Stopping Coal in Its Tracks

01-08-450Nace Large

ON A CHILLY NIGHT IN FEBRUARY 2007, a criminal justice consultant named Nancy LaPlaca sat on a bare bench under the bright lights of the Denver County Jail. Four other women sat sullenly beside her, two arrested for public inebriation, a third brought in on suspicion of crack possession, the last for driving while intoxicated. In her day job, LaPlaca had seen many such rooms. But now she was on the wrong side of the bars.

LaPlaca had begun the evening at the Denver Marriott, relaxing in the hotel bar with friends after the close of a small conference that she and her group, Coloradoans for Clean Energy, had organized for activists from across the country who are opposing new coal-fired power plants. Next to her chair she had carefully placed her NO NEW COAL PLANTS sign so that it faced the wall, after a request to do so from a hotel manager. A utility industry conference was taking place in the same building, and the manager was eager to avoid offending the executives and engineers in attendance. But as LaPlaca prepared to leave, she briefly turned her sign so it was visible to the bar.

“Suddenly,” she later recalled, “there was this 250-pound policeman in my face demanding to talk with me privately. I told him that whatever he had to say, he could say in front of my friends. And that’s when he grabbed me.”

AFTER HER FIRST NIGHT IN THE POKEY on charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace, LaPlaca returned home and read the latest messages posted on the No New Coal Plants e-mail list, an Internet watering hole initiated in April 2006 by Philadelphia organizer Mike Ewall. Ewall founded the group Energy Justice in 1999 and has organized electronic mailing lists around other issues, including tire incinerators and nuclear power. Whatever the topic, the elements of each list are identical: messages from any member are forwarded to the entire group, responses may be directed either back to the group or to the original author, and archives of group messages are kept on the Energy Justice website.

Of course, to be useful to participants, a list has to achieve a critical mass, and for the first few months messages among No New Coal Plants participants were few and far between. But by midsummer 2006, Ewall had recruited several dozen members and the list had taken on a life of its own. Over the next year, it grew to include 140 people. A few, such as Matt Leonard of Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco, and Ted Glick of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council in Takoma Park, Maryland, are staff members with national environmental groups. Others, such as Drusha Mayhue in Bozeman, Montana, are volunteers with the Sierra Club or other membership-oriented groups. Most, however, are involved with small, locally based, mainly rural groups. Typical among these are Greg Howard, an attorney with the nonprofit Appalachian Citizens Law Center, a law firm in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, that represents miners suffering from black lung disease; Mano Andrews, a Hopi/Dine native affiliated with the Western Shoshone Defense Project in Nevada and the Save the Peaks Coalition in Arizona; and Leslie Glustrom, a biochemist in Boulder, Colorado, opposing Xcel Energy’s Comanche 3 coal plant. Most members of the list live in areas that have already felt the effects of coal projects and are facing more development. Elisa Young, an activist in Meigs County, Ohio, can count four coal-fired power plants within ten miles of her home and faces five more that are planned. Mary Jo Stueve grew up in Minnesota across the South Dakota border from the Big Stone I power plant; she’s now a staff member with South Dakota Clean Water Action, fighting a proposed second unit of the plant.

For the list participants, No New Coal Plants serves as research assistant, clipping service, and water cooler. Postings announce conference calls, float ideas for group projects, celebrate victories. “This is hard work, with low pay and lots of frustrations along the way,” says Alan Muller, a member who serves as the one-man staff for Green Delaware. “I can’t stress enough the encouragement factor as a main value [of the list].”

At first glance, No New Coal Plants has every appearance of a single-issue environmental group, if “group” is the right word for an entity with no office, no board of directors, no letterhead, no bank account, no organizational structure. “Swarm” might be a better term.

As fighting forces, swarms both preceded and eventually vanquished the orthogonal ranks of legionnaires that forged the Roman Empire. In a swarm, the emphasis is not on discipline, experience, and orderliness but rather on fighting spirit and individual initiative. Swarms are known for their tactical flexibility, sometimes using guerrilla-style harassment, as did the farmers who routed the British at Lexington and Concord; other times prevailing with overwhelming numbers in the manner of the Arapaho, Lakota, and Northern Cheyenne fighters who overran the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at the Little Bighorn.

The contrast between No New Coal Plants and Big Coal is obvious, but the contrast between such low-profile, leaderless entities and the large national groups typically identified with the environmental movement is equally striking. The largest of these groups, sometimes known as Big Green, include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, and the National Wildlife Federation. Typically based in Washington DC or New York and sporting annual budgets in the tens of millions of dollars, these groups, not unlike the corporate and governmental entities they oppose, are hierarchical, highly organized, and reliant on trained and seasoned attorneys, scientific experts, and lobbyists. Yet the “Twigs,” as some small-scale activists have taken to calling themselves in a pointed distinction from Big Green, have lately taken more militant positions and have, in many cases, been more effective in stopping new coal-fired power plants.

IN THE SPRING OF 2007, a split between these two currents in the U.S. environmental movement broke into view over the prospect of a vast expansion in the use of coal in the United States. With the encouragement of the Bush Administration and coal subsidies in the 2005 Energy Act (variously estimated at between $4.8 billion and $9 billion), the number of coal-fired power plants either newly built or in various stages of proposal or construction had leaped from 92 in 2004 to over 150 in May 2007. Many climatologists noted the expansion with alarm. Speaking before the National Press Club in Washington DC on February 26, 2007, James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Sciences and one of the country’s most widely published and outspoken climate scientists, told the audience that the opportunity to avoid runaway global heating — wherein human-induced “forcings” would trigger enough amplifying feedback loops to ultimately produce “a different planet” — was rapidly fading. To address the problem, Hansen made five recommendations, the first of which was an immediate moratorium on the construction of any new coal-fired power plants until such plants are capable of capturing their carbon dioxide releases.

Coal plants are among the largest industrial facilities on the planet and collectively generate about 32 percent of America’s carbon dioxide emissions. A single 500 megawatt plant can burn its way through a 125-car trainload of coal in two days, releasing into the atmosphere nearly twice the weight of that trainload in carbon dioxide. To offset the global heating produced by that much carbon dioxide, two million SUV drivers would have to switch to Priuses. Even that comparison understates the consequences of a new power plant, since a car lasts about a decade, while a typical coal plant will continue to spew climate-torquing gasses for sixty years or more. Faced with the new coal boom, four groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Clean Air Task Force — prominently advocated an approach that centered around a technical fix with the ungainly acronym IGCC/CCS, for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle with Carbon Capture and Sequestration.

