McCain, Obama Share Common Policy Of Mandatory Caps On Coal Plant Emissions 10

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 03 Nov 2008 21:03:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Both presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) have called for a mandatory cap on carbon emissions in the United States. Coal-fired power plants, which produce about 49 percent of U.S. electricity, account for 83 percent of power-sector emissions. Because of the global warming footprint, the cheapness of coal-fired electricity is illusory. Under a cap-and-trade system, the cost of those emissions – now a market externality – would have a dollar cost. In a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama used blunt language to describe how a cap and trade system would change the future of the power sector:
That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.
Obama’s statements carry the same sentiment as his opponent. At a September 15 townhall meeting in Orlando, FL, McCain warned against building new coal plants:
We’re going to build new plants that generate energy, my friends, we’re going to build them. We’ve got to. There’s an increased demand for it. And it seems to me, it’s going to be coal, which I believe will increase greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, or it’s going to be nuclear, or it’s going to be clean coal technology.
In the San Francisco Chronicle interview, Obama similarly stated that the future of power involves coal:
But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.
Under either candidate’s cap and trade program, constructing new coal plants that do not employ “clean coal technology” – that is, carbon capture and sequestration technology – would raise costs “dramatically.” Independent analysts have found that new coal plants would “create significant financial risks for shareholders and ratepayers” because of the likely cost of their greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, energy providers will have a financial incentive to pursue alternative energy and energy efficiency. McCain explained the market signal of a cap and trade program in his May 12 speech on climate change:
And the same approach that brought a decline in sulfur dioxide emissions can have an equally dramatic and permanent effect on carbon emissions. Instantly, automakers, coal companies, power plants, and every other enterprise in America would have an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, because when they go under those limits they can sell the balance of permitted emissions for cash. As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. . . A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. Those who want clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels will have their opportunity through a new market that rewards those and other innovations in clean energy.

McCain emphasized who the winners under a carbon cap-and-trade system are: “clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels.” The market “incentive,” “reward,” or “signal” is a euphemism that the winners will make money because the losers will pay more. And the losers, above all, are traditional coal plants—no matter who is elected president.

ACCCE to Spend $2 Million at Democratic National Convention 5

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 22 Aug 2008 17:41:00 GMT

The Politico’s Jeanne Cummings reports that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is spending $2 million at the Democratic National Convention on billboards and street teams to promote the coal industry:
The Democrats are mighty proud of the “greening” of their convention. Recycling will be celebrated, as will bicycling and a whole host of other environmentally sound practices.

Amid the glow from all that global warming warfare enters the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Yep, those fellows have got guts.

The coal coalition, a nemesis to many environmentalists, plans to spend $2 million on advertising in and around the Denver convention venues, promoting the virtues of clean coal.

It will also be doing “experiential advertising,” meaning the group will put people on the streets to actually talk to conventioneers about the role coal could play in future energy policy.

The street teams will also be handing out city maps with blurbs inserted about the importance of the coal-based electricity industry and ongoing research into capturing and storing carbon emissions from those plants.

“We started this conversation with policymakers and the American public in 2000,” said Joe Lucas, the coalition’s vice president of communications. “We’ve significantly turned up the volume on that conversation in the last year.”

And the coalition figured, what better place to go to continue that conversation than at the conventions?

In billboards and other ads, the coalition will argue that the coal-based electricity industry can help keep jobs at home, reduce costs for consumers and — with more research — find its own tidy spot in an environmentally cleaner energy future.

“Clean coal means the next president won’t have to choose between the economy and the environment,” concluded Lucas, adding that both Barack Obama and John McCain already see coal in the nation’s future energy industry.

This will be the coalition’s first appearance at the two political conventions. But Denver is clearly the group’s best shot at a breakthrough moment.

Oil and Coal Industries Spending Two Million Dollars a Day to Shape Political Debate 30

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 21 Aug 2008 11:44:00 GMT

A report from the Public Campaign Action Fund on 2008 spending by oil and coal industries finds that they are on track to spend about one billion dollars this year on lobbying, political contributions, and advertising. The full report amasses the following expenditures:

Amounts in millionsCoal/Electric Utilities Oil/Gas Total
Political Contributions $16.5 $20.9 $37.4
Lobbying Expenditures 73.7 55.3 129.0
Paid Media 7.4 201.2 208.6
Other Political Spending 40.0 12.2 52.2
Total $137.6 $289.6 $427.2

Lobbying expenditures and political contributions come from Center for Responsive Politics data compiled from public disclosures. Paid media figures are from TNS Media Intelligence, the industry standard for tracking media spending.

