Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Coal vs. Gecko

A a week or so ago I brought Americans for Balanced Energy Choices to your attention. They're a group that plans to market coal to Americans though the media.

Now they've got a website up and running as well as a commercial that has been airing on CNN. You tell me: which is more appealing, the big hunk of black coal, or the Gecko? Is anyone convinced that coal is anything other than what this ad implies: a dirty and archaic way of generating electricity?

By the way, while you're over at the Americans for a Balanced Energy Choices website, be sure to check out the "Americans" that are its supporters. Looks like a long list of utilities, mining operations, and the railroads that link them.


Anonymous said...

Come on Ramsburgh, calling "utilities mining operations, and railroads" unamerican? Geesh. Wonder how those couple million folks who work hard every day to make sure you can charge your cell phone feel about that? I know I would be insulted.

John Mellor said...

1) My name isn't "Ramsburgh" (?!)
2) I didn't call the nation's utilities, mining operations, and railroads unamerican (you did), I just question whether they represent all Americans. Do they represent you?
3) Ever consider the tens of millions of Americans whose health is impacted every day by the coal industry? Or does that offend those folks in the coal industry whose feelings you are so concerned about?


Anonymous said...

Well, who are you then? Why is your website identity hidden by a proxy? If you are so proud of your views, then let us know who is paying for all of this!

david said...

Well, you’re right that people have been using coal to generate electricity for a long time. But it’s not true that it is “dirty and archaic” — the industry is actually quite a bit cleaner than ever before. Actually, the point of the ad is to remind people, or tell people who still harbor old opinions on the subject, that coal plants are 70% cleaner than they used to be 30 years ago.

Rusty said...

David, thanks for the comment. However, the fact that coal is X% cleaner than it was before utilities had to start reducing their emissions is only meaningful if TODAY's emissions are low enough to protect human health, environmental quality, and the economy of South Carolina.

Evidence suggests that, when it comes to things like mercury and particulate matter (to name couple of pollutants that coal is uniquely good at generating), supercritical coal combustion does not meet this standard.

I'd like to see the ad promote technologies like IGCC w/ carbon sequestration, but that's not its point: its point is that coal is a safe fuel for Americans. Unfortunately, that claim cannot be substantiated.

david said...

The ads do mention carbon sequestration. Here is the text from the ad that appeared in the New York Times:

:We're also investing in the development and deployment of technologies to capture and store CO2 — a greenhouse gas."

Anonymous said...

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
'Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

Anonymous said...

Rusty, Rusty, Rusty. Another smeared up, one-sided argument that I find quite entertaining on this site.

First, the Federal Gov. sets health based standards for all sources. A lot of taxpayer dollars go into this and some very smart folks work on this every day. New, clean coal plants meet and exceed these standards. I'm going with EPA on this one.

I'm sure you will call up some half scientific study from the Sierra Club or some other enviro group that will say something different. What these type of studies really say is "even though EPA, CASAC, DOE and many fine universities around the country study health impacts and set proper standards complete with pretty big safety factors, believe us, because we know what is good for you. Don't do any research for yourself, trust us and our agenda."

What I find particularly troubling is your statement:

"...utilities had to start reducing their emissions is only meaningful if TODAY's emissions are low enough to protect human health, environmental quality, and the economy of South Carolina."

What everyone should pay attention here is the ECONOMY part. What your group promotes is wind, solar and conservation, right? I can tell you right now, wind and solar will at least triple power bills, and that is a low estimate. Also please note that these sources don't provide power all the time (about 20% of the time). Which 5 hrs of the day do you want your power Rusty? Oh, but wait, you can't pick. Mother Nature decides.

Conservation programs are not free. They cost as well (usually in the form of paying people to participate). What if a utility plans on all this conservation and people don't participate? Since they can't build baseload energy plants (thanks to groups like yours) what will happen? I'll tell you. No power for homes or industry. Industry leaves and takes the jobs overseas.

So, how is SC's ECOMONY "protected" by deleting coal plants?

I guess you will say we need to just bring in windmill factories right? Last time I checked, these devices needed lots of STEEL. How are we going to get that? Oh, from Nucor CHINA, since Nucor left the US. Solar panels are next. Did you know it takes 10 years for an average sized solar panel to produce the electricity it took to make it?

If you just don't like coal, just say so. Don't make stuff up just to rant.

Rusty said...

First off, it's great discussion that we are having -- too bad it isn't happening publicly all over SC. The people of SC deserve it.

To address some of "Mr. Anonymous'" comments: In my response to David's perspective on how much "cleaner" coal is today than yesterday, I asserted that coal, despite 30 years of federally mandated clean up, is not yet clean (and probably never will be) and that it remains a serious health threat. Anonymous says we have standards set by EPA & DHEC. We do. Anonymous doesn't say whether these standards are adequate to protect human health when it comes to coal. There is plenty of evidence from the US health sector suggesting that these standards are not adequate.

We can argue whether or not DHEC, for example, is being as stringent as it can be w/ respect to the draft permit it has issued for this plant.

Any cost benefit analysis you perform w/ respect to health regs or control technologies comes out overwhelmingly in favor of health/environmental protection; let's not be so disingenuous as to suggest that the entire SC economy hangs on whether or not S-C gets to build two more coal units.

Let's also not pretend that coal plants don't come with huge economic costs to society. Just because Anonymous himself doesn't have to pay them, doesn't mean that someone else isn't.

You're free to debate whether or not efficiency and renewables will create more jobs and energize the economy more than a coal plant; you know where I stand on that and I can supply studies to back up my position if folks are interested.

Finally a few points about efficiency and renewables. Nearly ALL efficiency programs in place in this country are significantly CHEAPER than coal plants. The cost of coal plants increases everyday and we can expect their cost to increase dramatically when (as most reasonable folks expect) the Federal government enacts legislation to regulate CO2 emissions. So an interesting question, one that S-C has not attempted to answer, is: how much their proposed coal plants will increase the cost of electricity?

Renewables are part of the answer, but not the largest part. No argument here that renewables like solar are expensive today. Other renewables are cost-competitive w/ fossil fuels and in the coming decades renewables can be expected to contribute more and more electricity at increasingly competitive prices. As I mentioned, impending CO2 regulation will go a long way towards balancing the energy supply playing field w/ respect to renewables.

The 655 MW identified in SC by the Cooperatives could be had w/in 10 years at a cost comparable to a new coal unit. Are you saying we shouldn't build that capacity?