Coal vs Natural Gas Comes to a Head in Arizona

Keith Kohl

Written By Keith Kohl

Posted February 17, 2017

The outcome of this argument could set a precedent for our president.

On one side is the clean energy movement, and its opposition to one of the country’s largest coal power plants.

The Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona is facing a shut-down within the next two years. Majority owners of the plant say it’s because it would be both cheaper and cleaner to run the plant with natural gas instead.

On the other side stands the Navajo Nation, a Native American territory that stretches across sections of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.

The Nation’s president Russell Begaye opposes the coal plant’s shut-down because the plant and the coal mine that supplies it both rest on Navajo Nation land and support around 800 jobs in the area.

President Trump is known for supporting coal power and American jobs, and Begaye hopes to win his favor in this situation. Navajo Coal Mining

We are going to seek a solution based on what we feel needs to be done,” Begaye quoted as saying. The solution could include coal subsidies or tax breaks that would allow the plant to keep running business as usual.

The obvious problem is that even these solutions aren’t likely to save the plant in the end.

Right now, natural gas is just too cheap, and coal is on the decline.

Even as natural gas prices are rising off of two-year lows, it’s still seen as a better investment than traditional coal power. And not just in Arizona either…

As of 2013, a total of 246 coal plants have been decommissioned in the U.S., while 305 natural gas plants have opened up.

This doesn’t include the coal plants that were turned into natural gas plants, much like the owners want to see happen to the Navajo Generating Station.

It’s interesting to see a Native American nation standing with Trump and fossil fuels given how adamantly the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines were protested up in North Dakota.

But even this surprising team-up isn’t likely to have any long-lasting positive effects on the dying coal industry.

To read more about the fate of the Navajo Generating Station, check out the Wall Street Journal article (may require a subscription).

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