Climate 411

‘Marketplace’ Report Misses the Real Story on Coal

Yesterday’s Marketplace report does an excellent job of highlighting the social and political fissures occurring in West Virginia and nationally as the United States starts in earnest the transition to a clean-energy, low-carbon economy. What the story fails to adequately convey is just how many old-line energy producers have crossed the divide and embraced the reality and opportunity of capping and reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

Don Blankenship, who was quoted in the story,  is very much a minority voice in the coal industry. His company, Massey Energy,  is in fact not even among the top four coal producers nationally, much less internationally. His views on climate change are considered to be extreme even among the coal industry.

Better for Marketplace to highlight the work of Mike Morris of American Electric Power, among the nation’s largest electric utilities and the largest consumer of coal in the Western Hemisphere. Today, AEP is cutting the ribbon on a large demonstration of carbon capture and storage technology in West Virginia, a technology Blankenship dismisses out of hand. AEP is also investing in wind generation even as it works to keep coal relevant in a low-carbon economy.

Those of us who know Morris know he is no bleeding heart — he is as flinty as they come. Yet, in supporting national clean energy cap and trade carbon legislation, and in matching his advocacy with investments in low-carbon technology, he is demonstrating the kind of leadership that West Virginia and the nation need.

Marketplace should do a better job appreciating just how increasingly irrelevant folks like Blankenship are to the national conversation about our clean energy future.

Updated 11/2: Corrected to remove references to NPR. Marketplace is produced by American Public Media.

Posted in Energy / Read 1 Response

A Viable Coal-to-Liquids Project?

Mark BrownsteinThis post is by Mark Brownstein, managing director of business partnerships and specialist on coal technology at Environmental Defense Fund.

On Monday, CONSOL Energy – one of America’s leading coal companies – announced they would build America’s first coal-to-liquid plant in West Virginia. The press release from coal country announces that a strategy for sequestering carbon dioxide pollution produced by liquefying coal will be part of the project. That’s important because an EPA study found that diesel fuel from coal could result in double the greenhouse gas emissions of diesel fuel from oil.

Many Americans are feeling real economic distress with gasoline above four dollars a gallon. Economic hardship and energy security play to coal’s strength as a traditionally low cost, domestic, and plentiful energy resource. Deploying the technology to convert it to gasoline and diesel fuel seems like a no-brainer. But it’s not so simple.

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Posted in Cars and Pollution, Energy / Read 4 Responses

Banks Consider Risks in Financing Coal Plants

Mark BrownsteinThis post is by Mark Brownstein, Managing Director of Business Partnerships at Environmental Defense.

A little over a year ago, Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Ceres sent a letter to the three lead banks financing the TXU deal we helped broker. We said the banks no longer could ignore CO2 in their investment decisions.

Today we are seeing the culmination of this effort. The three banks – Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley – have announced that they will require utilities seeking financing to prove the new plants would be economically viable under an expected federal cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

This will make it much harder for utilities to build conventional coal plants.

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