Articals of interest to the coal industry.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Energy Independence Wall St. Journal

'Energy Independence'

Jan 23, 2007
Wall Street Journal, Print Edition


A cry is being heard across the nation, and loudly so in Washington. It is the call for "energy independence," and it will be at the center of the national energy debate over the next several months, providing the rationale for new policies and expansion of existing ones. Indeed, one might even anticipate a "declaration of energy independence" this July 4.
But what does "energy independence" mean for a $13 trillion economy that uses the equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil every day? Is it realistic and achievable? Or is it rhetorical overreach that will lead, as in the past, to disappointment and cynicism, the kind that drives the cycles of inconsistency in energy policy and leaves the U.S. no less vulnerable? The latter is more likely -- at least without a realistic appraisal of the U.S. position and the country's possibilities. But "energy independence" can provide a constructive framework for policy if it is properly thought through and the realities are recognized.
* * *
With geopolitical turmoil, volatile prices and continuing reminders of the international political power of oil, the concept of energy independence is compelling and deeply appealing. In fact, it has been appealing for quite some time. The idea was introduced by Richard Nixon in November 1973, three weeks after the Arab oil embargo, when he introduced "Project Independence" and pledged that the U.S. would, within seven years, "meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy source." It was a bold assertion but one that puzzled his own advisers. "I cut the reference to 'independence' three times from the drafts, but it kept being put back," recalled Richard Fairbanks, a drafter of the speech. "Finally, I called over, and was told that it came from the Old Man himself." Nixon knew that energy independence was something that Americans would crave after the 1973 oil shock: He deliberately modeled his Project Independence on John F. Kennedy's Apollo goal of getting a man on the moon within a decade.
Back then, the goal may have seemed only somewhat unlikely. After all, when Nixon began his political career after World War II, the country already had a long history of energy independence -- and then some. For it had actually been the world's No. 1 oil exporter; indeed, out of seven billion barrels of oil used by the Allies in World War II, six billion were produced in the U.S. By the late 1940s, the U.S. had become a net importer of oil, although the real surge in imports did not begin until the 1970s.
It proved much easier to get a man on the moon than to make a nation energy independent. In the three and a half decades since Nixon, the U.S. has gone from importing a third of its oil to importing 60%, and that share is set to continue rising. The country is on a similar path for natural gas (which is about 25% of our total energy usage). North American supply has flattened out. Yet large amounts of new natural-gas-fired electric power generation have been added over the last decade, which means that demand will increase. Natural gas is also used in the making of ethanol, adding to the demand growth. This means growing imports of liquefied natural gas -- LNG -- rising from 3% of our current demand to more than 25% by 2020.
All of which suggests that thought needs to be given both to what energy independence means and what can be achieved. For, right now, the U.S. is moving at some speed in the opposite direction, toward greater integration into the global energy markets.
How dependent is the U.S.? If we look at total energy -- including coal, nuclear and a small but growing share from renewables -- the country is over 70% self-sufficient. Oil -- refined into liquid fuels for transportation -- is where most of the current dependence comes from. The risks do not owe to direct imports from the Middle East, contrary to the widespread belief. Some 81% of oil imports do not come from that region. Thus, only 19% of imports -- and 12% of total petroleum consumption -- originates in the Middle East
Our largest source of oil imports is Canada. It's also the source of most of our current natural gas imports, via pipelines. One can hardly say that either Canada or energy imports from Canada constitute a major threat to national security. The energy trade is part of a normal trading relationship with the country with which we're conjoined economically and which just happens to be our biggest trading partner. Our second largest source is Mexico, with which we are also in a dense relationship. Mexico depends upon oil for about a third of total government revenues.
The picture becomes more complex when one turns to our third largest source of oil imports, Venezuela. The once much-discussed "hemispheric energy solidarity" loses much of its resonance when balanced against the "21stcentury socialism" of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. After all, President Chávez is currently nationalizing the private sector, has on occasion threatened to embargo oil shipments to the U.S., and is putting much effort into fashioning an anti-U.S. alliance, the latest manifestation being the visit of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Caracas. These are not the actions one normally associates with a good friend or a reliable trading partner.
Yet the source of imports is significant only up to a point. Energy security is a global issue. Although oil around the world varies greatly in terms of physical qualities and transportation costs, there is only one world oil market. So disruptions and loss of supply in one place radiate throughout the global market -- and global politics -- affecting consumers everywhere. Even if the U.S. did not import a drop of oil, it would still be vulnerable to turmoil involving oil outside its borders.
What are the prospects for "energy independence" in the way that Richard Nixon defined it 34 years ago -- that is, 1930s-style "autarky" and total self-sufficiency? Based on where we are today, very small, at least for a couple of decades. In terms of vehicles, as pointed out in our new study on "Gasoline and the American People," only about 8% of the auto fleet turns over every year. So the lead times are long for more efficient vehicles to enter the fleet. Ethanol, derived from corn, is on track to grow to about 10% of our total gasoline pool in a few years. This is certainly not inconsequential; it represents diversification and is equivalent to creating a new Indonesia-level oil-producing country in America's Midwest. But signs are already evident of an upper bound on corn-based ethanol, as the fuel-versus-food trade-off pushes up corn prices, setting off vocal protests from livestock growers and dairy farmers and, in due course, from those who buy breakfast cereals and soft drinks made with high fructose corn syrup.
What about technological advances that provide new answers? There is a "great bubbling" all along the innovation frontier of energy, ranging from conventional energy and efficiency to, especially, renewables, alternatives and "clean tech." Activity this wide-ranging has never been witnessed before. The impact could well be considerable, or even transformative. One would be very hard-pressed today, however, to say when and what form this impact will take.
In the end, if energy independence is presented as self-sufficiency, it will likely fall flat. And, as prices run through their cycles, disappointment will undermine the longer-term commitments that are required for a sound energy future. Today, quite simply, cutting ourselves off from global energy markets is not realistic.
But, if the goal of energy independence is understood differently, to mean energy security -- resilience, robustness, reduced vulnerability -- then it is much more useful.
This kind of definition recognizes that trade, in itself, is not bad. At the same time, it emphasizes the central goal of diversification -- encouraging investment and higher levels of research and development in both alternative and conventional energy sources. It means a new push for energy conservation, higher energy efficiency, lower energy intensity -- a theme that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make the centerpiece of her agenda as chairman of the G-8 countries later this year. It certainly requires a consistent commitment to pushing the innovation frontier in ways that, eventually, lead to economically competitive alternatives and new technologies.
And it requires an understanding that this kind of energy independence -- as measured in energy security -- actually requires interdependence with other nations, both consumers and producers of energy. Indeed, how we manage our relations with other countries and other regions is a very essential ingredient for our own energy well-being.
Mr. Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, is writing a book on energy and geopolitics

