Archive for April, 2008

Don’t Believe Everything You Read, Redux


Just last week I wrote about not taking everything you read at face
value. This is especially the case when it comes to interpreting
opinion poll findings.

Many surveys are inherently biased – and this is precisely the case
with two recent studies conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC)
for the Civil Society Institute.

The polls, which surveyed residents of North Carolina and Indiana,
assert that support for building new coal-generated power plants is
weak in each state. They also suggest Indianans and North Carolinians
believe a focus on other forms of energy should occur before any new
coal plants are built.

But remember, it’s easy to get the answer you want – just ask the right question.

For example, the ORC study states that 75 percent would pick clean wind
or solar energy if they “could decide where to invest money in new
electric power generation for Indiana.”

Here at ACCCE, we are all for the development of new forms of
energy. This country is going to need all of its energy resources in
the coming years.

But what if the same people were asked this question: “Would you
support a power plant fueled by an unreliable source that may go dark
for days at a time and fail to meet your electrical needs?”

I think it’s safe to say the answer would be a resounding “no!”

But that is a real issue when it comes to wind and solar power. As we reported here,
when the wind recently stopped blowing in Texas, customers lost power.
For the time being, wind and solar just aren’t viable options.

So next time you see the results from an opinion poll, remember to consider the source.


The Train Keeps On Rollin’

Note: While ACCCE does not endorse any of the presidential
candidates, we are stopping by as many campaign events as we can to
spread the message of our commitment to clean.


Well, with the competitive presidential primary season still not over
(for the Democrats), we’re packing up our Clean Coal Vans and heading
off to Indiana and North Carolina.

It’s been an amazing year already — who knew when we dispatched our
first van in Iowa early in January that we’d be headed into May with
one political party without a nominee? We have learned a lot from our
many campaign stops, including the fact that no matter who ultimately
becomes the next president of the United States, each remaining
candidate has acknowledged a clear understanding of the role clean coal
technologies will play in our energy future.

So if you’re a reader of Behind The Plug and live in either
of the next two primary states, keep your eyes open for our vans and
your mind open for discussions that may force you to discard your
preconceived notions about role that clean coal technologies will play
in your energy future.


Coal Use On The Rise


This Wall Street Journal article
points out that coal usage in the United States increased faster than
power output last year. While electricity use rose by 1.6 percent from
2006 to 2007, coal use increased by 1.95 percent.

As you can see, coal is stepping up to the plate and showing its
ability to provide America with affordable power for a long, long time.

Remember: the United States has more coal than any other fuel. And
we’ve got more coal than the rest of the world combined has oil.

I was actually quoted in that article. For those of you who don’t have
a Wall Street Journal subscription… I said the power industry has
made tremendous gains in reducing many pollutants from power plants and
that "we recognize the next challenge is carbon dioxide."


Clean Coal USA


I am pleased to announce the formation of a new organization — the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

ACCCE will bring together the efforts of ABEC and the Center for Energy
and Economic Development to continue the mission you’ve come to expect
of shaping public opinion with respect to the use of coal to generate

Additionally, we will join other national associations to lobby federal
policymakers on policies designed to reduce human-made greenhouse gas

ACCCE supports the timely adoption of federal carbon management
legislation—and recognizes that a mandatory cap-and-trade program is
one option—so long as such legislation appropriately addresses 12
principles our organization has adopted. We have posted these
principles on our new Web page… take a look!


In this game, credibility is key


Innovest, a financial analyst firm, recently released a report on
Sierra Pacific Resources, ripping its plans to continue the development
of two coal-generated power plants in Nevada.

As it turns out, Innovest’s report was less than credible. The report’s
author failed to even talk to anyone at Sierra Pacific. And as pointed
out by Stephanie Tavares in a great In Business Las Vegas article, it is full of holes, miscalculations and fuzzy assumptions.

Innovest won’t even say who paid for the report.

Here’s what we know: the report followed the party line of many special
interest groups, who claim that coal has no place in America’s future.

As we’ve discussed here before,
they fail to consider all of the facts. The lack of objectivity in the
report (and frankly the timing of the release of similar reports in
other parts of the country) have even caused some to think that maybe
Innovest’s client could (I said could because, as I said,
Innovest won’t say who they did the study for) be a natural gas company
that is simply trying to increase market share for natural gas and
therefore drive up fuel prices.

More than anything, the article proves that the press can still be a
great watchdog. But it also serves as a lesson: there are two sides to
every story – including the energy debate – and it is important to
consider both of them.


Debate prep


According to this Reuters article,
ABC’s Charles Gibson has been cramming for the past several days in
preparation for hosing Wednesday’s presidential debate between Barack
Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The story says he’s been studying up on carbon sequestration. "It’s
a subject I don’t know a whole lot about, and it probably won’t come
up," Gibson said. "But I don’t know beans about carbon sequestration,
so I read up on it."

Good for Gibson!

And for the record, I hope it does come up at the debate. I’d like to hear the candidates talk about it.


The Clean Coal Race


It’s like an arms race but for clean coal: whoever can develop reliable
carbon sequestration techniques first will have a leg up on marketing
this technology to the rest of the world – especially in places where
electricity demand and coal use are rapidly increasing.

The BBC just published an article about Australia’s first underground carbon storage facility.
Their dedication to carbon sequestration testing may prove to be a
future financial boon if they can export their technology to places
like Pakistan, which has a booming appetite for electricity and what has been estimated as the world’s third-largest known coal reserves.

It is unlikely that a developing nation such as Pakistan will develop
clean coal technology on its own. In order to save money, traditional
coal-generated power plants – the cheapest option – will most likely be
built. But if proven clean coal technology was readily available to
developing countries building new power-generation stations, nations
like Pakistan could start out ahead of the game.

Remember, no matter what is happening here in the discussions over
coal, there is no stopping its use in developing countries. We already
export coal – and if we lead the way in creating and implementing the
best ways to use it, we’ll be exporting U.S.-developed technology as


Technology Called the Key to Climate Change Challenge


Interesting reading in Scientific American this week.

Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs wrote:

Technology policy lies at the core of the climate change
challenge. Even with a cutback in wasteful energy spending, our current
technologies cannot support both a decline in carbon dioxide emissions
and an expanding global economy. If we try to restrain emissions
without a fundamentally new set of technologies, we will end up
stifling economic growth, including the development prospects for
billions of people. The key is new low-carbon technology, not simply
energy efficiency.

We routinely receive comments that our commitment to promoting CCS
technology simply is a “ploy” to ensure profits for “big coal.” At some
point, regardless if you believe simply renewables and energy
efficiency are the cure-all to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions,
it ultimately becomes entirely counterproductive to argue against the
need to develop clean coal technologies.

According to Dr. Sachs:
Early demonstration projects
are likely to be many times more costly than later ones, and will
almost certainly require some public funding. Broad public acceptance
and support will therefore be crucial for the technology. Yet to date,
the U.S. government has failed to get even one demonstration CCS power
plant off the ground, and various private initiatives are currently
stranded, all because of the lack of public support and financing.

Let’s not forget that coal production and usage is not going away as a
global issue, and the sooner we develop these technologies, the sooner
we can share these new technologies with other countries. Instead of
wasting valuable time protesting funding for critical new technologies,
isn’t the planet better served if all that time and energy were put
toward finding ways to ensure the funding and deployment of these
essential new technologies?