While coal gasification technology is not new (it helped power the German air force during World War II), its use for electrical generation is relatively recent. Four such plants are now operating in Europe and the United States, all built with government subsidies. Because it involves converting solid fuel into gas prior to combustion, IGCC technology is more readily suited than conventional coal plants for capturing waste products. As much as 88 percent of the coal’s carbon dioxide can be captured in an IGCC plant, along with 99 percent or more of its sulfur oxides and particulates, and 95 percent of its mercury. Once the carbon dioxide has been removed from the exhaust stream, it can be liquefied under pressure and injected into deep underground formations. Over a dozen IGCC plants are under development in the United States. Currently leading the pack is EURORA Group’s Cash Creek, Kentucky, facility, which could go online as early as 2011. But notably, none of the demonstration plants in operation, nor any of the proposed IGCC plants, actually includes carbon capture and sequestration.

The most outspoken advocate for IGCC/CCS has been David Hawkins, director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. According to Hawkins, IGCC/CCS would allow the United States to continue using coal without heating the planet, since plants using the technology could store the captured carbon dioxide in geological formations thousands of feet underground. Hawkins’s support for IGCC/CCS is based on the pragmatic calculation that coal enjoys too much political support for it to be taken out of the climate equation. In April 2007, he told the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee that “we will almost certainly continue using large amounts of coal in the U.S. and globally in the coming decades.” For that reason, he concluded, “it is imperative that we act now to deploy CCD [carbon capture and disposal] systems.”

Proponents of coal gasification typically call it “clean coal,” though Hawkins and other environmentalists avoid that term. After all, using IGCC/CCS would not eliminate destructive strip-mining or mountaintop-removal practices. And critics have other objections: a big one involves how much we don’t know about sequestering carbon dioxide underground. While such pumping has been done to facilitate oil extraction by repressurizing oil fields, it has never been attempted at anything close to the scale that would be required to render the coal industry climate-friendly. According to MIT’s 2007 “Future of Coal” study, capturing and compressing just 60 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by U.S. coal-fired power plants would demand a new pipeline network big enough to move 20 million barrels of liquefied carbon dioxide each day from power plants to suitable sequestration sites (which depend on particular geology) — a volume equal to all the oil piped daily throughout the country. Sequestration sites would have to be honestly administered, closely monitored, and tightly sealed. Such demanding technical requirements led journalist Jeff Goodell to write that “the notion of coal as the solution to America’s energy problems is a technological fantasy on par with the dream of a manned mission to Mars.”

But there’s a more straightforward objection to IGCC/CSS: cost. The cost of building such plants is expected to be around 40 percent higher than conventional coal plants. And the cost of operating them would also be higher, since huge amounts of power are needed to separate and liquefy carbon dioxide, then pipe and pump it underground — in all, each plant would have to burn about 25 percent more coal to generate the same amount of electricity for market. Once those expenses are totaled up, this way of using coal may end up being more costly than solar thermal power plants or wind turbines backed up by natural gas generators that would make them as reliable as coal plants.

As it waits for IGCC/CCS to reach commercial readiness, Big Green has signaled a willingness to make deals with industry over new coal plants. The most widely reported compromise was reached in March 2007 between two large environmental groups and an investor group led by private equity firm KKR, which was in the process of buying Texas utility TXU Corp. In return for a promise by the new owners to cancel eight of eleven planned new coal plants in Texas, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense agreed to drop their opposition to the remaining three. Many grassroots environmentalists complained that the deal was nowhere near sufficient. Climate scientists were calling for a full halt on new coal, not a slowdown, they said. If this was the environmental movement’s batting average on a good day, it wasn’t good enough. A correspondent to Texas Monthly wrote: “I feel like I’m in some colonial third world outpost watching helplessly as my fate is being decided by a bunch of rich white guys with Marks-a-Lots in a map room thousands of miles away.”

But whether the TXU deal was shrewd or foolish, one thing it clearly lacked was anything that might inspire and build a mass movement against climate change. In contrast, the message of the Twigs is simple and compelling: no new coal plants.

CONTEMPTUOUS OF FIXES and half measures, those in the anti-coal swarm believe they can kill new coal plants even though they lack the resources of the larger groups. Typical among these activists is Carol Overland, an attorney based in Redwing, Minnesota. After working as a truck driver for over a decade, Overland sold her house in the early 1990s to finance a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. She went to work representing small towns and local groups in transmission-line permitting and other utility-related cases. As a girl, she had played “power engineering office” on a desk made from a red crate, imitating her father, a mechanical engineer who had designed power plants for Great River Energy and other utilities. Now that childhood game has turned into a career represented by floor-to-ceiling shelves constructed from two-by-fours and filled with power company feasibility studies.

Overland was one of the earliest participants on the No New Coal Plants list and remains one of the most prolific. She has a talent for exposing the financial weak spots of proposed power plants, and she has coached others on the list: “If you want to kill a power project, focus on economics.”

Overland had for over a year been probing into a proposed coal plant, Mesaba, in northern Minnesota, that most environmental groups were unwilling to challenge because it featured the new IGCC technology. Located near Bovey and owned by Excelsior Energy, Mesaba would generate 603 megawatts of electricity for the Minnesota utility Xcel Energy. To help Overland, other list participants supplied her with internal reports on coal prepared by Wall Street investment banks and with feasibility studies performed in other states. Eventually, Overland discovered that the costs of Mesaba had been quietly escalating. While the U.S. Department of Energy had originally placed the cost of the plant at $1.18 billion, that number had reached $2.2 billion, not including necessary transmission line upgrades or carbon capture, transportation, or storage.

The more information Overland received, the more she became convinced that an aggressive assault on the cost estimates for Mesaba might be the key to derailing the project. In order to build the plant, Excelsior Energy needed the state of Minnesota to approve a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Excelsior and Xcel. In a brief to the Public Utility Commission, Overland claimed that Mesaba should not receive the PPA because it did not qualify as a “least cost project” under Minnesota’s statutes; given the revised cost projections, Mesaba’s electricity wouldn’t be as cheap as expected. In April 2007, a panel of administrative law judges agreed, recommending to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that the PPA be denied on economic grounds.