The “other political spending” comes from the coal industry group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices / American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ABEC/ACCCE) and from Newt Gingrich’s 527 corporation, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF).

League of Women Voters Calls for Coal Moratorium 9

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 12 Aug 2008 17:50:00 GMT

The League of Women Voters is calling for a moratorium on all new coal plants. In the words of national League President Mary G. Wilson, “Global warming is happening now.” She argues that Congress is failing its mission:
If we wait for federal action from our congressional leaders, it will be too late. We must take immediate and aggressive action to halt climate change. Burning more coal is too big a risk for too many people. Coal is the single largest source of global warming pollution in the U.S., with power plants responsible for 33 percent of CO2 emissions. Because of this pollution, we already face increasingly severe heat waves and droughts, intensifying hurricanes and floods, disappearing glaciers and more wildfires. If left unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic to us and our planet.

Citing Threat Of Global Warming, Georgia Judge Blocks Coal Plant 1

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 01 Jul 2008 12:59:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Coal plantIn a landmark victory in the battle to regulate global warming pollution, a Georgia judge ruled that a proposed coal-fired plant could not be built unless its carbon dioxide emissions are limited, effectively killing the project. The ruling is the first to apply the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts vs. EPA decision to the question of greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. According to GreenLaw, the Georgia environmental organization who filed suit with the Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club in June 2007, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Moore’s decision “goes a long way toward protecting the right of Georgians to breathe clean air.”

The decision overturns an administrative court’s ruling that affirmed the state Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) decision to issue an air pollution permit for Dynegy’s Longleaf plant. In practical terms, Dynegy cannot begin construction of the plant unless it can obtain a valid permit from EPD that complies with the Court’s ruling. The Judge held that EPD must limit the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the plant, a decision that will have far-reaching implications nationwide; this is the first time since the April 2, 2007, Supreme Court decision requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate CO2 that a court has applied that standard to CO2 from an industrial source rather than from motor vehicles.

The $2 billion, 1200 megawatt plant – the first proposed in Georgia in over 20 years – was to be built by Dynegy Inc., the Houston-based energy company with several other proposed coal-fired power plants across the country. Dynegy and other fossil fuel polluters have been scrambling to get new plants started in anticipation of future limits on greenhouse gases, before investors and ratepayers recognize the risk.

Last October, the Kansas Department of Health denied air quality permits to a proposed coal plant expansion because of the danger greenhouse gas emissions pose to the climate. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) vetoed repeated attempts by the legislature to override the decision.

In contrast, officials recently appointed by Gov. Timothy Kaine (D-VA) to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board unanimously granted air quality permits to Dominion Resources for a $1.8 billion coal-fired plant last week.

The court decision unequivocally rules that carbon dioxide must be regulated:
Faced with the ruling in Massachusetts that CO2 is an “air pollutant” under the Act, Respondents are forced to argue that CO2 is still not a “pollutant subject to regulation under the Act.” Respondents’ position is untenable. Putting aside the argument that any substance that falls within the statutory definition of “air pollutant” may be “subject to” regulation under the Act, there is no question that CO2 is “subject to regulation under the Act.”

Virginia Approves Major New Coal Plant and Electricity Rate Hikes 13

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 27 Jun 2008 20:11:00 GMT

The Guardian reports:
The No 2 utility owner in America yesterday won the right to build a $1.8bn power plant in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. The move almost certainly will increase Virginia’s use of the mining practice known as mountaintop removal, in which peaks are sheared off to reach the coal inside.

After an emotional two-day hearing that drew hundreds of witnesses, the Virginia state air pollution control board cleared Dominion Power to break ground on a 585-megawatt plant deep in the heart of coal country.

The vote was unanimous, with even board members who favor a carbon tax calling for more coal to burn.


Dominion Virginia Power will raise its electricity rates starting Tuesday by 18 percent, the largest one-time rate increase in three decades, to pay for soaring fuel costs. The three-member Virginia State Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulator, approved the increase in a ruling issued Friday.

