Archive for January, 2008

Carbon Capture … If Not That, Then What?

Today’s issue of the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico had a story about how environmental groups feel about carbon capture and other ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Obviously there is some diversity of thought on this topic among national environmental groups. The story says the National Resource Defense Council is widely supporting carbon-capture technology. Environmental Defense and Environment America both say they would consider supporting carbon-capture technology.

But the Politico points out that Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth oppose carbon-capture technology because it is too expensive.

Too expensive?

First of all, experts agree that generating electricity in 2025 using carbon-capture technology will be equal to the today’s cost of new power generation without carbon capture. (Here’s more information about that finding.)

Second of all, what’s the alternative? For the life of me, I can’t see how any of these groups can say that we’ll be able to meet growing
energy demand (both here at home and moreover around the world) without the continued use of traditional energy resources like coal. I’ve been accused of being too optimistic by some of these groups about the future promise of advanced clean coal technologies … but they just want
us to believe that renewable power is available to replace coal and other carbon-based fuels at a moment’s notice. Sorry, if that were true, we have more renewables already. (Let me be clear – that is not a slam on renewables, they are an important part of the mix. We just have to be realistic about their limitations.)

Not supporting increased funding for carbon capture technologies clearly seems contrary to the agenda of some of these groups (if indeed their ultimate goal is to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gases on a global scale).


Debating Climate Change

                                    

Did you catch the Democratic presidential debate on CNN earlier this
week? It was the most-watched presidential primary debate in cable news
history (4.9 million viewers), which is good news for us since we
bought advertising during the debate. As a matter of fact, we’re
sponsoring coverage of another CNN debate next week.

While we are flattered that there are some people out there who are
convinced we can dictate the questions of the debate, the reality is we
are merely a sponsor of advertising for the program. That’s it. Nothing
more, nothing less. Just as purchasing an ad in a newspaper doesn’t
skew the editorial content of that paper, the same is true here.

Rather than try to keep the issue of climate policy from coming up, as
some folks have suggested we are doing, we are putting our effort to
ensure that the issue does come up on the campaign trail. In fact, here’s the question we’d love to see get asked in one of the debates: “How
do you plan to help America meet its growing demand for affordable and
reliable electricity while addressing the climate change issue?”

Isn’t that the question we’re all asking?

Sure, you can have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; but if
your plan means that America becomes more reliant on foreign energy
resources and the cost of energy skyrockets, what kind of solution is
that for the country?

We recognize that there is a shared commitment between electricity
generators and those that they serve to reduce utility greenhouse gas
emissions. The conversation now is about how best to do that in a way
that meets the stated environmental goal, protects access to
affordable, reliable energy and ensures energy security.

So let’s be as clear as possible — not only do we want the candidates
to address questions regarding energy, environment and the economy, we
can’t think of single more important question in the 2008 presidential
debates.

                               


Why Efficiency Alone is Not Enough

I’ve been following the energy and environmental debate for nearly 20 years, and I have to say that I’ve never met the advocate for energy
“inefficiency.” Some people seem to think that energy efficiency is a new thing and that if we just embrace energy efficiency alone … it will
be the solution to all of our energy challenges.Sorry, I just don’t buy it. Here’s why: The “efficiency only” argument fails to address growth in population.

By 2042, America’s population is predicted to grow by 100 million.

Even if we somehow we were able to reduce personal energy consumption by 25% to 50%, by 2043 we would still be significantly behind the curve because of population growth. In that scenario, each person would have to cut energy consumption by as much as 75%.

Let’s face it 400 million Americans can’t live on less energy than 300 million Americans (who are already using energy efficient appliances
and consumer electronic devices).

Energy efficiency is a great thing, but efficiency alone is not the answer. So when you hear people who say it is, ask them how their math accounts for population increases?


Don’t say the ‘s’ word

                                    

OK, somebody got off script. I’m not sure how this happened, but
suddenly a lot of presidential candidates and the surrogates are saying
that their climate policies are going to force the American people to S
A C R I F I C E.

Not since President Carter put on a sweater and asked Americans to turn
down their thermostats have we seen evidence of a failed energy policy.