Taking a clue from Overland’s strategy, other activists began exchanging the latest cost studies on IGCC. Even before the Minnesota PUC ruled on Mesaba, coal plants were under attack from the Twigs in Colorado, Florida, Delaware, Ohio, South Dakota, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and Iowa.

Matt Leonard of Rainforest Action Network, who focuses on exploiting the increasing nervousness that Wall Street banks display toward large coal projects, noticed a “ratcheting” phenomenon: “Whenever activists fighting a coal project in one place are able to get regulators or banks to commit to a certain set of restrictions or conditions, the campaigns against other projects make those conditions the new baseline that must be met or beat. Successes in blocking coal plants are piggybacking from one to the next.”

In the spring of 2007, Leonard began keeping a list of derailed coal projects, and the list grew rapidly. In May, Green Delaware’s Alan Muller, a former consultant to DuPont on incinerators, reported the nixing of NRG Energy’s proposed 630-megawatt Indian River coal-fired plant. Data from Minnesota that Muller’s organization provided to the Delaware Public Service Commission had helped convince regulators that a wind farm with natural gas turbine backup made more economic sense than an IGCC coal plant. “Carol’s numbers drove the nail in the NRG coffin,” said Muller.

Next to claim success was a Florida couple, Bob and Jan Krasowski. Bob, a contractor, and Jan, a schoolteacher, had taken advantage of a regulatory provision allowing ordinary citizens to intervene directly in Florida Public Service Commission hearings on power plants. In the permitting process for the proposed Glades coal-fired power plant, located on the northwest shore of Lake Okeechobee at the edge of the Florida Everglades, mainstream environmental groups — including the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council — had adopted a complex position. In a memo to the PSC, lawyers for mainstream local and national groups wrote that “[although] there is no need for . . . any type of coal plant by FPL [Florida Power and Light], an IGCC plant in Florida can provide electricity at a lower cost than the proposed . . . coal plant.”

To the Krasowskis, the “no . . . but” position taken by Big Green was a mixed message that mistook the rapidly changing attitudes of Floridians — threatened both by hurricanes and rising sea levels — toward global warming. Convinced that regulators would be receptive to unequivocal assertions by anti-coal forces, the Krasowskis simply demanded that Glades be cancelled and replaced with conservation programs like those already implemented in other states. In the end, it was the Krasowskis’ grassroots perspective that prevailed with the Florida PSC in a 4–0 vote that caught most observers off guard.

“We weren’t surprised,” said Bob Krasowski. “We knew that the commissioners are politically attuned; they have their ear to the ground. And we knew how Florida was leaning. Being in the schools, Jan hears what kids are saying, and that’s a pretty good indicator of where their parents are at. As for myself, I constantly hear people in the construction trades talking about how global warming is going to raise insurance rates.”

TO SOME ACTIVISTS, the spat over IGCC/CCS is an example of the healthy give-and-take found in any large movement. John Thompson, director of the Coal Transition Program for the Clean Air Task Force, one of the leading advocates of IGCC/CSS, said diplomatically, “In the environmental movement, there’s never unanimity about how to address every problem. Differences of opinion are helpful, especially since we’re all in agreement over the fact that drastic reductions in carbon emissions will be necessary by midcentury.”

When questioned more closely, however, Thompson’s position hardens: “Look, we need to move forward and get the infrastructure for carbon capture and sequestration in place now. And we can’t look at this from a U.S. perspective only. The largest coal company in the world isn’t Peabody Coal any longer; by the end of next year [China’s] Shenhua will probably be the world’s largest coal producer. We have to get CCS working in this country so that we have a technology that we can provide to China and India. If environmentalists at the grassroots simply want to fight and stop every single coal plant, then IGCC technology will never develop to a workable level. We’ll then have locked ourselves into the melting of ice sheets and widespread extinctions.”

To Alan Muller, however, the central fact is that the country has woken up to climate change and Big Green has failed to recognize the opportunity. “The environmental fat cats were caught with their pants down,” he said. “Now they’re still arguing incremental change — some better way to use coal. They should be talking about much more fundamental change.”

Can the environmental movement muster the necessary clout to overcome the combined forces of Big Oil and Big Coal? To Big Green advocates like Hawkins and Thompson, it’s a fantasy to think that America won’t continue using coal and oil. To grassroots activists like LaPlaca, Overland, and Muller, the fantasy lies in the opposite assumption: believing that the world can survive without a radical shift away from fossil fuels. “Big Green has the resources,” said Muller, “but the grassroots is where it’s happening in terms of leadership, in terms of work, and in terms of results. To anybody who’s following this, I’d say don’t bet too much money on coal right now.”

Ted Nace, founder of Peachpit Press, is the author of Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy.

Comments

  1. Since this article was written, things haven’t slowed down in the No New Coal Plants movement. Although at least 115 coal plants remain under development, 59 proposed plants were nixed in 2007, and renewables and efficiency programs are expanding rapidly. For those interested in becoming active in the movement, here are three additional links:
    cmNOW.org — Coal Moratorium Now! (links to numerous groups)
    coalswarm.org – coalSwarm (a wikipedia-style resource on coal that is looking for volunteers)

  2. This story covers several vital issues exceptionally well. It’s great to see discussion of the cons of Big Green’s pragmatic, compromise approach to problems which, per Muller’s quote, require “fundamental change.”

    Also great to see more information on the challenges of carbon sequestration. Funny how in a world that seems to be in love with the word “sustainability,” no one talks much about how sequestration is a short-term band-aid and not a sustainable long-term solution. We do not have unlimited storage capacity for a world so determined to continue to grow. It’s just one more techno-fix that most likely we will come to regret when we begin to experience the unintended consequences.

    Now, if we can just get more news stories, opinion pieces and discussion about the least dangerous, least questionable, most simple, least costly, most effective solution to our planet’s environmental woes: a conversion from worship of MORE to being satisfied with LESS, or at the very least, ENOUGH!

    Dave Gardner
    Producer/Director
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
    http://www.growthbusters.com

  3. This article is inspiring to those of us who are fighting Big Coal in the Appalachians. I am a part of a local group trying to stop a huge coal waste project. CCW or coal combustion waste is another overlooked issue regarding burning coal but threatens our rivers and water supplies. See my blog above for related links on this coal issue.