China and coal production

China to control coal production, revamp industry vital to power supply
Jan 23, 2007
Florida Times Union

SHANGHAI, China — China will consolidate coal mines and boost output of good quality coal while controlling overall production, the country's planning agency says in a five-year blueprint for the industry.
Total production will be capped at 2.6 billion tons annually by 2010, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a report posted on its Web site.
China is the world's biggest producer and consumer of coal, with output last year at 2.33 billion tons compared with demand of 2.25 billion tons. The country exports some of its low grade coal and imports high grade coking coal to meet the needs of its steel industry.
Coal, which now fuels about 70 percent of China's power output, will remain the country's main energy source, the report said. It largely confirms industry guidelines announced earlier.
"The key mission during the period is to control output, form big players, consolidate small and medium-size suppliers and eliminate those with low recovery rates and poor safety," the commission said.
China's coal mining industry is highly fragmented, with tens of thousands of small mine operators. In recent days state media reported that the government also plans to consolidate the industry by requiring that operations in any single coal field be controlled by only one company, to help improve technology and safety in the notoriously perilous industry.
In 2005, small mines accounted for just over 1 billion of China's total coal output. By 2010, planners expect small mines to provide only 700 million tons of total supply, the report said.
With demand for coal driving up prices, the industry is booming. But mines are unlicensed and ignore safety and labor rules.
At least 4,746 people were killed in floods, fires, explosions and other mishaps at mines last year, making China's mining industry the world's deadliest by far, although the total official figure was a decrease from the average fatality rate of 6,000 a year in recent years.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Texas time," ticks on coal decision !

