Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Green Lipstick on a Sooty-black Pig?

Some of you out there may have recently caught wind of Santee Cooper's new "committment" to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

The "initiative" calls for 40% of S-C's power to come from "non-greenhouse gas emitting resources, biomass fuels, energy efficiency and conservation by 2020."

Great right?

Well, not so fast.

Santee Cooper is insisting on building its 2 coal plants along the Pee Dee -- in addition to two identical plants in Berkeley County, for a total of 4 coal plants within 10 years. Together they'll emit approximately 18 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, every year, for 50 years (total = 870 million tons). According to data S-C submitted to the Department of Energy, they emitted nearly 21 million tons of CO2 in 2005. So these four plants will increase S-C CO2 emissions by at least 84%. How will this square with their goal to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020?

Not well.

So, S-C doesn't appear very earnest to reduce its GHG emissions as long as it is on a coal plant binge.

But even so, you might ask, isn't 40% from renewables and efficiency a good thing?

It would be if the numbers bore that out.

According to the presentation at S-C's latest board meeting at which this "green" plan was announced, 10% of the 40% will come from existing nuclear power, less than 1% of the 40% will come from existing renewables (mostly landfill gas), 21% of the 40% from new nuclear power plants, and no more than 9% of the 40% from biomass and efficiency.

This isn't so bad if your a fan of nuclear power, though many utility industry insiders are grumbling that Santee Cooper's nuclear goals are unreachable and irresponsible. Still nuclear power is certainly GHG emission-free. Leaving the economics and waste issues of nuclear aside, if you feel that efficiency and renewables should be exploited to their limit before focusing too heavily on nuclear fuel, then you might wish for more.

For instance, the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina recently released a report showing that they could produce the equivalent of 20% of their power from efficiency by 2017. So why stop at something less than 9% from efficiency?

So even on the truly clean energy side of things (efficiency and renewables) Santee Cooper isn't really putting its money where its mouth is.

For those interested in reading more on this issue, opposing opinion pieces ran this past Sunday in the Myrtle Beach Sun News here and here.

Finally, from MSNBC: "Chinese scientists have successfully bred partially green fluorescent pigs" (click on photo below, if you dare)

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