  4. In Alaska, we are feeling the disproportionate effects of rapid global warming. At the same time, local utilities and Outside corporations are looking to develop Alaska’s massive coal reserves for domestic power and exploding Asian markets. In 2007, Alaska announced it’s first-ever fish consumption advisories due to mercury contamination, and Asian power plants are the prime suspects. Our efforts in Alaska will be increased connected to those in the Lower 48, and I really appreciated seeing this piece in Orion.

  5. Take a look at the True Cost of Coal. Booklet available on the web-site: http://www.mtwatershed.com or coalfieldjustice.org.

    Until ALL people in the coalfields unite and say Stop Coal Crimes Now, we will continue to see more mining, new power plants, and vast wastelands of power plant waste.

    Beverly Braverman

  6. Thanks to Ted for the article. I’m the gal who leads off the story by getting arrested — a big surprise for me. Am almost ready to file suit against both the Marriott Corp. and the Denver Police. Interesting factoid: Marriott invested $46 million in cash for synfuels operations, got tax credits worth $149 million (a 256% ROI in one year), so that taxable income went from 36% in 2001 to 7% in 2002 (See Time magazine, Oct. 4, 2003, The Great Energy Scam). Wow. And all Marriott had to do for all that cash? Spray some coal with diesel fuel and call it “alternative…”

    Carbon sequestration is yet another boondoggle. I’ve got PowerPoints etc. if anyone wants them.

    My husband, Andy, is working on a spreadsheet to show that renewables ARE cheaper than fossils, when financial shenanigans like “discount rates” and cost of capital and guaranteed rate of return are taken into account. Then add fuel price volatility, coal freight, CO2 adders, health costs etc. and fossils are WAAY higher.

  7. This is a very interesting article for us here in the Appalachian Coal fields because we are littlerally being dynamited everyday to supply this greater amount of coal. Our folks are not only being arrested …their lives are being threatened by Coal Empire thugs. Their homes are being shot at. Their tires slashed. In WV it is your very life or livlihood that you stand to loose if you speak up. This ain’t academic. Our mountains are being declared a “Sacrifice Zone” so people elsewhere can maintain a standard of living. The DC enviros are cynically attempting to say “well , that’s just the way it’s gotta be”….no thanks!

  8. Exciting times! Shows how much can be done when activists share information freely. Frankly, the most effective activists I’ve ever met were either low-paid, or unpaid, with a fire in the belly. There’s also something to be said for not having to “toe the line.” I wonder how much more effective the NRDC’s and EDF’s, with $50-70 million/year budgets would be if they weren’t pushing for half-solutions like cap=and-trade and carbon sequestration. I am hubmled and honored by the folks I’ve met, especially folks fighting MTR and coal in their backyards. Elisa Young, my friend and NNCP (No New Coal Plant) colleague is an inspiration, taking on Big Coal with no money, no legal representation, armed only with the truth.

    Thank you friends for adding such meaning to my life.

  9. Here’s an eye-opening web tool that shows your direct connection to mountaintop removal (MTR): just plug in your zip code and you get a map which shows what coal plants supply your home with power, and what mines those plants get their coal from:

    http://ilovemountains.org/myconnection/

    My zip code gets coal from the following MTR mine:

    Scott’s Branch Mine
    Coal Source: Mountaintop Removal
    Location: 93 PICKETT LANE DEBORD, KY 41653
    Operator: LCC Kentucky LLC
    Controller:International Coal Group Inc (ICG)

    Sobering!

    Erik

    The Orion Grassroots Network: 1,100+ grassroots groups working for conservation & more

  10. What’s alarming to me is the new push to advertise coal (on CNN for example) as the energy source for the future. The commercial I saw recently made no mention of the environmental costs of burning coal, it simply made the connection between coal and having electricity to do all the things we do every day. Maybe it was intended as “just a reminder” or maybe it was meant to preempt the anticoal sentiment in the minds of CNN veiwers.

  11. It would appear that we-all better find a practical use for CO2 – and fast!

  12. It was really exciting for us at Energy Justice Network to have such a great piece on our “No New Coal Plants” network in Orion. From the various processes of mining coal such as mountaintop removal to coal burning and finally to the disposal of ash, it is clear that coal is not a responsible source of energy for our communities and our environment. Coal can never be “clean,” no matter what massive green-washing tactics are being used by the various industries involved. We hope that the movements against these kinds of harmful energy technologies continue to grow and inspire others.

    As well as having built the “No New Coal Plants” network described in the article, we are currently developing other grassroots networks around other dirty energy and waste technologies. We welcome any grassroots groups and concerned citizens who are fighting any of the following technologies to get in touch with us so we might strengthen your work through any organizing advice, networking and information we can provide:

    -ethanol (including cellulosic and waste-based fuels)
    -nuclear power
    -biomass
    -poultry waste incineration
    -tire incineration
    -power lines
    -waste coal
    -sewage sludge

    We can also connect grassroots activists to national and international networks of communities dealing with:

    -liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals
    -trash incinerators
    -medical waste issues
    -landfills
    -water fluoridation

    We also are developing a database and mapping project, which (with help from our grassroots networks) will track existing, proposed, closed and defeated dirty energy and waste facilities throughout the United States, enabling people to connect with other concerned residents and activist groups fighting similar issues.

    We don’t play the NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) game with inappropriate technologies. We’re about “NIABY” (not in ANYone’s backyard), which is why we take strong positions and help communities protect each other, so that we can continue to see 60-90% of dirty energy and waste industry proposals stopped, one community at a time, in good grassroots tradition.

    Please see our website at http://www.energyjustice.net for info on these and other topics.

  13. Could someone pleased take out the thousands of unneeded words int this piece. I do have a commend I did not read the article because I do not read articles written by novelist. Most groups concerned with making the world a better place miss the point. We can be more effective by using common sense. How much less coal would be used if everyone in the world would shut down their computers when they are not needed? or turn off the printer s over the weekend. Or remove any transformer when not in use. (by the way the transformer is the boxy part of your cell phone charger). Demand products that do not have high tech features or do not use elevators and automatic doors when stiars and manual doors are available. Not allow use of security lights that stay on during the day when they are not needed. Demand that HVAC industry hire some people who have more than pea sized brains to design HVAC. It is not rocket science. A large part of our energy usage comes from our fat population that need extra air conditioning to remove the heat from their over insulatd fat bodies. They are also more demanding on energy that is used in the restaurant since it takes more heat to propare a 10 oz steak than a 4 oz. What we really need is a society that knows what they need rather than what they want.