Ticking away

by kathy williams

herald democrat

Time. It’s the focal point in the discussion among the groups opposed to building 18 coal-fired power plants in Texas and those advocating such construction.
Opponents say the governor’s executive order putting the plants on a fast-track to gaining a permit doesn’t give them sufficient time to conduct testing and raise money to mount a defense. These opponents also say the plants, including one in Savoy in Fannin County, will pollute the atmosphere for up to 50 years. And the plants can’t be built in time to solve the energy crunch predicted as early as next year. Opponents have sued Gov. Rick Perry, contending his executive order exceeded his constitutional authority and impinged on the authority of the judiciary.
TXU, which is seeking permits to build 11 pulverized coal plants, non profits TXU and other coal and power companies have created, along with the president of Texas Association of Business, say the time to act is now or face the prospect of power shortages in 2008-2009. However, the soonest TXU’s plants would be online is 2010.
Environmental Defense is one of the organizations the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings admitted as a party to the case considering TXU’s request for a permit to operate the plant. Colin Rowan, director of regional communications for Environmental Defense said Texans do need to act, but his organization has a plan to avert power shortages without further damaging the environment.
Bill Hammond, president of Texas Association of Business, held a press conference in Sherman Friday to advocate the use of coal as a fuel source for producing electricity. Hammond called TXU’s planned plants “new generation” and if built they would ensure Texas meets its energy needs, including recommended 12.5-percent reserves, in the upcoming years. Hammond was on a statewide press conference tour touting TAB’s “Don’t Leave Texas in the Dark: Fuel Diversity is Key to Texas Future Energy Demands.” The report calls for a greater use of coal and nuclear energy to fuel Texas electrical generators.
“Texas is facing a looming energy crisis — and we should and must deal with it today,” states written material Hammond gave to the two reporters who attended the press conference. “To maintain our status as the best place to live, work and raise a family, we must attain additional sources of reliable and affordable energy — and quickly. To ignore this problem, risks undermining Texas job creation, crippling our economy and enduring more of the blackouts our state already has struggled with. None of these is an acceptable scenario.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is responsible for running the state’s electricity grid. In its forecasts of growth in population and use of electricity, ERCOT recommends a reserve margin of 12.5 percent of peak demand. This year, Texas has reached new peaks in both summer and winter demand, the latter unofficially set Tuesday, according to a press release from Thomas Kleckner, corporate communications director for TXU. Even with these records, ERCOT predicts the margin can be maintained until 2008-2009.
Hammond said the rolling brownout Central Texas experienced in April “admittedly was an extremely rare set of circumstances. But it’s the canary in a coal mine. Year-to year demand in August of ’05 to August of ’06 grew by 5 percent. And then we expect some 6 million additional Texan by 2015.”
Environmental Defense’s Rowan said, that’s just the point.
“There’s this 2008-2009 issue that TXU doesn’t address,” Rowan said. “So what we did in our report was we asked energy experts to look at energy efficiency programs across the country. Now what we mean by energy efficiency is not just telling people to put a blanket on and turn down their heaters; we mean systemic changes that would be made to the electrical system that would improve the transfer of electricity and make our system more efficient.”
Rowan said Environmental Defense’s plan also would ask the Legislature to mandate more efficient appliances and changes in the way industry uses the electricity grid. These and other changes proposed in ED’s plan are feasible and “would keep Texas above the 12.5 margin for two years and beyond that we could find about 700 megawatts of additional energy from clean resources to keep us above the 12.5 percent reserve margin for another two years.”
Rowan emphasized that the “major message for that entire analysis is that we have time to figure this out. We do not have to rush and build 11 or 19 coal-fired power plants that will last for another 50 years. We don’t have to decide that right now, we can implement these energy efficiency measure that will save consumers money, use less energy to reduce our pollution, give us time to make wiser, more educated decisions about our energy future.”
