Friday, January 18, 2008

Coal and electric firms push coal-burning power plants; opposition leads to delays of more than 50

The boom in coal-fired power plants has been tempered by "concerns about climate change, construction costs and transportation problems," reports the Los Angeles Times, and the coal and electric industries are fighting back with campaigns that pay special attention to states with early presidential primaries and caucuses, reports The Washington Post.

A recent post here mentioned Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, a lobby group supported by the coal, electric and allied industries. Steven Mufson of the Post reports that the group spent $17 million last year, has a budget of $35 million this year, and has spent $1.3 million on billboard, newspaper, television and radio ads in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina — early-voting states where coal-fired power plants are facing opposition.

"One of its television ads shows a power cord being plugged into a lump of coal, which it calls 'an American resource that will help us with vital energy security' and 'the fuel that powers our way of life,'" Mufson writes. "The ads note that half of U.S. electricity comes from coal-fired plants." Another ad says, "Throughout history, new ideas have often been met with skepticism" while showing images of the Wright brothers and other inventors before talking about "clean coal technology."

The group's financial supporters include 28 companies and trade associations such as the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, whose members depend heavily on coal. At this week's Democratic debate in Nevada, the group had about 50 people carrying signs and handing out leaflets. Inside, each of the three candidates spent some time addressing the issue. Former senator John Edwards said, "I believe we need a moratorium on the building of any more coal-fired power plants unless and until we have the ability to capture and sequester the carbon in the ground." Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "I have said we should not be siting any more coal-powered plants unless they can have the most modern, clean technology. And I want big demonstration projects to figure out how we would capture and sequester carbon." Sen. Barack Obama did not take a hard line on coal-fired electricity, but he said America must work to be "more efficient" in its energy use. (For a full transcript of the debate from the Las Vegas Sun, go here.)

In North Carolina, the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network has started running its own newspaper ads and staging protests against Duke Energy and its coal-fired plants, reports John Murawski of The News Observer in Raleigh. (Read more)

Judy Pasternak of the Times has a story today on how the debate over coal has forced companies to cancel or delay construction of new plants. "America's headlong rush to tap its enormous coal reserves for electricity has slowed abruptly, with more than 50 proposed coal-fired power plants in 20 states canceled or delayed in 2007," she writes. Pasternak has another article on the "politics of coal," tracing the debate over carbon-dioxide emissions. (Times graphic, based on data from the Union of Concerned Scientists)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Research conducted by Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) contradicts recent claims by critics that coal-fueled power plant construction has died. In addition, the research identified substantial benefits, including economical and environmental returns, resulting from the construction of several new coal-fueled power plants nationwide.

Currently, there are more than 120 coal-fueled power plants currently under or near construction, permitted or in the early stages of development. The US EIA projects the need for an average of 6,000 megawatts (MW) per year through 2030.

The breakdown of new plants according to status and capacity is:
• Currently under construction: 24 (capacity 12,506 MW)
• Near construction: 8 (capacity 4,565 MW)
• Permitted: 13 (capacity 23,240 MW)
• Announced: 76 (48, 440 MW)

“According to the US Energy Information Association (EIA), electricity demand nationwide will nearly double in the next 20 years. With a 250-year supply of coal, the United States is in a position to leverage its most abundant domestic resource to provide secure, affordable energy,” said Joe Lucas, ABEC executive director.

Lucas clearly admits that there have been some high profile coal projects that have either been delayed or cancelled. “But the research shows there are many more projects that have been approved and under construction than have been cancelled,” said Lucas.

Lucas acknowledged that a lot can happen between when a project is announced and a permit is issued and a project begins construction. “But, in order to get a full appreciation of coal’s near-term future, you have to focus as much on what is being built rather just looking at instances where coal projects are in trouble,” said Lucas.

“Construction of these new coal-fueled plants will not only make it possible to meet this growing electricity demand, but help further the development and deployment of technology that increases plant efficiencies and reduces emissions. During the past 35 years, the use of coal in the U.S. has nearly tripled, at the same time, air quality improved and emissions from coal-based electricity are 33 percent lower despite this increased use,” Lucas said.

Lucas also said the research is more than just a running total of what is being built versus projects that have died. It also identifies technology deployment and economic impact.

Every plant listed as under or near construction or permitted has proposed deploying technology including subcritical and supercritical pulverized coal (PC) technology, clean coal fluidized bed technology (CFB) or integrated gasification and combined cycle (IGCC) technology.

Research indicates that coal, in addition to providing affordable electricity, plays an important role in other areas of a state’s economy. According to research, US coal-fueled electricity contributes $1.05 trillion in gross economic output, $362 billion in annual household incomes and 6.8 million jobs in 2015. As a result, halted or deferred plant development may result in insufficient electricity capacity growth, which would affect a state’s economic output, household income and job growth.

“Not only does coal provide a constant, reliable flow of base load power, but its transmission capabilities can help further diversify a state’s energy portfolio. Many wind-generating power sites lack transmission lines needed to send the power to its customers. The construction of new coal-fueled plants can help further advance wind power by providing much needed transmission capabilities wind power generating sites currently lack,” Lucas said.

The following is a list of coal-fueled plants currently under construction, its location and initial opening year:
• Black Hills Wygen plant, Gillette, WY, 2008
• Arkansas River Power Lamar plant, Lamar, CO, 2008
• WPS Resources Weston plant, Rothschild, WI, 2008
• Newmont Mining TS Power plant, Dunphy, NV, 2008
• Santee Cooper Cross plant, Cross, SC, 2009
• East Kentucky Power Spurlock plant, Maysville, KY, 2009
• Omaha Public Power Nebraska City plant, Nebraska City, NE, 2009
• Wisconsin Energy Elm Road plant, Milwaukee, WI, 2009
• TXU Sandow Repower plant, Milam County, TX, 2009
• San Antonio Spruce plant, San Antonio, TX, 2009
• TXU Oak Grove plant, Franklin, TX, 2009
• Salt River Power Springerville plant, Springerville, AZ, 2009
• Springfield, IL Dallman plant, Lake Springfield, IL, 2010
• Springfield, MO Southwest plant, Springfield, MO, 2010
• LG&E Energy Trimble County plant, Trimble County, KY, 2010
• Kansas City P&L Iatan plant, Weston, MO, 2010
• LS Power Plum Point plant, Osceola, AR, 2010
• GenPower/First Reserve Longview plant, Monongalia County, WV, 2011