Monthly Archives: April 2012

ANGA's New Texas Report Serves Up A Heaping Helping Of ‘Number Salad’

 This commentary was originally posted on the EDF Energy Exchange Blog.

The American Natural Gas Association (ANGA) released a paper in March titled “Texas Natural Gas: Fuel for Growth,” to a lot of press, and rightly so.  The paper correctly cites several benefits of using and producing natural gas in Texas: it is produced in-state, has water use and air-quality benefits when compared to coal and helps to fund state and local governments through taxes. 

Unfortunately, the paper also makes some claims that are difficult to take seriously; perhaps the first warning sign should be that while the paper was presented as an economic analysis, the authors have no economic credentials.  Dr. Michael J. Economides, a chemical and biomolecular professor at the University of Houston, and petroleum engineering consultant Philip E. Lewis spend little time worrying about the details in this report, serving up a heaping helping of “number salad.”

For instance, the $7.7 billion “loss” is calculated by projecting the potential use of gas in Texas, if it had followed the national trend, against the actual use.  But in looking at the data, it’s not clear that the Texas fuel mix ever tracked the national fuel mix.  Even more importantly, looking at the authors’ own slides, Texas uses 20% more natural gas in its fuel mix than the nation.  If anything, the national fuel mix is following the trend set long ago by Texas —adding more natural gas and wind, while decreasing coal output.

What might shock the authors is that natural gas consumption in the electric power sector has increased by around 5,000 one thousand cubic feet of gas (MCF) since 2006, 800 MCF in transportation and nearly 10,000 MCF in the industrial sector. 

There are so many misleading statistics and inaccuracies that we could practically write a report on the report, but instead I’ll just focus on one aspect that stands out in particular. 

When it comes to comparing natural gas to coal power, the authors are quick to cite the many local benefits of using natural gas energy produced in Texas: it’s cleaner than coal and creates local jobs and a local tax base.  Wind energy has largely produced the same benefits: local wind power has brought jobs and a growing tax base and population to rural Texas counties that “had seen consistent, significant population losses since 1950.”  On top of the economic development benefits, where natural gas beats coal in reducing pollution, wind energy beats both by reducing pollution basically to zero.  But when it comes to discussing any of these benefits from wind energy in the report, the silence is deafening. 

Natural gas is reshaping our energy landscape.  And, done right—with the proper, mandatory environmental safeguards in place and reduced methane leakage rates—compared to coal plants, natural gas power plants offer other distinct air quality benefits.  It emits less greenhouse gases than coal when combusted and avoids mercury and other dangerous air pollutants that come from coal.

However, the same – and more – can be said about wind energy and Texas’ potential clean energy resources, including solar and geothermal power, among others.  Rather than pitting our local clean energy resources against each other as this report does, we should seek to expand and diversify our clean energy mix, reaping health, environmental, economic and security benefits.

Posted in Natural gas, Renewable Energy| Comments closed

If It Is So Clean, Why Is White Stallion Trying To Rollback Clean Air Rules?

(Credit: www.houstontomorrow.org)

White Stallion Energy wants to build a 1,320 MW power plant in Bay City, Texas and claims that its plant will not harm human health. Recently, White Stallion filed a challenge against the EPA to rollback the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rules that protect people from toxic air pollution. Why would this power plant fight against these rules? Because this plant plans to emit toxins into the air that harm public health. White Stallion cannot meet these health protections in the MATS rule, so they are fighting against the rules.

The MATS rule places the first-ever federal limits on mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants in the United States. These standards provide vital health protections for millions of Texans, especially infants and children, from the largest sources of toxic air pollution. When implemented, these standards will annually prevent up to 11,000 deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, over 500,000 missed work days due to illness and over 3 million unhealthy air days. These protections are valued at $37 billion to $90 billion each year they are carried out.

Coal- and oil-fired power plants are the nation’s single largest manmade source of major toxic air contaminants, responsible for half of all mercury pollution, 77 percent of acid gases, and 62 percent of arsenic emissions. Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants and can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn.  Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each year with potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.

White Stallion’s COO, Randy Bird, claims that “the new source levels [for mercury] are beyond detectable limits”. This is simply untrue. Many coal-fired plants are already achieving the mercury standards in the proposed rule and are in-fact exceeding the standards by a significant margin. Additionally, many states have made progress on reducing mercury emissions from the power sector and have set standards for existing coal-fired units significantly more protective than EPA’s proposed standard.

On a positive note, motions to intervene in support of the rule were filed by a group of states and cities and a group of public health and environmental organizations including EDF.

The states and cities supporting this motion include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, District of Columbia and New York City.

The organizations supporting this motion include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Clean Air Council, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Izaak Walton League of America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Environmental Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, and the Waterkeeper Alliance.

If you have been following our updates, you know that White Stallion has weaved a web of lies and played a shell game with its site plans in an effort to obtain air, water and wetlands permits. The real challenge for White Stallion to move forward isn’t the EPA or the new air toxics rules; it is the low price of home-grown, Texas-produced natural gas.  This latest petition only further shows that White Stallion is a bad idea for the Lone Star State. It’s time for White Stallion to see the light and stop fighting against clean air protections for Texans.

Posted in Air Pollution, Coal, Environmental Protection Agency| Comments closed
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