592Saudi Is King
- Sep 20, 2010Saudi Oil is Clean?
American coal is not??
America has plenty of good, clean natural gas and knows very well how to clean up the fuel/air mix of coal. Utilities make more profit from carbon credits than from generating electricity. Perhaps that is the reason utilities continue to close power plants and purchase power from a higher cost neighbor.
Energy Secretary Chu's Vision of Coal
Ken Silverstein | Sep 18, 2010
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is really an academic. But he's is learning the art of politics while on the job. The Nobel-prize winning scientist, who had once called coal his "worst nightmare," spoke to a largely pro-coal audience in West Virginia.
Chu, who was tapped by President Obama to serve, has never shied away from his belief that coal is largely responsible for creating climate change. His views have evolved, however, to the point where he realizes that the nation - indeed the world - is not going to just replace the preponderance of its generation supplies overnight.
That's why he has subscribed to the White House's position that the U.S. will become a leader in the development of clean coal technologies and specifically carbon capture and sequestration. With financial assistance from the federal stimulus act, the secretary said that as many as 10 projects could be commercialized within 8-10 years and that electric prices would only increase 10-20 percent because of it.
He went on tell the audience in Charleston, WV that the level of heat-trapping emissions has increased by 40 percent since the start of the industrial revolution. However, the White House has allocated $3.4 billion to clean coal technologies that will help keep coal relevant. Without that, it would lose ground to higher-priced natural gas.
Climate change is "man-made" and "human fingerprints are all over it," intoned Chu. But he then repeated the administration's official position, saying that "these new technologies will not only help fight climate change, they will create jobs now and help position the United States to lead the world in clean coal technologies, which will only increase in demand in the years ahead."
The energy secretary was joined on stage by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, who has proposed legislation to block for two years efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to write regulations that would curb carbon dioxide emissions - a right bestowed on it by the U.S. Supreme Court a couple years ago. But while Rockefeller said that such rules would likely be delayed, they could not be stopped.
Rockefeller, who said he was in the business of preserving jobs for coal miners, referred to EPA regulations that are set to take effect early next year as "harmful regulations." At the same time, he said he was not one of those who believed that global warming was a myth and then went on to urge those who espouse such thinking to quit "burying their heads in the sand."
"I agree with the science of climate change," Rockefeller told the audience. "Greenhouse gas emissions are not healthy for the earth. It will not go away if we ignore the issue. There will be some additional regulations within a couple years."
With the EPA's newfound authority, it holds the bargaining power. And it is under pressure from green groups and some Democratic lawmakers to exercise its rights and to enact tougher restrictions on carbon emissions. Others, though, think it is simply trying to use its authority as a lever to force Congress to write its own rules.
As it stands now, power plants and other factories that emit 25,000 tons or more of carbon dioxide a year will operate under the new rules. If such facilities are modernized, or if new ones are built, they would then be required to install "best available technologies." EPA estimates that 10,000 plants would be affected -- units that produce about 85 percent of all emissions.
An earlier but similar rulemaking also requires the formation of a registry to force the same industrial concerns to not just tabulate their heat-trapping emissions but to also consider ways to reduce them. In effect, what gets measured gets managed. That, in turn, would make it more feasible to enact national policy that would require cuts in those releases and could facilitate the implementation of a cap-and-trade system.
While the U.S. Senate seems unable to muster the super-majority needed to pass a climate change bill, it does seem poised to block EPA's latest rulemaking. The U.S. House, by comparison, has passed an energy bill that would enact a cap-and-trade program that sets emission limits for carbon. Industries that exceed those requirements could then acquire credits and either bank them or sell them to those that are unable to meet those goals.
Supporters of cap-and-trade that include the Obama administration say it will work. The best example of just how effective the strategy can be is the program used to reduce sulfur dioxide, or acid rain. Since the measure was enacted as part of the Clean Air Act of 1990, such pollutants have fallen by 50 percent from 1980 levels while the benefits of the program are four-to-five times greater than the costs.
But Secretary Chu focused his talk on carbon capture and sequestration. He pointed to the 10-megawatt trial by American Electric Power at its Mountaineer plant in WV - a project that got $334 million in federal funds. If it is successful at burying the carbon, the utility will then try a 200-megawatt project in Oklahoma. And if that works, proponents say that the technology that uses chilled ammonia could be commercialized by 2015.
Making carbon capture and sequestration commercially viable and widely deployable may be crucial to the future of coal, says Charles McElwee, a West Virginia-based attorney, and Gary Spitznogle of AEP. West Virginia, they say, is dependent on such progress; it has the fourth largest recoverable coal reserves in the country and it generates 97 percent of its electricity from coal.
With such forces coming at him, Secretary Chu has pulled back from his earlier views on coal. Now, the secretary is part of an administration that is committed to reducing carbon emissions while also commercializing the technologies to enable such progress.