Archive for June, 2008

Coal Walking – U.S. Capitol

Earlier this month, we sent our guy Steve Gates out to D.C.’s Capitol Hill to talk to people on the street about where
electricity comes from and how they feel about our energy future.

Steve is our senior communications director, so I knew he’d be good behind the camera — but I was surprised by how much the people he met knew about electricity!

We’ll be doing more of these "Coal Walking" videos on the future, so subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Advanced technology in upstate New York

Earlier this week, New York Gov. David Paterson (D) announced his support for a 50-megawatt power plant in western New York that would permanently store underground emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The governor said the facility has the potential to "launch exports of advanced coal technology to the rest of the world."

Great news that everyone can get behind, right?


Unfortunately, some environmentalists oppose the project. The Albany Times Union quotes Environmental Advocates of New York Director Rob Moore as saying, “The federal government has already cut off investments in dirty ‘clean coal’ technology and the state should follow.”

For some people… there is just no way to win.

But I wish people would get their facts straight!

Moore is wrong —the federal government continues to support clean coal. We don’t always agree with how it allocates the money (for example, see my many posts on the zero-emissions FutureGen plant)… but it hasn’t “cut off” one bit of funding.

The U.S. Department of Energy understands the importance of using America’s most abundant energy source and if anything it is looking at more ways to invest in technology to make it as clean as possible.

Great News on Hybrids

Toyota has announced  it will add a plug-in hybrid to its U.S. lineup by 2010, and that’s great news for Americans.

Why? Because the energy it runs on has to come from somewhere – and if it is plugged in, odds are good that the electricity charging it is coal generated. By relying more on domestic coal and less on imported oil, we’re greatly increasing America’s energy security.

Plus… if the plug-in hybrid’s electricity can be produced utilizing CCT and carbon sequestration, we can also greatly reduce the greenhouse gases that are currently being released into the atmosphere by every car on the highway without increasing emissions in the utilities sector.

As I’ve said before, it’s going to take all of our resources and all of our ingenuity to solve the climate and energy puzzle, but announcements like this prove that we’re making strides in the right direction.

Impacts of rising energy costs

As anyone who pays a power bill knows, high energy costs
are forcing American families to make tough spending choices – especially those
in lower-income brackets.

A recent
in U.S. News & World
claims that until a new study this week, energy reports have
failed to point out that “income plays a role in how families are adapting to
rising energy prices” and that poor families are the hardest hit.

The claim that this is the first study to point that out is false. We’ve had a study
on the impacts of rising energy costs on families up on our site for years.

But who said what first doesn’t matter in the end. What does is that some people in our country can’t pay their energy bills – and something needs to be done.

I pointed out a study last week showing that states that generate most of their electricity with coal have seen the smallest
increase in energy prices
. This is another reason for our country to keep investing in clean coal technology – we need to continue to use our most abundant fuel to help keep energy prices affordable for all Americans.

High energy costs and public safety

Most people don’t think about it, but higher energy costs can even affect public safety. Here’s a story about a town in New Mexico where the local sheriff must make the hard choice between paying higher fuel costs for patrol vehicles or paying the department’s deputies the salaries they deserve.

We have a profound understanding about how higher energy costs impact the daily lives of the American people. We actually just aired a new national television commercial that shares that very message.

But saying we support affordable energy costs doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to make progress on improving the environment.

We’ve done exactly that over the past 35 years, and we’ll continue to do that going forward. The key is technology.

Consumers Put Faith in Clean Coal

That is one of the findings from a recent set of studies
conducted by Deloitte.

When asked about the best way to reduce emissions in the
future, 60 percent of consumers surveyed put their trust in coal to provide clean
electricity, second only to energy efficiency.

The studies also find that 53 percent of Americans are “very
concerned” over rising electricity costs. (For a quick breakdown of the
Deloitte findings, check out this
Wall Street Journal blog post

These findings echo two points we’ve been making here all along:

  1. Like us, many consumers believe that clean coal will play a major part in meeting our future energy needs.
  2. To address concerns over rising energy costs, our nation needs to continue to develop ways to produce clean and affordable electricity.

This means one thing: we need to keep funding clean coal
technology and carbon capture research so we can continue to close the gap
between clean and affordable.

Using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery

Do you think increasing domestic oil production to the tune of 90 billion barrels would decrease gas prices?

I’ve often used Behind the Plug as a place to write about new discoveries in carbon capture. Researchers are constantly coming up with innovative ideas to help solve our energy puzzle.

Now the U.S. Department of Energy is saying that a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR) — which is basically using captured CO2 and injecting it back into the ground — could greatly increase the amount of oil available in the U.S. Estimates are that EOR practices could add almost 90 billion barrels to our recoverable reserves — while still storing the carbon dioxide in the ground (avoiding its release into the atmosphere).

This just goes to prove a point that we’re often making. Some people are always searching for that elusive silver bullet to help solve our energy and environmental challenges. We don’t subscribe so much to the silver bullet theory because we know that it is going to take a lot of things working together (so you might say we embrace the silver buckshot approach).

This whole idea of using captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery is something you might being hearing more about in the days ahead. A congressional subcommittee will be holding a hearing on this later this week.

Lieberman-Warner… the aftermath

As soon as the Senate voted last week to shelve the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, there were lots of people out spinning what that vote meant.

Actually, the vote said very little about where the senators were with respect to this bill – it was more of a statement that they didn’t like how this bill was managed by those on both sides of the aisle.

In fact, there are press accounts of a letter sent to Senate leaders by 10 Democrats who voted in favor of closure on the bill but publicly stated that they would have voted against that bill (in its current form) on final passage. Taking the intentions of those senators into account, it is hard to make the case that there is any momentum to pass a bill like Lieberman-Warner. 

That is not to say, “I told you so.”  Instead, we’ve been talking about what we think it will take to pass a federal bill that will enact mandatory standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Here are our thoughts:

First, energy costs play a central role in developing comprehensive climate change legislation. Gasoline costs more than $4 per gallon and the budgets of working families and Americans living on low and fixed incomes are taking a big hit from higher energy prices. Climate legislation must not force consumers to pay unnecessarily higher energy costs. 

Second, any policy addressing climate change is inextricably linked to broader U.S. energy security, economic development and environmental goals. We have the opportunity to craft a mandatory greenhouse gas reduction bill that will protect America’s energy security and our domestic economy. In the end, many senators recognized that the Lieberman-Warner bill was not the right legislative vehicle to accomplish these interrelated goals.   

Third, substantial bipartisan support is crucial to enacting comprehensive federal climate legislation. This kind of bipartisan support was vital to passing the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the Clean Air Act amendments in 1990—and will be equally important to the ultimate passage of climate legislation. 

The Lieberman-Warner debate did serve the important function of focusing the attention of Congress and all Americans on the important work ahead of us. We remain committed to supporting a bill that will achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions, preserve fuel diversity as a means of protecting energy security, and ensure access to affordable electricity for American consumers. In the months ahead, ACCCE will work with members of Congress and other policymakers to develop reasonable, effective legislative proposals on this important and complex issue.