It’s Getting Hot in Here has commentary:

Today was the final day of the Air Board Hearing concerning the Wise County coal plant. The room was full of hope after yesterday’s comment period, and the board acknowledged the powerful citizen outcry over the plant’s health and environmental impacts. But ultimately, they approved the plant. While they significantly strengthened the emissions regulations, they did nothing to address mountain top removal mining or CO2 emissions.

They went as far as they could, without doing more harm than good. Fearing litigation from Dominion, they made no strong statement about regulating CO2—without the regulatory framework from the EPA, the Board felt it wasn’t able to take a strong stand. “My hope is,” stated one Air Board member, “that strong, forceful legislation will come at a federal level and that Governor Kaine will take state-specific actions to address CO2.”

It was because of the “loud public clamor” that the Air Board decided to take up this permit and make it as strong as it is now. Dominion will have to make a considerable effort to meet these demands, including cleaning up their mercury emissions. Dominion walked in the door expecting that their permit would get rubber-stamped approved with a 72 lb mercury emissions regulation. The Air Board demanded that they reduce that to 4.45 lbs per year. That’s a 120% reduction, made possible only by the strong grassroots outcry about this plant.

It was clear to me and other members of our coalition that this was a courageous move by the Air Board. They are going to take hits from both sides of the debate, neither of which got what they wanted. As Kathy Selvage said, “They gave no consideration for the mountains that will be the fuel for this plant.” MTR wasn’t mentioned by the Air Board at all. Also, the “out clause,” which allows Dominion to get a new permit if they cannot achieve the mercury standards, was also left in.

“There you go. We didn’t do it.,” said one Air Board member in his final comments. They didn’t take a strong stand on MTR, on CO2, or on the plant. But they did create a strong regulatory hurdle for Dominion, and they made an attempt to protect our air based on the Clean Air Act. The vote was unanimous.

Ten Democratic Senators Voice Industry-Based Concerns With Climate Legislation

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 12 Jun 2008 18:01:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Ten Senators letterTen Senators letter
The ten Democratic signatories: Debbie Stabenow & Carl Levin (MI), Mark Pryor & Blanche Lincoln (AR), Evan Bayh (IN), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Jim Webb (VA), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Ben Nelson (NE). Download the letter.
Ten Democratic senators echoed polluters in a letter sent to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) about her filibustered climate change legislation last Friday. The senators, nine of whom supported cloture to end debate and vote on amendments, wrote, “We commend your leadership in attempting to address one of the most significant threats to this and future generations; however, we cannot support final passage of the Boxer Substitute in its final form.” Their letter continues:
To that point we have laid out the following principles and concerns that must be considered and fully addressed in any final legislation.

The senators’ letter uses practically the same talking points and specific policy demands as the industry polluters who fought to kill the legislation, in particular the industry lobbying groups American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). A review of the letter reveals the Boxer substitute (S. Amdt. 4825 to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, S. 3036) already made concessions to these parochial and fossil-industry demands:

Point #1: “Contain Costs and Prevent Harm to the U.S. Economy.”

Fossil Ten Senators“While placing a cost on carbon is important, we believe that there must be a balance and a short-term cushion when new technologies may not be available as hoped for or are more expensive than assumed.”
ACCCE“Protect American consumers and the U.S. economy through effective cost-containment measures.”
NAM“Include a safety valve or other equally effective and responsive cost-containment mechanism . . . Support economic growth and do no harm to U.S. economy.”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner already included a significant “transition assistance” in the form of free permits to polluters [Secs. 541 – 572], borrowing (15 percent of obligation) [Sec. 511] and offset provisions (30 percent of obligation) [Title III], and a “cost containment” auction that would contain the price of seven percent of all allowances sold to polluters [Sec. 522]. A “carbon market efficiency board” is given the authority to loosen restrictions on borrowing and offset use—but not to tighten them [Sec. 521]. What’s left is even greater permit giveaways or “safety valves” that would allow polluters to bust the cap.

Point #2: “Invest Aggressively in New Technologies and Deployment of Existing Technologies.”

