world was done by Romans and still functions as strong or stronger than it was when first cast. We are now finding that the mix used by Romans over 2,000 years ago is still stronger than what we produce today.

  33. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-10 19:33

    If there were 18-wheelers going across their bridges on a regular basis, or they were building skyscrapers, the Romans would have used steel.

    But for concrete, there are a lot of additives that they are looking at in order to improve its performance, such as adding different polymers, if not biomass.

  34. Robert McTaggart 2017-11-10 19:40

    You don’t need to add coal fly ash to screw up perfectly good concrete :^).

    One of the issues for making current nuclear power plants last longer is the impact of extra decades of high fluxes of gamma and neutron irradiation for concrete that provides the bulk of the radiation shielding (as we move from 40 to 60 to 80 years).

    In that case chemical bonds are broken, and elements can be converted from one into another. Plus the heating due to irradiation can cause cracks and swelling in the material. So the chemistry changes and the water content changes. And sometimes that concrete also has a structural purpose.

    So you just need to know when concrete must be replaced, and plan that maintenance so it can be done during a planned shutdown.

    But the levels of radioactivity in concrete made from coal fly ash will not embrittle the material nor heat the material. But if it is poorly made, it can crumble on its own.

    Generally speaking if the levels are less than 3 times the activity from the natural background, they do not bother with it.

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