December 10, 2008

"Clean Coal", redux

It appears that my previous post against the “clean coal’ lobby, has bunched up a few readers panties, and from the looks of it, I pissed in their Wheaties too.

Anonymous said...
You know, not only do I disagree with your logic....since wind obviously doesn't blow all the time and is not a relialbe source of baseload generation...but even more disgusting is your use of an expletive which does nothing to improve your arguments and at best insults the reader for even looking

Obviously, the poster left out their sources, and did not choose to reveal their identity. Other readers have called out this skunk as “someone from the Clean Coal Lobby.” Regardless, amongst the insults flying about cyberspace, can someone provide with me facts that prove that burning coal is good for the environment with little to no consequence? I didn’t think so.

There are other viable ways of producing electricity that have less impact to the environment than coal gasification. Why not further explore and invest in gasification of biomass and waste plastic? Utilizing excess forestry byproducts to generate power would not only improve efficiency to these operations, but would also give a shot in the arm to the slumping timber industry, stimulating local economies. There have been efforts to recapture methane from manure production on livestock and dairy farms, anaerobic digestion systems that have proven to be quite successful. Methane production and then the irrigation of the odorless effluent through irrigation systems during the growing season is a method of manure handling that has a beneficial impact on the environment. This is another technique that could potentially reduce the amount of anhydrous ammonia being used on farms, if this effluent was marketed to crop farmers.

I don’t understand why any utility company would try to squash the efforts to develop any alternative energy source, especially if we all are to benefit from it. In the case of the Otter Tail Power/Big Stone Wind argument, OTP would have still likely needed to provide transmission lines for the generated wind power. They would have benefited from having to charge BSW for transmission through their power grid. I realize that wind is not always constant, and cannot always be relied upon for baseload generation. But that argument is based on the same old diatribe that is being fed to us by the industry. Just another excuse, like OJ's glove that "didn't fit". Why OTP fails to support any local alternative energy project is clearly because they feel threatened, resulting in a potential loss of market share, and the possibility that a more eco-friendly method of energy production in the Region is possible. Otherwise, why fight it? Especially if the energy need that they proclaim is out there. It all comes down to money, and the potential for decreased revenues.

Utility companies should be investing more into alternative energy sources, and becoming more diversified. Having a well-rounded portfolio of energy producing means is good sense. It can help shield the industry and the consumer during times of high petroleum costs, periods of drought, and other conditions, which affect energy production and output. The relative cheapness of producing energy from coal does not allow for this diversification. Environmental costs are not fully realized nor absorbed by the utilities that generate power. There have been steps towards amending this process, including the introduction of the Carbon Credit in Minnesota, Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard passed in 2007, and Minnesota’s recent clean energy bill being proposed. The industry has negated the environmental costs for energy production for far too long. Finally, legislation has been enacted to help recoup these costs, passing them along to the utilities, and ultimately the consumer. Only under this business model, will the true cost of coal derived energy production become realized, and thus exposed for the environmentally degrading POS that it truly is. High environmental costs, and thus production costs, should eventually make coal become obsolete as the primary energy producing fuel in the world. Simple Environmental Economics 231. Anybody who’s anybody in the Environmental Economics field, should have read this guy’s textbook, Tom Tietenberg, PhD, THE authority. I was fortunate to have studied under Tom, and absorbed as much as I could from his infinite wisdom, while at college. [On a side note, Tom holds a really keen perspective on sustainable pacific salmon commercial/fisheries management]. My guess is, “anonymous” has not boned up on Dr. Tietenberg’s works, and was likely spoon-fed from the ‘clean coal’ industry. I am willing to pay more for clean renewable energy, and already do so. You should too. It’s already unfair that Joe Taxpayer pays the costs for mitigating and restoring the damages created by industry. Let’s let adopt this model and have business regulate the industry, assess the true cost for power generation (a concept they have already demonstrated they find difficult in grasping), and sort ‘em out.

Of course, amongst society, nowhere is it really impressed that global energy consumption be reduced, and efforts to reduce consumption fall by the wayside, in search of a cheap source of energy, i.e. coal, especially in developing countries. More efforts should be spent on trying to curb our dependency on energy, it seems we have all forgotten the golden rule:

The Three R’s, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

To be called insulting by posting information against the pro-coal war machine, along with including sources from both sides of industry, is without merit. I attempted to inform the reader, by providing sources from both sides of the reader, letting them come to their own decision. Personally, I am appalled at what we let industry get away with, and the resulting pollution and degradation we let allow happen with a blind-eye. I expressed my angst regarding the matter, and made it clear to the reader where I stood in the matter. Don’t you care about the environment too? I spend my career attempting to repair and resolve all that has been done to Minnesota waterways, through improving fisheries habitat and stream restoration projects. I live and recreate on these same waters that I work on; everything is at stake here. My guess is that you, “anonymous” poster, do not share the same concerns that I possess, and likely hold a financial stake in the success of Otter Tail Power. What’s insulting to me is hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. I am not hiding from anyone here.

- the roughfisher, aka Jean-Paul Lipton