Senators“It is critical that we design effective mechanisms to augment and accelerate government-sponsored technology R&D programs and incentives that will motivate rapid deployment of those technologies without picking winners and losers. We also want to include proposals to provide funding for carbon capture and storage and other critical low carbon technologies in advance of resources being available through the auction of emission allowances.”
ACCCE“Guarantee, through public-private sector partnerships, aggressive, near- and long-term investments in new, advanced technologies that 1) avoid or reduce CO2 emissions, 2) capture, transport, and safely store CO2, and 3) use CO2 in beneficial ways, whenever practical.”
NAM“Promote advanced, energy efficient and zero-and-low-GHG emission and sequestration technologies as part of a long-term strategy.”

Truth: The Fossil Ten claim they don’t want to pick “winners and losers” but then call for special support for “carbon capture and storage”—an important but experimental coal industry technology that already received special consideration under the Boxer substitute. In fact, the Boxer substitute called for a special “Kick-Start for Carbon Capture and Sequestration” fund that would go into effect within 120 days, years before emissions reductions would have to take place [Sec. 1005]. Evidently that’s not enough.

Point #3: “Treat States Equitably.”

Senators“The allocation structure of a cap-and-trade bill must be designed to balance these burdens across states and regions and be sufficiently transparent to be understood.”
ACCCE“For example, if a cap-and-trade program were to be implemented, it would be essential to have fair and equitable allocation of emission allowances.”
NAM“Be equitable and economy-wide in scope”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner reserved three to four percent of allowances for states with high manufacturing and coal mining, in an admittedly complex formula [Sec. 602]. Another one percent of allowances would go to Alaska [Sec. 624], and four to seven percent of allowances to the other 49 states, divied up for coastal states, Indian tribes [Sec. 625], and wildlife restoration [Sec. 631], for adaptation efforts in coordination with the Secretary of the Interior. In addition, significant funding is allocated to American automobile manufacturers [Title XI] and the coal industry [Title X]. Of course, “equitable” and “designed to balance” is in the eye of the beholder.

Point #4: “Protect America’s Working Families.”

Senators“For instance, one way to provide some relief would be to provide additional allowances to utilities whose electricity prices are regulated, which would help to keep electricity prices low.”
American Electric Power Service Corporation“AEP feels strongly that the electric sector should receive emission allowances commensurate with its pro rata share of the emission caps in the legislation, whether emissions are regulated upstream or downstream.”

Commentary: Even though experts agree allowances should be auctioned, Lieberman-Warner already provided such utilities with free allowances – 18 percent of all initial permits given away for free to fossil-fueled electricity generators [Sec. 551]. Furthermore, the bill already had significant assistance provisions for American families: a tax rebate fund that grows from 3.5 percent of permits to 15 percent in 20 years [Sec. 582], 13 percent of allowances reserved for local distribution companies to provide support to low- and middle-income consumers [Sec. 601], and the aforementioned assistance to states.

Point #5: “Protect U.S. Manufacturing Jobs and Strengthen International Competitiveness.”

Senators“The final bill must include enhanced safeguards to ensure a truly equitable and effective global effort that minimizes harm to the U.S. economy and protects American jobs. Furthermore, we must adequately help manufacturers transition to a low carbon economy to maintain domestic jobs and production.”
NAM “Give consideration to industries exposed to foreign competition if a U.S. climate change policy creates competitive disadvantages.”

Commentary: As the senators’ letter recognized, Lieberman-Warner already has a “mechanism to protect U.S. manufacturers from international competitors that do not face the same carbon constraints [Sec. 1306].” And Lieberman-Warner already reserved 11 percent of allowances for the first ten years of the program to be given away for free to carbon-intensive manufacturers [Sec. 541].

Point #6: “Fully Recognize Agriculture and Forestry’s Role.”

Senators“Strong, aggressive and verifiable offset policies can fully utilize the capabilities of our farmers and forests.”
ACCCE“Allow broad use of verifiable actions to offset manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Use of verifiable offsets (from domestic or international action), should be unlimited because they help achieve cost-effective reductions in manmade greenhouse gas emissions. . . Programs such as terrestrial carbon sequestration, conservation, and energy efficiency are important domestic and international tools to reduce the carbon footprint of greenhouse gas emitters.”
Edison Electric Institute (EEI)“Provide for the robust use of a broad range of domestic and international GHG offsets.”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner already included “strong, aggressive and verifiable” offset policies – 15 percent each for domestic and international projects. Behind the rhetoric of “farmers and forests” lies the reality that the most easily verifiable offsets come from methane emissions from coal mining and industrial agriculture waste ponds – practices that should be dealt with for other safety and health reasons. As the restrictions on offset use are loosened, the regulatory infrastructure needed to verify offsets increases. The pollution industry would like to see offset usage be unlimited, which would require a complex new regulatory bureaucracy that the polluters would oppose tooth and nail.