  14. Great work, Mike Ewall and the team at EnergyJustice. Amazing fact sheets and help for activists around the country at the drop of a hat.

    There are, of course, outstanding people in the Big Green movement. But I applaud the Not In ANYbody’s Backyard stance, and the “no burning.” We don’t need to incinerate toxins to light our homes and businesses. We don’t need to continue to pour our resources into a system where 2/3 of our oil is imported, and 20 percent of our natural gas. We are at or near global peak oil; and we peaked in natural gas in the U.S. in 2002.

    We need fundamental change, and the NNCP listserv showed that a handful of folks helping each other can make a big difference.

  15. The people in the southeatern U.S. are indeed getting worse than harassed and thrown in jail — thier lives are threatened, family security is in jeopardy, to say nothing of harassment from community members who work in the industry. I recognize that here in Denver Colorado it’s easy to be against coal — whereas the folks on the frontlines are sticking their necks out everyday.

    I’ve heard MTR likened to the U.S.’s treatment of the developing world — rip out the resources, and to hell with the consequences — and I believe it’s true.

    Thank you for standing up to Big Coal and Big Coal Mining. I hope to come out to the SE this summer to help defeat Sen. Mitch McConnell.

  16. The true issue is the use of the BLM leasing of coal. I would encourage folks to get a hold of the book, The Chaco Coal Scandal by Jeff Radford. It was an attempt to circumvent Environmental Review and public control over the 30 billion tons of coal in NW New Mexico. If what Ted Nace said is correct, every coal lease expansion should be contested on global warming and long term economics both being a national security interests in todays present political climate. Nancy, I would be interested in the economic analysis ASAP since our local utility PNM is currently considering a rate increase and continued, expanded coal operations and divesting itself of it’s natural gas utility. Thanks Ted also for putting your book on line. It’s a valuable resource in this 400 year old corporate war.

  17. Hello Stephen: Please send your email and I’ll explain the model. It’s not quite ready for prime time, but very close, since we are using it in a legal proceeding. It will be free for environmental activists we believe are working for the best policy, but otherwise proprietary.

  18. Does anyone have a copy of the sidebar related to this article that talks about proving the costs of coal exceed the costs of going green? Our group is a fighting 3 coal-fired power plant here in Nevada and need the information.

  19. Here is the text of the sidebar:

    Can We Do Without Coal At All? Yes

    In November 2005, S. David Freeman gave a speech titled “Nuclear Power and the Global Warming Agenda” at a conference in Warrenton, Virginia, sponsored by the Nuclear Power Research Institute. In the speech, Freeman advocated abandoning both coal and nuclear power altogether in favor of a society-wide transition to renewable energy. Freeman is no wild-eyed idealist. Over the course of a five-decade career in the electricity business, he has variously served as California’s energy czar and as head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the New York Power Authority. He also served as President Carter’s energy advisor.

    After the speech, Arjun Makhijani, an electrical engineer who had once worked for Freeman at TVA, confronted him at the podium. Makhijani dismissed his no-coal, no-nuclear proposal as tantamount to economic suicide: “You are proposing a course that is so costly that it would drive every industry we have to China.” Freeman challenged Makhijani to conduct a full technical review of the scenario, and Makhijani spent the next year doing exactly that. The resulting book-length analysis, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (RDR Books, 2007), makes Freeman’s case. “I surprised myself,” said Makhijani. “I was sympathetic toward Freeman’s vision, but until I looked into the numbers for myself, I didn’t think the facts supported it. Now I do.”

    To reach the goal of eliminating carbon emissions by 2050 without resorting to nuclear energy, the Makhijani scenario relies on economy-wide efficiency improvements along with combinations of diverse renewable sources: solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, and biomass. Improved integration of the electrical grid (including “smart grid” improvements that, for example, allow vehicular batteries to perform a system backup role) allows for intermittent sources of power, such as wind and solar, to be efficiently exploited. The scenario does not rely on any IGCC/CCS technology.

    While the technical points of Makhijani’s scenario will be debated, the renewable technologies he relies upon are for the most part already in commercial use, and the available solar, wind, and biofuels capacities of the United States are indisputably large. The question, it seems, is more a matter of how rapidly renewable technologies can be scaled up than whether those technologies are feasible. Makhijnai argues that societies can accomplish deep and rapid transformations in their energy systems. France, for example, cut its reliance on coal from 35 percent to 5 percent between 1961 and 1986. To a large extent, the pace of change is dictated less by technical or economic barriers than by political ones. And in overcoming the latter, a sense of possibility along with a clear goal—such as the carbon-free, nuclear-free objective proposed by Makhijani—are key elements of success. – T.N.

  20. A group of us is working on a spreadsheet that includes all costs, including fuel escalation costs, that can be used for free by any bona fide environmental organization. We will not, however, provide it to any group promoting IGCC. Please contact nancy@energyjustice.net with a short description of your group, website etc.

  21. While the article was quite interesting, I was disturbed by the unnecessary name calling aimed at “Big Green” organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation and NRDC. It’s true they are big, but that’s because they have thousands upon thousands of individual members who support what they are doing.
    We’re all on the same side in this fight, and it doesn’t help to try and put wedges between us. The big polluters love us to fight among ourselves. There are legitimate debates, and the IGCC issue is one of them. The “no coal” advocates didn’t address the issue of a new Chinese or Indian coal plant–with almost no scrubbing equipment–being built EACH WEEK! The fear is that energy prices will be pushed up here by banning coal, simply to force our manufacturing to go to China where it will be produced with even dirtier energy. You might have different viewpoints on this issue, but it’s not a simple “yes or no” discussion.
    So congratulations to those folks for stopping a number of coal plants here, but they haven’t dealt with that giant elephant in the room.
    We need a reasoned debate on this very difficult problem, and the article, while informative, used unnecessary name calling that needlessly causes us to lose our focus.

  22. In response to Steve, I want to point out that pushing IGCC and carbon sequestration as a “solution” is not simply dishonest and — to use a word lawyers love to use — disingenuous — it’s criminal. It’s criminal to offer what is essentially a Trojan Horse – a solution that is every bit as deadly as a large wooden horse full of armed soldiers.

