What are the choices that cooperatives have for future power? Coal – Gas – Wind. There have been lots of wild estimates of how many permanent green jobs can be created in this country. I don’t know if these “estimates” are accurate or not. I do know how many coal, wind, and gas jobs we have attached to our cooperatives here in Missouri. Let’s look at the facts.
Fact: There are about 413 permanent jobs attached to Associated Electric Cooperative coal operations.
Fact: There are about 45 permanent jobs attached to Associated Electric Cooperatives Missouri wind purchases.
Wait a minute – I thought there were 1,000s of permanent wind jobs attached to wind farms in Missouri? Well, there are many temporary construction jobs when the wind turbines are being built, and they are good jobs. But once the wind farm is completed, and the construction jobs move on to some other state, we’ve only seen 45 permanent jobs for 1,005 MW of wind farm production.
So, here's a rule of thumb to consider, when comparing coal to wind on a MW basis, large wind projects provide roughly one fourth the jobs, at half the pay, providing electricity 44% of the time, (this is generous) at double the cost to consumers – not counting the additional dollars that consumers pay through their taxes for wind subsidies and the cost of backup generation when the wind isn’t blowing.
Well, what about gas plants? Fact: There are about 88 permanent jobs attached to Associated Electric Cooperative 2400 MW gas operations.
Now consider this: M7M, in the bootheel, receive power from Associated. Last time I checked, M7M employs about 1,500 people. Their very survival depends on cheap electricity. Take away cheap power and 1,500 jobs go south. That’s just one business. Statewide, how many jobs will be lost if Associated Electric (and all Missouri utilities) are forced to substantially raise the cost of power to small and large businesses? Whether it’s through Cap & Trade, or through EPA mandates, or a carbon tax, that is what Missouri utilities could face. Other countries are waiting at the border for this self-inflicted purging of U.S. jobs.
If we are serious about increasing our exports in this country, we need to hang on to our cheap power, so our businesses can be competitive with other countries cheap labor.
Since intermittent wind cannot be counted on for base load, cooperatives have traditionally used coal and gas and have offered businesses some of the cheapest power in the country and the world.
In spite of the fact that Associated can generate the same amount of gas kWh’s with 88 employees compared to 413 coal employees, coal generations on average continues to be competitive and often cheaper than gas. But some want to transition us away from gas and coal to 100% wind and solar. As I said, in Missouri, wind energy jobs pay half of our coal jobs. But here’s what Sean McGarvey, president of the North America Building Trade Unions said, “switching from coal and gas would cause our union members to take a 50% to 75% pay cut”. Double the cost – half the jobs – half the pay.
To me, the good green jobs are high tech clean coal jobs (which have made huge environmental improvements in the last 20 years) and which provide lots of green dollars to local communities. And by keeping electricity prices low for businesses, those businesses also provide lots of those green dollars to our local communities. That’s the kind of green that keeps our standard of living high, which in turn helps us live longer. Now that’s what I call a “healthy” environment, improved clean coal technology, creating lots of green jobs, putting lots of greenbacks in our community for a cheap price.
There’s no doubt that wind and gas play a very important role in our total energy picture and I am grateful to those who invest in and keep these options before us.
But at this place in time, with our economy struggling and jobs disappearing, and costs to small businesses rising – if our politicians are serious about jobs created by utilities, if they are serious about keeping costs low to businesses in America who create jobs, if they are serious about increasing exports, they will reconsider coal’s place in our economy and they will fight against the stated comments of some to “bankrupt the coal and gas industries” though a carbon tax.
Next month – The Cost of Solar and Batteries