Point #7: “Clarify Federal/State Authority.”

Senators “Congress should adopt a mandatory federal cap-and-trade program that will be the single regulatory regime for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.”
ACCCE“Avoid a patchwork of conflicting standards or duplicative programs through the adoption of a uniform federal program.”
NAM“Preempt all state climate change laws”
EEI “Provide certainty and a consistent national policy”

Commentary: Lieberman-Warner would distribute four percent of allowances (growing to ten percent by 2032) to states who “show leadership” on reducing emissions—but only those that do not have a conflicting cap-and-trade program. The senators are joining the Bush administration in the attempt to block and preempt state-level regulation of greenhouse gases.

Point #8: “Provide Accountability for Consumer Dollars.”

Senators“The cap and trade program developed in the Lieberman-Warner bill has the potential to raise over $7 trillion. Much of these funds will be indirectly paid for by consumers through increased energy prices. The federal government has a fundamental obligation to ensure these funds are being spent in a responsible and wise manner. The development of any cap and trade program must recognize the sensitivity of this obligation and eliminate all possibility of waste, fraud or abuse.”
American Petroleum Institute “Be transparent and understandable to all consumers and stakeholders.”

Commentary: Considering that these senators are also calling for federal preemption of stronger state regulations, greater subsidies for the coal industry, electric utilities, and manufacturers, and even greater “cost-containment” provisions than those already in Lieberman-Warner, it’s hard to imagine what they consider to be “responsible and wise” spending or the elimination of “waste, fraud or abuse.”

Sen. Boxer’s version of Lieberman-Warner attempted to satisfy these kinds of demands as well as progressive principles espoused by other senators. Download the This letter.

The Department of Energy's FutureGen Program 13

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 15 Apr 2008 14:00:00 GMT

On January 31, 2008, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a significant departure from its clean coal initiative, FutureGen. Originally conceived in 2003, FutureGen was touted as a pollution-free power plant of the future intended to showcase cutting-edge technologies to address climate change and advance the President’s hydrogen initiative.

Panel I
  • C. H. “Bud” Albright, Under Secretary of Energy, Department of Energy
Panel II
  • Jeffrey N. Phillips, Program Manager, Advanced Coal Generation EPRI
  • Ben Yamagata, Executive Director, Coal Utilization Research Council
  • Paul W. Thompson, Senior Vice President, Energy Services, E.ON U.S. LLC

Coal Gasification Technologies and the Need for Large Scale Projects

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Apr 2008 18:30:00 GMT

Coal gasification can provide an efficient, clean, and versatile way to generate electricity and other energy products from coal as an alternative to traditional generation methods. The process allows for the removal of pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen compounds that contribute to smog and acid rain, and the capability to capture carbon dioxide without releasing it into the atmosphere. The Subcommittee will examine coal gasification technologies, including the challenges and advantages over traditional technologies, and the need for large scale integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) demonstration projects that feature carbon capture and sequestration.

  • John Marburger III, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
  • James Childress, Executive Director, Gasification Technologies Council
  • Joseph P. Strakey Jr., Chief Technology Officer, U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory
  • Michael J. Mudd, Chief Executive Officer, FutureGen Alliance, Inc.
  • David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Mr. John Novak, Executive Director, Federal and Industry Activities, Environment and Generation, The Electric Power Research Institute

Celebrate Appalachia 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 08 Apr 2008 22:00:00 GMT

Please join mountain lovers from across the country to:

Celebrate Appalachia

Join citizens in the fight to protect their communities from mountaintop removal mining.

Reception Hosted By:

The Alliance For Appalachia

Appalachian Citizens Law Center * Appalachian Voices * Appalshop * Coal River Mountain Watch * Heartwood * Kentuckians For The Commonwealth * MACED * Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition * Save Our Cumberland Mountains * Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program * Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards * Southwings * West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

With special thanks to:

Alaska Wilderness League, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Christians for the Mountains, EarthJustice, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resource Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, and the national Sierra Club.

RSVP to J.W. Randolph at (202) 669-3670 or

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