Archive for October, 2009

There’s right way to ensure more CCS success

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is front and center this month as an American Electric Power Co. plant in New Haven, W.Va., became the first coal-generated power plant in the United States to capture a portion of CO2 emissions and safely store them underground. A ribbon-cutting event for the pilot project was held today. This groundbreaking achievement is noteworthy given the recent debates on Capitol Hill about climate change legislation.

How will this type of technology improve as time progresses? Where will additional funding for it be derived? How many potential jobs would be created and local economies strengthened because of its manpower requirements? These are all questions federal climate legislation should address.

Clearly there are multiple voices in the room as we look to restructure this country’s energy portfolio. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a clear direction we’ve all agreed upon in creating a reasonable energy plan.

Coal has been and is one of our most important fuel resources. Its low cost, natural abundance and significant usage must be recognized in any type federal climate legislation. Included in this recognition should be funding for the study and duplication of technologies similar to what has been introduced by AEP.

ACCCE supports a wide variety of energy resources to craft a sound plan. We recognize the benefits of a diverse fuel portfolio. So, as we aid in the structuring of federal climate legislation, let’s continue to support efforts such as the plant in New Haven by expanding upon its success.

Check out today’s announcement here.

Why climate legislation must provide support for CCT

We talk a lot on this blog about our belief that technology will be the ultimate answer to climate change, but I heard a fact today at the Clean Carbon Policy Summit in Austin that illustrates just how important technology is to worldwide reduction of carbon dioxide emissions: In the past several years, China has built enough coal-based generation to equal that of the entire US fleet – and in the next 20 years they will do it again.

What good will U.S. regulations do if they don’t provide adequate funding and support for clean coal technologies? Not much, if that stat holds true.

Luckily, it seems that a lot of very smart and important people also believe in the power of technology. In fact, the consensus among conference attendees and presenters was that we will need a suite of technologies, deployed across all energy platforms in order to meet both our growing demand for affordable, reliable power and carbon dioxide emissions limits – whatever those may be.

And though carbon capture and storage – especially CCS deployed over the existing power plant fleet – was widely discussed as the best bang for the buck in terms of the long-term cost of carbon containment, we need strong leadership and increased funding to reach that point.

AEP’s Paul Loeffelman, speaking on a panel about national carbon policy and the challenges facing the power generation industry, took that message one step further by extolling the need for policy support and the creation of public/private partnerships in order to see technologies fast tracked to full-scale commercial deployment without dramatically increasing electricity rates.

He also discussed the legislation pending in Washington – very timely considering the current Senate hearings on the Kerry-Boxer bill. A divisive subject for sure, especially given the anti-climate bill stance of the Texas executive branch, but many attendees supported some type of Federal bill, especially one that keeps costs down and provides increased funding for advanced clean coal technologies.

That’s good news to us at ACCCE, as we are working to ensure that any legislation is committed to developing clean coal technologies, contains a reasonable timeframe for emissions reductions and keeps costs affordable.

See more from the Clean Carbon Summit at

National infrastructure will help encourage the adoption of electric cars

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Reva G-Wiz, the world's top selling electric car

A major electric utility trade group has pledged to lay the foundation for a national infrastructure to support battery-powered vehicles, reports The Associated Press.

Last week, the Edison Electric Institute announced that utilities would develop standardized structures such as charging systems, advanced meters, incentives for customers to recharge at night and a grid that interacts with plug-in cars.

These plans will hopefully allay any fears consumers might have about “being stranded with a dead battery” and encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, says the New York Times.

“Customers don’t want to be panicked when they get in their car about where and when they can charge their vehicle,” said Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr., at a recent electric vehicles conference.

Because the country already has an electricity grid in place, building the infrastructure will not be a large cost. However, overloading the electrical system is still an issue that the utilities have yet to work out.

Either way, we’re happy to hear the news. The energy a hybrid vehicle runs on has to come from somewhere – and since we get almost half our electricity from coal, odds are that the electricity charging it will be coal generated.

Furthermore, if a plug-in hybrid’s electricity can be produced from power plants utilizing clean coal technology, we can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions for cars on the road – without increasing emissions in the utility sector.

Would you make the switch to an electric car? Post a comment and let us know.

“We have to tell the clean coal story” in Texas

Did you know that Texas retains ownership rights to the land under the Gulf of Mexico for nine nautical miles, not just three like other Gulf Coast states, because it joined the United States as a sovereign country?

Aside from an interesting bit of trivia, that fact means that the Texas Gulf Coast has some of the most promising – and accessible – areas for the geologic storage of carbon dioxide in the world. In fact, research is underway to determine just how much CO2 rock formations under the gulf can hold. It’s one of the reasons Texas is poised to be a leader in the development and deployment of advanced clean coal technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration.

We’re on a Texas kick this week because we are at the second annual Clean Carbon Policy Summit and Project Expo in Austin, Texas, and we will be updating periodically from the event.

ACCCE’s own Ned Leonard, vice president of technology policy, participated in a panel session here on the status of clean coal projects and the costs and incentives associated with their deployment.

Ned’s presentation reminded the crowd of mostly energy industry and political officials that “we have to tell the clean coal story” and not let our opponents win with largely unfounded rhetoric. According to Ned, “People that say there is no such thing as clean coal are ignoring history.”

