Archive for May, 2009

New Dept. of Energy Partnership a Key to Unlocking a Cleaner Energy Future

Exciting news, everyone! This week, ACCCE members Arch Coal, Peabody
Energy, Southern Company, American Electric Power and Luminant partnered
up with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Carbon Capture Center,
a public-private partnership advancing the next generation of carbon
capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

The nation's best scientists and technology experts will come together
to help advance large-scale CCS operations. The new center will allow
these folks to work on CCS in a real power plant setting, at a size
large enough to provide meaningful performance data under real operating
conditions to enable scale-up of the technologies.

The center, located at the Power Systems Development Facility in
Birmingham, Ala., should be fully operational by 2010.

"As a partner in the National Carbon Capture Center, we will help drive
new energy technologies that will allow the United States to meet both
its environmental and economic goals," said Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal's
chairman and CEO. "We look forward to working alongside foremost energy
experts to unlock a cleaner energy future for our planet."

We're with you on that one, chairman. We're excited to see the
real-world results taking place.

Michigan says YES to Coal-Based Power Plants

Most Americans nationwide support the use of coal to generate electricity. And why shouldn’t they? Coal is our most abundant resource, and it has long been an economic boon for our nation.

Take this recent Detroit News poll out of Michigan, for example. About 65 percent of readers give Michigan the green light on construction of new coal-generated and nuclear power plants.

In the comments included with the online poll results, many Michiganders made great points highlighting the benefits of coal.

One Detroit resident said that it would be premature to give up on coal-fired power plants, because alternative energy is “not ready for prime time yet.” Like I said before, energy efficiency and renewable energy, even together, aren’t a total solution – they are only part of a much bigger strategy.

A Taylor resident told the story of a recent blackout due to insufficient winds to power turbines. The wind-powered energy stations were not able to keep up with the massive demand placed on the power grid. We certainly wouldn’t have those kinds of problems with coal – it’s a reliable base-load power source.

So, folks, here’s what we learned today: Americans know that coal has a big role to play in our energy future.

Putting your carbon footprint in context

Finally — somebody else besides me is addressing the elephant in the room.

University of Cambridge physics professor David MacKay recently wrote a commentary saying that energy efficiency and renewable energy, even together, aren’t a total solution – they are only part of a much bigger strategy.

MacKay says Americans consume about 250 kilowatt-hours per day (to help put this in context, one kilowatt-hour is the energy used up by turning on a 40-watt bulb for 24 hours). Think that unplugging your cell phone charger is going to help save the environment? Not so much. That phone charger is about 1/100th of the power consumed by a single light bulb. Or the power used in driving an average car for one second.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t stress conservation when we can, but MacKay compared it to “bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.”

In order to have a serious discussion about the role of energy efficiency and renewable energy, MacKay said we need to think about the numbers. Even if energy-efficient technologies cut our consumption in half, it would be crazy to supply our energy use solely with renewable energy. According to MacKay’s figures, we’d need a wind farm three times the size of California just to deliver a day’s worth of energy to the population of the United States – or 1,575 one-gigawatt nuclear power stations.

So I say, let’s embrace all kinds of options. Energy efficiency is great – but it won’t displace the increase in demand resulting from a growing population and a rebounding economy. Renewable energy – while it will grow — won’t be enough to supply America with enough power all on its own, and that’s precisely why we need traditional fuels like coal to be part of our viable solution. We’re going to need to rely on coal for the foreseeable future, and generating electricity from coal is less expensive than other energy alternatives. Plus, we’ve got centuries of it. So let’s keep it in the mix.

Let’s keep working to make the cap-and-trade bill better

The news from Capitol Hill tonight is that a House committee passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES).

As Steve Miller, CEO and president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said: "We look forward to working with the members of the House of Representatives during the coming weeks to make additional, vital modifications to the ACES Act so that the legislation ultimately enacted by Congress and signed by the president produces environmental benefits, promotes economic prosperity and advancement of technology, and ensures greater energy independence."

Click here for the full statement from Steve Miller.

Video: A $90 Billion Investment and Truth in Advertising

Earlier this week, we told you about the $90 billion investment that the utility industry has invested in technology to reduce emissions.

Today, I sat down to talk a little bit about the study, and truth in advertising. Take a look:

We Tried to Debate You Last Year, but You Declined, Remember?

Recently, David Roberts, a staff writer at environmental news blog Grist, posted an article in The Huffington Post saying I “ran away like a pansy” and that I “don’t like arguing with people who know what they’re talking about.”

Woah, there. There’s nothing like a little name-calling to hide from an informed debate on our energy policies.

Let me back up a little. In early April, I was interviewed for the “Can Coal Be Earth-Friendly?” episode for news program NOW on PBS. After the show, I participated in an online debate with Roberts. We were given five questions on clean coal and the chance to reply to each other’s answers – and he’s upset because I didn’t want to offer a rebuttal for a few of them.

Honestly, it wasn’t that I felt threatened by the opportunity to argue with the guy. I just didn’t feel like his rebuttal changed the substance of my original answers in any way.

And let me just remind everyone that I initiated an open online dialogue with the folks at Grist, The Huffington Post and the Sierra Club last year and they declined. We invited the major environmental groups to an “equal-time discussion” on common themes that intersect the energy & environmental world. No name calling or mud-slinging, just a straightforward debate relying on accepted facts. We proposed starting with this question: “How do we meet America’s growing energy needs while addressing the climate change issue?”

All of the environmental groups declined.

Here are the facts: We rely on coal today (about half of our electricity is produced by coal). Is there any debate on that subject?

We’re going to need to rely on coal for the foreseeable future, both here in the U.S. and around the world. Generating electricity from coal is less expensive than other energy alternatives. Does anyone doubt the U.S. Department of Energy data backing that up?

Finally, we believe that by continuing to invest in technology, we can reduce emissions even further, including the capture and safe storage of CO­2­.

Next time, Roberts, let’s have a good, clean fight.

New study details industry commitment to CCT

People ask me all the time, “How much money has the utility industry actually spent to deploy clean coal technologies and reduce emissions?”

According to a new study, the answer is $90 billion since 1990.

This huge expenditure in emission-reduction technologies has made today’s coal-based generating fleet 77 percent cleaner than it was in 1970, in terms of emissions currently regulated under existing Clean Air Act programs per unit of energy produced. At the same time, prices for making electricity from coal have remained stable at about a third of the cost of other base load fuels. Put simply, despite the vast sum the industry has spent on advanced technologies, the price of coal-generated electricity has remained steady.

These findings provide great hope for the future, and should help ease worries that deployment of carbon capture technologies will cause consumer electricity prices to skyrocket.

ACCCE CEO Steve Miller sums it up nicely: “This report conclusively shows that given realistic timeframes technology can solve our environmental challenges without negatively impacting consumers and the economy.”

Tell Congress We Need a Better Climate Bill

As you may know, Congress is currently working out provisions to a climate bill that would affect businesses and families across the country by increasing the cost of energy.

Instead of writing about the limitations of the draft bill, our new Vice President of Media Relations Lisa Camooso Miller sat down in front of the camera to talk about what can be done to improve it.