    This isn’t a game – it’s the future of our world at stake, and as a lifelong member of NRDC, I couldn’t be more disappointed.

  23. Responding to Nancy LaPlaca. I’d love to have a dialogue with you on the issue, but all you’ve done is call IGCC names–Trojan Horse–and calling me a criminal. (I take that pretty badly, given that I’ve worked for a non-profit for many years and wrote and passed more bills–providing hundreds of millions of dollars for conservation, renewables and low-income bill payment assistance than I imagine anyone on this comment has even come close to doing.)
    Anyway, why not address the issues I raised: how to deal with China and India building a coal plant each week.
    And while I agree coal mining is very damaging, so is global warming. If, and I understand it’s a big expensive if, carbon capture and sequestration can be pulled off on a large scale, I think it could be part of the solution.

  24. I apologize – I didn’t mean to be rude. But I’m tired of the same old discussion about what is a niche solution at best — certainly not doable at a commercial scale.

    And we’ve gone down this road before — it’s the 4th attempt by our government to prop up synthetic coal:
    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=8280

    The cost of gasified and liquified coal, and CO2 compression, transportation and sequestration are extremely expensive, risky and unproven. These projects are failing because they are uneconomic, and when decision makers and utilities have to answer hard questions from citizens, projects die. At least a dozen gasified coal projects have been stopped cold.

    We need to invest heavily in technologies like Concentrating Solar Power — not gasified coal, for crying out loud.

    We need distributed generation, feed-in tariffs, more wind, compressed air, geothermal — REALLY clean solutions — not just a fantastical theory that will create more problems than it solves.

  25. We need to develop clean energy HERE, and then help the developing world – NOT export our DIRTIEST industries to the developing world. China and India use a fraction of the U.S. energy per person.

    Unfortunately, first we need to get U.S. policy going in the right direction, and then work on the rest of the world. I don’t know about you, but I find America’s history of colonialism is horrific, and we’re going backwards. Most everyone on the planet is aware — except us.

  26. To those on both sides of the IGCC debate, I recommend this white paper from Khosla Venture: “The War On Coal: Think Outside the (Coal) Pits.”
    http://tinyurl.com/2q8cj8
    It provides an excellent argument for concentrated solar power (CSP) as a more economical and climate friendly technology than IGCC/CCS.
    Scientific American’s “A Solar Grand Plan” takes a slightly different approach, favoring photovoltaics (PV) rather than CSP:
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan
    Both the CSP and the PV approach are perfectly suitable for China and India. In the United States, both would require a new direct current transmission backbone to bring CSP or PV electricity from the Southwest to the rest of the country. Land requirements would be less than coal, if the area of strip mines and mountaintop removal mines is taken into account.

  27. Nancy is right on. This is a new dream for the new/old solar and conservation tech.

    We don’t need the old nightmares. In New Mexico we still have fusion scientists working to spend a fourth or more of a billion a year for the holy grail of break even and more corporate energy control. Let’s get these scientists back to doing good work..Proof of concept of solar electified train systems for both passengers and freight movement…zero net energy home design and rehab computer analysis for the same for old homes. And it all has to be elegant in economics. Secure locally as much as you can for food clothing shelter and fuel and then look to the mass grid systems for backup not the other way around.

  28. Here are some numbers. Looks like “Killer Coal” costs a whole lot more than Clean Energy.

    The 275 MW showcase of “clean coal,” the FutureGen powerplant, was cancelled when construction costs rose to $1.8 Billion, This is $6.55 per watt – which is just under the $7.00 per watt cost of solar. Solar modules are guaranteed for 25 years. The fuel costs for a solar plant are zero.

    Coal plants require fuel to be mined, processed, and transported. The fuel costs for the $1.8 billion coal plant would be $46 million per year, including transportation, at 2006 prices, $1.2 billion if the costs were locked in at 2006 prices. If the price goes up just 10% per year, then the fuel costs will be $3.4 Billion.

    So the the total costs for the electricity from coal would be $5.2 billion. From a solar farm, $1.925 billion.

    Wind, like Solar, has no fuel costs, and costs about $1 for land based wind farms to $3.50 per watt for offshore wind farms. So a 275 MW wind farm would cost between $275 million and $963 million.

    To summarize, for a 275 MW power plant:
    Wind, onshore: $275 million
    Wind, offshore: $963 million
    Photovoltaic Solar: $1,925 million
    “Killer” Coal: $3,400 million.

  29. I work with a very small local group fighting coal plants in Nevada, and used to work with a small regional group fighting coal plants in New Mexico. I also have been part of a natural gas (methane) swarm for over a decade, during a lot of time when Big Green (Gang Green) was touting natural gas as clean fuel. While I love and am committed to the swarms, I must say that gang green has been of incredible assistance during all these fights (even when we disagreed!). I find the name calling a waste of time (while pointed humor is healthy), and the self-righteous nature of some comments dangerously similar to the attitudes that got us here in the first place. In my experience, gang green is often part of the swarm, at times is very good at support without grabbing the headlines, and is full of useful resources. Of course, like us all, it is also full of less desirable things. A swarm succeeds by its very inclusive and come-one-come-all nature.

  30. These last comments are really the kind of discussion this issue needs. Passionate, but without name-calling. Thank you everyone.

    As for Larry Furman’s numbers, I’d like to make some corrections. First of all, when comparing wind and solar to coal, it’s important to note “capacity factors.” This is the fact that 1 MW of wind (nameplate) only produces about one-third of a MW on average over a year. Solar, unfortunately, is in the same ballpark or even less. Many rooftop units only produce about 10-12% of their full capacity over a year. That’s because the wind and sun don’t produce 24/7. Conventional coal’s average production is about 85-90% of its installed capacity (there are maintenance and unforced outages). IGCC, since it’s new, is estimated at around 80%–more moving parts, basically.

    Land based windfarms now also cost more like double his estimate, due to many of the same increases in costs (steel, copper, etc.) that have driven coal plant costs up in the past few years.

    Finally, wind, especially,has extra “integration” (shaping the intermittent generation into the grid) and transmission costs. While the fuel is zero, there are extra costs that must be added that all told are close to the fuel cost of a coal plant.

    Here are my all-in costs on a per-kilowatt hour basis, which is the only way to really compare. Initial capital costs can be misleading as I pointed out. These numbers are pretty well-accepted in the utility industry, although the last is somewhat speculative. The renewable numbers include the federal production tax credit of about 1.9¢/kWh, so are “artificially” low. However, we all know that nuclear and coal have their subsidies too, so the numbers are probably a fair comparison.

