WonkLine: April 13, 2009

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 13 Apr 2009 13:14:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

“Wind turbines accounted for 42 percent of all new generating capacity in the U.S.,” growing into “a key part of the energy infrastructure in Minnesota and Iowa,” which can now generate more wind power than California.

On Tuesday, Maine lawmakers “will take up one of the most far-reaching anti-global-warming bills to go before any state Legislature in the country” “to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cut carbon dioxide emissions” but “Maine’s business community wants the Legislature to kill the proposal.”

U.S. Department of Energy officials and top commercial real estate executives kicked off the Commercial Real Estate Energy Alliance, a public-private partnership aiming to produce widespread net-zero-energy commercial buildings by the year 2025.

WonkLine: April 4, 2009 1

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 07 Apr 2009 13:53:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, the coal-fired power plants in the United States,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday. “It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here and now.”

In a letter to Science not available to the public, prominent climate scientists argue “it is imperative we improve the exchange of information between scientists and public stakeholders.”

As Antarctic ice shelves crumble at the end of the southern summer, the northern summer begins with the Arctic “on thinner ice than ever before,” with 90 percent of sea ice less than three years old.

Report Vindicates Sebelius: Coal’s Cost Puts Kansans 'At Significant Risk'

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 26 Mar 2008 23:04:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

In October of last year, the administration of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) denied permits for two new coal-fired plants in her state because the greenhouse gases such coal plants would emit constitute a threat to the environment and public health. Last Friday, she vetoed a legislative attempt to allow the plants to be built. Opponents of the veto claimed “the decision is costing the state jobs and economic investment” and warned of “higher electric bills for Western Kansas,” where the plants were proposed.

But a landmark report released yesterday by an esteemed financial research firm finds that, in fact, Sebelius has been acting in her state’s best economic interests.

Innovest Strategic Value Advisors finds that Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, the company whose proposal was denied, failed to account for the effects of the likely regulation of carbon dioxide on the cost of coal-fired electricity when it sought to build two 700 MW coal plants in Holcomb, Kansas:

Innovest examined the economics of the transaction and determined that under the most plausible regulatory scenarios the decision to build new coal generating capacity will put Sunflower Electric’s ratepayers – who in this particular case are the actual owners – at significant risk. The report concludes that Sunflower’s management has not adequately addressed the competitive and financial risks associated with climate change in deciding to pursue the expansion of its Holcomb Station power plant.

Sunflower was remiss in not considering that federal legislation that places a price on carbon emissions is extremely likely, considering the bipartisan support and strong international pressure for such action.

The report compares the economics of coal plants versus natural gas plants, which have a considerably smaller carbon footprint, and concludes:
In general, this analysis demonstrate that gas is the more financially sound choice for the construction of baseload generating capacity in all scenarios except 100% free allocation [to power companies] of carbon allowances.

It is thus unsurprising that the coal lobby attacked the natural gas industry when the decision was made.

The report also notes that western Kansas has “among the nation’s most abundant wind resources” and that the cost of wind power has plummeted 80% in the last 20 years.

Kansas Governor Vetoes Attempt to Override Denial of Coal Plants

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 21 Mar 2008 23:48:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

coal-smokestacks.jpgLast October, the Kansas Department of Health denied air quality permits to a proposed coal plant expansion near Holcomb, KS, because of the danger greenhouse gas emissions pose to the climate.

Today, Sebelius issued a long-expected veto of the legislature’s plan to not only approve the plant but also strip the Department of Health of its regulatory capacity. From her veto statement:

This decision not only preserves Kansans’ health and upholds our moral obligation to be good stewards of this beautiful land, but will also enhance our prospects for strong and sustainable economic growth throughout our state. Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives.

Industry opposition to the Sebelius administration has been intense. Following the air permit denial, Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world, funded newspaper ads attacking the natural gas industry. Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, the rate-payer-owned company making the bid for the new plants – offered a quid pro quo to Kansas State University, promising millions of dollars to fund energy research if the coal plants were approved.