Rob Port: Coal Creek Station’s potential terrifies the Sierra Club

The following article was written by Rob Port and it originally appeared in the Fargo Forum, and the Grand Forks Herald:

 Coal Creek Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in North Dakota, has a buyer and the Sierra Club is feeling a little salty about it. “This smells like a backroom deal that benefits the North Dakota coal lobby, not regular Minnesotans,” Margaret Levin, director of the Minnesota chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement posted on the group’s website. “It also sounds like Minnesota customers may remain on the hook for paying for power from this economic loser of a plant for years to come.”

Only in the minds of egregious political zealots could the lengthy and well-publicized sale of Coal Creek Station be characterized as a “backroom deal,” but I digress. Levin espouses what is conventional wisdom about coal power in certain political circles.

Coal is dead, these people are wont to say, because it can’t compete in the marketplace anymore. That’s true only insofar as the government has propped up coal’s competitors like wind and solar with massive subsidies and use mandates. On an even playing field, one not tilted and manipulated by politicians and ideologues, coal remains a viable and relatively cheap source of baseload power. In fact, judging by some recent trends in energy now may be a great time to invest in coal power. Because the government-driven push to “green energy” is showing signs of being a mistake.

Let’s consider California, for a moment, the leading state in producing renewable energy. In late June, the state issued yet another “flex alert” asking power customers to reduce their consumption. This perhaps heralds another season of rolling blackouts for that state as energy production fails to keep up with demand. This is happening even as Californians pay dramatically higher prices for power. Per the Energy Information Administration, the all-sector, per-kilowatt-hour price Californians pay for energy grew by more than 18 cents last year. The state’s ratepayers are now doling out 70% more than the average American. Californians are paying more for power, and getting less, and groups like the Sierra Club would like to bring that unhappy experience to more Americans.

The Sierra Club and their ideological fellow travelers want us to believe that coal is a bad investment, but as energy prices soar and power grids become less reliable because a renewable energy bubble manufactured by the government, a source of energy that is reliable both in production and price, such as a coal power plant, is going to look attractive.

All the more so because Rainbow Energy, Coal Creek Station’s buyers, plan to implement carbon capture technology to significantly lower the plant’s emissions. Sen. John Hoeven likes to say North Dakota is “cracking the code” on carbon capture, and he’s right. I can understand why this terrifies the Sierra Club.

Coal Creek Station has the potential to prove that we not only still need coal power, but we can produce coal power cleanly.

              Written by: Rob Port, founder of, and a Forum Communications commentator.