    Wind, on-shore — 5-6 ¢/kWh
    Wind, off-shore — Depends on a lot of site-specific factors. Could be a little cheaper than on-shore (no land costs, much better wind quality) or more expensive, so hard to say.
    PV solar — 40-60¢/kWh
    Concentrated solar — 10-15¢/kWh
    Conventional coal — 5-6¢/kWh (but a lot of CO2!)
    IGCC with Carbon capture and sequestration — 8¢/kWh

    Personally I think solar will be the ultimate answer, there’s a ton of venture capital money that will result in technology and cost breakthroughs. But there are also some promising CO2 capture technologies being tested right now that could be retrofit on existing coal plants–that is, we wouldn’t have to go to IGCC. The most advanced is the Alstom (a giant German company) process that uses ammonia. They spray cold ammonia through the coal-plant’s exhaust, which picks up the CO2. Then the ammonia is warmed and releases the ammonia to be captured and then piped into geologic storage. The company optimistically estimates that it would add about 2-1/2 – 3¢/kWh to the price of coal. While wind would still be cheaper, this might be a partial solution, especially in China and India.

    BTW, while I work with big green, we recently stopped Pacific Power (a big NW utility) from building 2 coal plants by making the case to the utility commission in Oregon that wind and conservation were a better way to go.

  31. Oops, one correction. I meant that when the Ammonia is warmed it releases the CO2. The ammonia is then used over again, so it’s a closed loop process. The company is building a small pilot plant (about 5MWs) in Minnesota right now.

  32. Two thirds of a coal plant’s energy is lost at as heat. Amory Lovins estimates at 3% of the energy it takes to mine, transport the fuel, burn the coal, and transport the electrons end up at your outlet.

    And the “low” capacity factor for sunlight doesn’t matter that much, when you figure that there are no pollution penalties.

    The numbers Big Green has given for wind are far higher than the AWEA website; and solar thermal, according to NREL, is 11 cents/kWh; and Black & Veatch says it will get to 6 cents by 2015. Wind is 3-7 cents/kWh and uses no water. Distributed solar p.v. has benefits that aren’t accounted for, like feeding INTO the grid during peak periods.

    And IGCC’s capacity factor of 80%? Based on what, two plants operating in the U.S.? One of the plants is owned and operated by Tampa Electric, which returned $130 million from the feds when the company decided NOT to expand its existing IGCC.

    And carbon capture and transportation, never mind storage — will DOUBLE the cost of electricity from pulverized coal.

    We must stop using coal unless CO2 can be cost-effecively captured and stored, which is a dream. Or a nightmare, depending.

    Coal has contributed more to the global warming mess than any other single factor; and you can wish and hope and spend a lot of cash, but the CO2 is not going to just “go away.”

  33. Very good discussion of the issues, all. Thanks.

    I agree about solar being the solution up to a point – my understanding is that we’re going to have to find other ways to make solar cells – some of the elements commonly used are already in short supply.

    And about all of the wasted heat going up smokestacks, here’s Bill McKibben on how to capture some of that and make electricity with it from the Nov/Dec issue of Orion:

    http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/467

    This is a no-brainer technology that could be used on all sorts of stacks, from power plants to coffee roasting facilities.

    Erik
    Orion Grassroots Network

  34. According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, NREL, a 10 kw photovoltaic array properly mounted in New Jersey would generate approximately 11,260 kwh of power per year. Obviously, all would be generated during daylight hours. The array would generate more power – a lot more – in the summer months – when the peak loads, and the costs, are higher. The economic value is easy to calculate. Use the NREL calculator to determine the amount of power generated each month, then determine the cost of electricity during the month – electricity costs more in June, July, August, and September. Then factor in the value of the Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECS.

    Solar is perfect for peak power.

    No toxic wastes. No fuel, no fuel shipments, no fuel costs, no fuel spills, no mines, no mining disasters, no mercury, and no radioactive wastes.

    And when you think about it, chlorplasts are photovoltaic engines that turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar. All our food comes via solar.

  35. Larry, your NREL numbers are fine, but what they show is this. A 10 kW PV system, if it could somehow generate 24/7 for a year like a coal plant pretty much does, would produce 87,600 kWhrs of power. (8760 hours in a year.) So if it actually produces only 11,260, that’s a 13% capacity factor. A typical coal plant has a capacity factor of around 85-90%, so around 7 times better. Thus, even adding in the coal plant’s fuel costs, it would have to cost about a quarter of the cost of a coal plant per kW to make it cost competitive. But it actually costs 3 or 4 times coal’s capital cost per kW.

    Concentrating solar is quite a bit cheaper and is on the verge of competing, but PVs are still way too expensive. Yes, they don’t pollute, and yes, they provide power at the highest value hours of the day, but it’s going to require some real breakthroughs in technology to make PVs the answer. If you want something better on your roof, put in a solar hot water heater. They do pay off.

  36. Great discussion all.

    It is so obvious to most of us that we cannot continue to rely on limited, fossil-based sources of energy like coal and oil. To do so is not only bad economics, and bad for the environment, but more and more it is leading to political instability.

    The sun is the ultimate source of almost all life as we know it, and it is going to be around for a long, long time. Seems to make a lot of sense to tap into that source. But solar energy isn’t optimum everywhere or even 24/7. Wind may be better in some places (mountain ridges, etc.). Geothermal works well in a lot of places. Along the coasts, tidal power could make a major contribution. The point is, there are a lot of renewable energy sources available to us, and we need to use what we have WHERE we have it. And if that de-centralizes “the grid”, well that would only be a bonus from a safety and security standpoint.

    Research and development money should be focused only on clean alternatives instead of on justifying the use of coal or trying to find subtle alternative ways to burn the stuff. When all of the externalities (environmental, health, aesthetic, community disruption, etc.) associated with coal – the extraction, transport, processing, burning, and waste disposal are factored into its price – and for far too long they have not been – only then will the alternatives be recognized as truly less costly.

  37. Lest we forget – coal is a finite resource, whether by short estimate – less than 100 years or long 200-50 years. We need to get ahead of the game because there will BE no bridge to cross if we delay. For all those who like to say, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

    To continue building new coal (burning old coal without making the transition to renewables) when we know what we know is nothing short of criminal.

