Outside Energy Experts Question EPA Reliance on “˜Unproven’ Clean-Coal Technology

Georgia Power's coal-fired steam-turbine electric generating Plant Bowen in Euharlee, Georgia, about 40 miles northwest of Atlanta is seen from a commercial airliner on September 12, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Amy Harder Clare Foran
Jan. 21, 2014, 2:35 p.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should not de­pend on so-called “clean-coal” tech­no­logy to roll out its cli­mate-change rules for power plants, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port re­leased Tues­day that was done in con­sulta­tion with the White House.

“This tech­no­logy is only just gain­ing ma­tur­ity for power gen­er­a­tion,” said former Col­or­ado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Demo­crat, who spear­headed the re­port with 100 clean-en­ergy ex­ec­ut­ives and ex­perts. “We are not say­ing CCS [car­bon cap­ture and se­quest­ra­tion] isn’t com­mer­cially vi­able, but it is un­proven enough to not bank [green­house-gas] tar­gets alone on this tar­get.”

Ritter said that he doesn’t think there are yet any fully op­er­a­tion­al power plants that em­ploy CCS, com­monly called “clean coal” tech­no­logy. The first two gen­er­at­ing plants with CCS in North Amer­ica — one pro­ject in Mis­sis­sippi by South­ern Com­pany and an­oth­er one in Canada — are ex­pec­ted to come on­line this year, Ritter said.

En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy and oth­er Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have re­peatedly said CCS tech­no­logy is com­mer­cially avail­able, and they have cited the South­ern pro­ject as a mod­el for oth­er power plants to fol­low in or­der to com­ply with EPA’s im­pend­ing cli­mate rules.

The re­port, which spans 200 pages and in­cludes 200 ex­ec­ut­ive-ac­tion re­com­mend­a­tions, fo­cuses mostly on re­new­able en­ergy and nat­ur­al gas. The point about CCS is tucked away on page 134, and its lan­guage is a bit more vague than Ritter’s com­ments.

The re­port sug­gests: “In­struct agen­cies that in set­ting na­tion­al pri­or­it­ies for en­ergy re­sources gen­er­ally and for trans­port­a­tion fuels in par­tic­u­lar, the ad­min­is­tra­tion will not rely on un­proven or com­mer­cially un­avail­able tech­no­lo­gies — for ex­ample, re­du­cing the cli­mate im­pact of a fuel with a car­bon cap­ture and se­quest­ra­tion. One ob­ject­ive of set­ting per­form­ance-based goals rather than fuel-spe­cif­ic goals should be to avoid as­sump­tions about un­proven or in­suf­fi­ciently scaled tech­nic­al fixes to [green­house-gas] emis­sions.”

A spokes­wo­man at the Amer­ic­an Co­ali­tion for Clean Coal Elec­tri­city, the coal in­dustry’s main lob­by­ing arm, did not have an im­me­di­ate com­ment about the re­port.

In gen­er­al, fossil-fuel in­dus­tries felt left out of the re­port, which Ritter and oth­ers — in­clud­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s former top en­ergy and cli­mate aide, Heath­er Zichal — touted Tues­day at an event in Wash­ing­ton.

“They didn’t check with us, that’s for sure,” said Thomas Pyle, pres­id­ent of Amer­ic­an En­ergy Al­li­ance, a con­ser­vat­ive in­dustry group backed by the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers.

A spokes­man for the Amer­ic­an Pet­ro­leum In­sti­tute also said he did not know of any­one at the biggest trade as­so­ci­ation for the oil and gas in­dustry who had been asked to provide in­put for the re­port.

The re­port fo­cuses more on re­new­able en­ergy and nat­ur­al gas than on coal or oil. One re­com­mend­a­tion it provides is for the ad­min­is­tra­tion to work with states to “de­vel­op a na­tion­wide meth­ane re­duc­tion strategy in the nat­ur­al gas value chain.” Leaks of meth­ane, a green­house gas 20 times more po­tent than car­bon di­ox­ide, have raised con­cerns about the cli­mate be­ne­fits of nat­ur­al gas, even though it pro­duces half the car­bon emis­sions of coal when burned for power gen­er­a­tion.

Amer­ica’s Nat­ur­al Gas Al­li­ance, a trade as­so­ci­ation for the U.S. gas in­dustry, re­acted cau­tiously to the re­port, which also ad­voc­ates for strong en­vir­on­ment­al con­trols on the fast-grow­ing pro­duc­tion pro­cess known as frack­ing.

“From a read of the ex­ec­ut­ive sum­mary, there are re­com­mend­a­tions throughout that could af­fect how nat­ur­al gas is pro­duced and used, po­ten­tially im­pact­ing the many be­ne­fits it brings to our na­tion for power gen­er­a­tion, trans­port­a­tion, and man­u­fac­tur­ing,” said Amy Far­rell, ANGA’s vice pres­id­ent of mar­ket de­vel­op­ment.

“We will be re­view­ing the re­port to see how the re­com­mend­a­tions com­port with a level-play­ing-field ap­proach for all en­ergy sources as our en­ergy de­mands con­tin­ue to grow,” Far­rell ad­ded.

The re­port was based on in­put from more than 100 en­ergy ex­perts, in­clud­ing of­fi­cials from util­it­ies such as Nex­tEra, Sem­pra, and South­w­est Power, and at least one ma­jor nat­ur­al-gas pro­du­cer, Anadarko.

Top ex­ec­ut­ives of these com­pan­ies were among those present at a 90-minute meet­ing that Ritter and oth­ers held with Pres­id­ent Obama last March, when work on the re­port began. Oth­er than those com­pan­ies, Ritter would not dis­close which fossil-fuel com­pan­ies were in­volved in the re­port, but he in­dic­ated that the in­dustry was rep­res­en­ted.

“We did have sev­er­al util­it­ies par­ti­cip­ate which have sig­ni­fic­ant coal as­sets,” Ritter said in an email after the re­port’s re­lease. “We did not have coal min­ing com­pan­ies in­volved. Re­gard­ing nat­ur­al gas, we had a few oil and gas com­pan­ies in­volved, and three rep­res­ent­at­ives of na­tion­al nat­ur­al gas trade as­so­ci­ations and one state oil-and-gas trade as­so­ci­ation in­volved. I am not at liberty to re­veal those com­pan­ies or the trade as­so­ci­ations.”

Steph­en Com­stock, dir­ect­or of tax and ac­count­ing policy at API, said that if the re­port’s defin­i­tion of par­ity was not de­signed to pen­al­ize the oil and gas in­dustry, then the trade group would sup­port the re­com­mend­a­tion.

“We don’t ne­ces­sar­ily have a prob­lem with par­ity in the tax code,” Com­stock said. “To me, though, the point of par­ity is that every­one is treated the same, so what we wouldn’t sup­port is any policy that would un­fairly tar­get the oil and gas in­dustry. We don’t sup­port re­form of the tax code that pits one form of en­ergy against an­oth­er or has one in­dustry act as an off­set for spend­ing on an­oth­er.”

What We're Following See More »
LEGACY PLAY
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
8 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

DIRECT APPEAL TO MINORITIES, WOMEN
Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
17 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

Source:
WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
17 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Source:
×