How right he is. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Clean coal technologies have made today’s coal-based generating fleet 77 percent cleaner in terms of emissions currently regulated under existing Clean Air Act programs per unit of energy produced.

Ned also reminded the audience that, while opponents of coal like to say they have cancelled more than 100 coal plants nationwide, 23 plants at various stages of construction are being built right now. These are plants that are light years ahead of the “dirty” coal plants of the past, and many have emissions profiles of criteria pollutants that are near zero. Further, 11 plants across the country are tackling carbon dioxide emissions with carbon capture tests and demonstration projects that will capture CO2 before it’s emitted into the atmosphere. Sounds an awful lot like clean coal to me!

Stay tuned for more information on exciting new projects and technology developments from Austin

Southern Illinois goes all-out on coal research

CCT Campus logo
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) is one of the few schools that devote an entire research center to coal and clean coal technologies.

Illinois relies on coal for 47 percent of its energy, so it makes perfect sense that academics, scientists and researchers are working to develop and use the state’s abundant coal resources.

Southern Illinois is home to the Coal Research Center, which includes the Illinois Coal Development Park. The university is also involved in more than half of the projects at the Illinois Clean Coal Institute, a state-funded energy research program.

Projects include mercury scrubbers, gasification, combustion systems, controlling coal dust, power plant expansion and reducing plant costs through more efficient technologies. The program also extends to carbon management and energy business practices – an important part of coal research.

In a few years, the center will be well positioned to learn a great deal more about CCT. It is about 150 miles from the U.S.’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage plant, the proposed $1.5 billion FutureGen in Mattoon, Ill.

Find out more about the university’s projects on Southern Illinois’ Energy Technology blog. The site has useful links to energy-related news items and publications as well as blog posts highlighting its latest work.

Policymakers divided on Kerry-Boxer bill

The first day of Senate climate change hearings proved what we already knew – there is still a large divide amongst policymakers regarding the Kerry-Boxer bill.

Yesterday, four Obama administration officials testified before Chairwoman Boxer, and many confirmed what we believe to be true – that the hearings are only the starting point.

“This is the beginning of a process,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters after his testimony Tuesday. “How this legislation ultimately comes together as legislation on the floor will be different than what we have today.”

The Kerry-Boxer bill will see many changes before reaching a vote in committee, never mind the actual Senate floor, but that is no reason to be discouraged. Any bill must take into account the complex nature of this nation’s energy portfolio.

Keeping energy costs affordable, continuing the use of coal as an abundant and affordable domestic fuel resource, and supporting new technologies to curb emissions must be included in any legislation that is signed into law.

Energy is not a partisan debate, it is both a regional and a global one. We must support and respect the legislative process as we search for common ground in creating the right bill.

You can read about the first day of hearings here:

Your electricity comes from a mix of energy sources

As the debate again ratchets up over climate change legislation, there’s an important question worth considering: Do you know where your energy comes from?

Some people do not realize our nation’s electricity is generated from a combination of energy sources to meet our high electricity demand.

Each state has its own energy portfolio that is determined by location and natural resources.

While coal accounts for nearly 50 percent of our electricity, many other energy sources are used in combination to provide the power you rely on.

Here are some of the fuels we use:

Coal: Coal generates electricity at one-third to one-quarter the cost of other fuels. States such as Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky generate the majority of their electricity from coal, which helps keep household utility costs low.

According to an electric power industry journal, 23 of the 25 power plants in the U.S. that have the lowest operating costs (therefore providing power to their consumers at the lowest price) are powered by coal. And coal is here to stay: the U.S. has more coal than the Middle East has oil.

Natural gas: Natural gas is another fossil fuel that is widely used to make electricity. However, it is almost triple the cost of coal.

Petroleum liquids: Generating energy from petroleum liquids is expensive, which is why it’s not widely used for electricity.

Hydroelectric: Energy from hydropower is a low-cost option. However, many states are not located in the right geographic areas for this kind of electricity generation.

Renewables: Solar and wind produce electricity only when there’s sufficient direct sunlight or sustained wind speed.

Find out where electricity in your state comes from on our interactive map.

Senate begins work of finding right balance on climate bill

Today, the Senate began hearings on the Kerry-Boxer climate bill. In accordance with these hearings, Sen. Tom Harkin wrote a letter to Sen. John Kerry, a co-sponsor of the legislation, and Majority Leader Harry Reid addressing his concerns with the two fellow Democrats over the bill as it relates to coal.

“Utilities that are more coal dependant will need to purchase even more allowances than they would have if all allowances were allocated based on emissions, and those higher costs will be passed on to customers,” wrote Harkin, of Iowa.

Harkin’s concerns reflect the complexity of climate legislation. While he raises a valid point, more than likely the Kerry-Boxer bill will have an overarching effect on the proverbial energy infrastructure of this country.

This nation’s history of self-reliance and commitment to improving all aspects of our lives represents the approach we must take toward an energy plan. That is why ACCCE wants a federal climate bill that keeps consumer costs affordable while relying on coal as an abundant domestic fuel resource.

Thus, we are continuing to work with the Congress to help modify the Kerry-Boxer legislation to ensure a long-term commitment to clean coal technologies, as well as laying the groundwork for a reasonable timetable for compliance with regulations.

Harkin’s commitment to the growth and sustainability of coal gives credence to just how important a fuel source coal is and will remain.