Monday, October 8, 2007

Lights Out or Cheap Power? Choose Your Reason

Some food for thought as the week begins. Santee Cooper representatives are fond of implying that, if the Pee Dee coal plants aren't built, then the lights will go out all over South Carolina:

Santee Cooper CEO, Lonnie Carter:

Santee Cooper is charged with the responsibility of making sure the lights come on when the 2 million customers who depend on us flip the switch.... We need additional generation by 2012. Otherwise, we will be 370 megawatts short of projected demand that year, and 835 megawatts short in 2015.

Contrast that statement with this one I found on SCPrimeSite, "The online economic development resource of Santee Cooper," a site that market's Santee Cooper's "low-cost power" to relocating businesses:

South Carolina has power to spare.

That's right. Santee Cooper itself says so. Which is true? Lights out? Or power to spare? One might ask, does Santee Cooper's left arm know what the right is doing? More likely, S-C is talking out of both sides of its mouth. To the people of South Carolina: we need more power! and the quickest, dirtiest way possible! To big business: you want cheap power? We got plenty! Come and get it! (And we'll get you more, on the backs of unsuspecting South Carolinians).

Santee Cooper's Pee Dee plants are not about need for power; they are about an outmoded model of economic development (initiated during the great depression).

Do benefits of this hackneyed economic development strategy outweigh the social and environmental costs of a dirty coal plant?

Or should we pursue cost-effective, clean energy strategies -- and have our cake and eat it too?

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