    Does anyone have the scoop on CAES (Compressed Air Energy Storage), the huge project scheduled to be up and running near OK, TX, area?

  38. The following numbers are more up-to-date than the ones given by Steve, which are too low for IGCC with carbon capture. They were released in May 2008 by the California Energy Commission:
    Coal:

    * Coal Supercritical: 10.554
    * Coal Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC): 11.481
    * Coal IGCC with Carbon Capture & Storage (IGCC with CCS): 17.317

    Alternatives:

    * Biogas: 8.552
    * Wind: 8.910
    * Gas Combined Cycle: 9.382
    * Geothermal: 10.182
    * Hydroelectric: 10.527
    * Concentrating solar thermal (CSP): 12.653
    * Nuclear: 15.316
    * Biomass: 16.485
    Source:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Comparative_electrical_generation_costs

  39. The Future of Coal is dark.

    The Supreme Court decided that under the terms of the Clean Air Act the EPA must regulate carbon dioxide.

    In Florida 3.4 GW of new coal plants were killed or shelved in 2007. Republican Governor Charlie Crist said we have a “moral responsibility” to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    In Texas in 2007 TXU canceled 8 plants of 850 MW each, for a total of 6.8 GW. And T. Boone Pickens, one of the guys behind the “Swift Boat Veterans for Bush” is now building wind farms. Pickens is neither a ‘lefty’ nor an ‘environmentalist.’ His approach is ‘imported oil is bad for the economy and national security.’ But he’s not pushing coal or nuclear, while he’s talking about natural gas, he’s building wind farms. 4 GW worth of wind farms.

    I wrote a “Power Point” for Tom Wyka, one of the NJ DFA candidates for Congress. Tom and I think that offshore wind and rooftop solar we could satisfy NJ’s electricity needs in 5 to 7 years with $33 Billion. We don’t know how quickly the wind farms will pay for themselves because we don’t know the maintenance costs, but in NJ Solar pays for itself in about 8 years, and lasts for 30 or 40 so it pays for itself over and over. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Couse, there’s lots of people with no brains.

    Contact me if you want the power point. lfurman 97 at gmail . com.

  40. More Numbers:
    Construction costs for PV Solar, Wind, and Nuclear.

    Land Based Wind: $2 Billion per GW,
    Offshore Wind: $4 Billion per GW,
    Nuclear: $6 Billion per GW,
    PV Solar: $6.5 Billion GW.

    This is also in my powerpoint, and is taken from the costs to build Atlantic City Utility Authority’s 7.5 MW wind farm and 500 KW PV Solar Array, Picken’s 4 GW wind farm, and FPL’s estimated $18 Billion for 3 GW.

    Keep in mind that solar and wind are scalable – as soon as the first turbine or the first set of PV Modules are up and connected the system starts generating power. FPL estimated 12 years and $18 billion if all goes well.

  41. Regarding Larry’s numbers (comment #44): these costs are for nameplate capacity. Since wind and solar only produce energy about 15-35% of nameplate, the comparison isn’t good. On an energy basis, that is, per kilowatt-hour, wind is three times your number and solar is probably five times that. Of course they have very low operating costs and no fuel–as well as no nuclear waste! But let’s be realistic when giving out cost figures.

  42. “Nameplate Capacity” doesn’t work for nuclear either. Nuclear reactors are brought down every 12 to 18 months for refueling, and more frequently for unscheduled maintenance and issues that the NRC doesn’t consider to be “problems.” Watts Barr II was scrapped in 1988, after 15 years and $4 billion – it was never finished and never turned on. Watts Barr I, which was also started in 1973, wasn’t completed until 1996 – 23 years after it was started.

    The Toms River NJ school system invested about 25 Million in solar that will pay for itself in about 8 years. Meaning it will generate power that at current rates of increase will be worth a cumulative $25 million in about 8 years. This includes the value of SRECs in NJ and does not include interest charges.

    So maybe instead of talking about cost, we should talk about payback and return on investment.

  43. We also know, with scientific precision, according to the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab, NREL, calculators, that a 10 KW PV solar energy system at a 30 degree angle facing solar-south in NJ will produce 12,148 kwh of electricity per year.

    The NREL calculator is on the web at http://www.pvwatts.org/

  44. “So maybe instead of talking about cost, we should talk about payback and return on investment.”

    Larry, you’re such a hypocrite. Two posts before that you were talking about construction COSTS (“Construction costs for PV Solar, Wind, and Nuclear.”). Next time, think about what you say before you actually say it.

  45. How typical for the right wing. An illogical and incoherent argument that falls back on ad hominem attacks.

    The truth of the matter is that solar is better for the economy and the planet. But, this argument is moot, given the EPA’s announcement that it will abide by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to regulate carbon dioxide. (See Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp., No. 05-848 April 2, 2007 and Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) ruling Nov. 13, 2008.

    The real questions are:

    How do we retrain coal miners and people like me to build solar modules, solar arrays, wind turbines, wind farms, etc – the sustainable energy systems that will power our homes and communities in the future?

    And when do we start?

  46. I think we need to invest heavily in technologies like Concentrating Solar Power and we need distributed generation, feed-in tariffs, more wind, compressed air, geothermal etc..not just a fantastical theory that will create more problems than it solves.Simply put It would better that we-all find a practical use for CO2 – and fast!

  47. It would seem that these smaller organizations are being overlooked by the government/ corporations just to seemingly make money. Even though these coal plants are destroying the earth, they make money. And its still happening today, even though solar is greatly superior, only 0.3% of all energy comes from solar, and you can most likely guess what the other 67% of energy comes from. I really hope that someday coal producers will realize that saving the planet is more important than money. My guess is that solar will be used more that coal in 500 years if we continue to act like money making leeches.

  48. Actually, while it appears that some of the larger publicly held US based coal companies are making money, (in part, no doubt because of favorable tax policies and outright subsidies) the smaller publicly held coal companies are operating at a loss.

    I started looking at fossil fuel and sustainable energy companies in Dec. 2012, and publishing what I saw on PopularLogistics.com. Then, last month, after Pres. Obama’s Executive Orders regarding carbon, I looked more closely at the US coal industry, and published the results on Popular Logistics and SeekingAlpha.com.

    King Coal may be alive, but he is not strong.

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