The reason the “S” word is being batted about is because finally folks
are starting to get the message that it is not possible to meet
America’s growing energy needs without coal.

I’m sorry, but a lot of people are already sacrificing. They’re making
the hard and difficult choices between heating and eating this winter.

I don’t buy it. In an energy rich country – a country that uses
technology, not fear, to meet our challenges – we don’t have to make a
choice between affordable, reliable and secure energy and a clean
environment.

We can have both, but only if we have policies that allow us to avoid unnecessary sacrifice.

Our nation’s climate policy needs to be based upon spurring investments in technology … not asking Americans to sacrifice.

                               


Why are Some Groups Against Technology?

Here’s a story coming out of southwest Georgia that makes you question the effort of environmentalists who try to block construction of modern
coal plants.

Developers have plans to build a coal-based power plant with modern pollution controls. The facility, which Longleaf Energy Associates
plans to build in rural Early County, would use the most up-to-date scrubbing technology.

Environmental groups — including the Sierra Club, GreenLaw and Friends of the Chattahoochee — tried to block the company from building
the plant. That’s right — environmentalists wanted to stand in the way of a plant with state-of-the-art pollution controls.

Well a state court ruled last week that environmentalists had no grounds to fight the plant. Click here for the ruling, which rejected the arguments from the various groups.

I hope this decision means that more and more people are seeing that clean coal projects can provide affordable and reliable electricity to
meet our nation’s ever growing energy demands while keeping our environment cleaner that it has been in decades.


No need to be shy when touting clean coal technology

                                    

As you know, we’ve been stopping by as many campaign events as we can
to help voters tell presidential candidates to make clean coal a part
of their energy platforms.

Candidates should feel proud to voice their support for clean coal
technology. There is a strong constituency supporting them when they
talk about addressing America’s energy future with a fuel source that
is affordable and domestically abundant. After all, the United States
has more coal than any other fuel.

Politically, it’s smart to side with clean coal. It helps candidates
when they talk about keeping energy costs low. It will help them on the
stump to speak out in favor of clean coal technology

But it’s also the right thing to do. If candidates — Democratic or
Republican — care about ensuring that our country is not dependent on
energy supplies from volatile regions of the world, then they should
support efforts to make coal as clean as possible.

Remember: If we don’t develop the technology here, it won’t make its
way to China, India and other places in the developing world that will
continue to use massive amounts of coal no matter what we do in the
United States. And if we want to solve a global issue such as climate
change, China and India must be part of the solution.

                               


Giuliani on Clean Coal

                                    

With the NFL playoffs taking place at the same time, I wonder how many people watched the presidential debate on Saturday.

If you missed it, here’s one point I wanted to bring to everyone’s
attention: I tuned in just in time to hear Rudy Giuliani tell ABC
moderator Charlie Gibson that American needs to increase investments in
clean coal technology.

As you know, we don’t endorse any of the presidential candidates,
but it was nice to hear the former New York mayor mention clean coal as
a way to help the country become less energy dependent on volatile
parts of the world. With other candidates also seeking for America to
become more energy independent, it’s my hope that voters will be
hearing more about clean coal along the campaign trail.

                               


Hydrogen from Coal — An Even Better Idea Today

In the summer of 2006, we released a story about the need for projects like FutureGen to produce hydrogen from coal. At the time, oil was
pushing $80 per barrel (a record back then) and we thought it was important for Americans to understand that coal can be used (cleanly, I might add) for more than just producing electricity.

Today as I was scanning the news, I saw that oil topped $100 per barrel. Looking back at our old spot, I’m proud of how we got the message so right two years ago.

We need to change our way of thinking if we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Knowing that technology will allow us to use coal to produce electricity, capture and safely store carbon, AND produce hydrogen for things like hydrogen fuel cells is more relevant now than ever.

For those people who still have not made their New Year’s resolution, allow me to make one for you: view our story from two years ago and then raise your right hand and say, “In 2008, I resolve to start thinking about how American coal can be used cleanly (and in ways that I never imagined) to make us energy independent.”

Here’s wishing everyone a happy New Year!