On another front, Houston attorney Jim Blackburn filed a lawsuit against the governor saying Perry’s executive order to fast-track the permitting process for TXU’s and eight other coal-fired power plants violates the law and the constitution. Blackburn represents Citizens Organizing for Resources and Environment, the local group that opposes TXU’s plans to build a coal-fired plant in Savoy. Blackburn said in a telephone interview Friday that he represents CORE in both the contested hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings and in the lawsuit against Perry.
CORE is joined by three other groups in the lawsuit against Perry, which Blackburn filed in a Travis County state district court.
“The suit charges that the Texas Legislature created SOAH as an independent judicial agency within state government and that the governor lacks the authority to direct the manner in which SOAH conducts its hearings,” a press release from the four organizations states. “The suit also charges that the Texas Constitution prevents such interference with judicial functions.”
Blackburn explained that the statute governing SOAH “creates an independent judicial branch within the executive branch, which is weird, but the statutes itself basically guarantees the independence of this agency. And what the governor has done is he has issued an executive order and the judges have interpreted the executive order to take away their discretion to grant additional time to prepare for a complex hearing.”
Blackburn said typically in complex cases, judges allow additional time for discovery (getting information from opposing sides.)
“Typically, there’s time to hire computer modelers, for example, to monitor the air pollution that will impact the health of the people surrounding the plant and bring in health experts to talk about the health impacts of those numbers.
“You’re dealing with citizens groups that are not generally equipped to do this type of work — having to both raise money, go and hire not only attorneys, but experts and commissioning these studies.
“What the governor’s order does is take away basic due process rights that we otherwise have under state law.”
Blackburn said this is not only a due process argument but a big property rights case in addition to a challenge of the governor’s extension of power.
“These are farmers and ranchers, who for the most part live in the country, that are trying to defend their property and their health and they’re not being allowed a fair chance to do that. And if nothing else, we are going to strike a blow to try to tell the governor we don’t think it’s right.”
Across the Red River, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has written to SOAH saying it is concerned “that the proper notices of the draft permits were not provided to the agency (DEQ). Under (Texas law) applicants for the proposed electric generation units should have provided notice to any air pollution control agency of any nearby state in which air quality may be adversely affected by the emissions from the new or modified facility. DEQ has not receive such notice. Because proper notice was not made, DEQ requests that these comments be fully considered as timely by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the State Office of Administrative Hearings.”
The Oklahoma environmental protection agency said it is concerned particularly about concentrations of ozone coming north from Texas. The letter says Oklahoma fears such pollution might put that state in a non-attainment status in regard to federal Clean Air Act provisions. DEQ asks that SOAH require studies to show that the cumulative effects of all the plants that affect Oklahoma be conducted before TXU’s permits are granted.
The two judges currently hearing the Savoy case and five others, which it combined into one large case in December, wrote back to DEQ that Texas’ rules require that a company seeking a permit must furnish a copy and affidavit of its newspaper notices to “the air pollution control agency of any nearby state in which air quality may be adversely affected by the new or modified facility.”
The letter continues, “While the rule places the onus on the applicant to provide this information, in the case of Valley Steam (Savoy plant) application, the modeling provided by the applicant and found acceptable by the ED (TCEQ’s executive director) staff demonstrated that levels of modeled criteria pollutants at the state line, with one exception, were at or below (legallty acceptable levels). ... Therefore the ED did not consider Oklahoma to be adversely affected.”
So far, the Oklahoma agency has not further responded. Blackburn said he is hopeful of raising this issue during the contested hearing.

Global Warming Oversold?

Experts fear they've oversold global warming

Jan 22, 2007

Houston Chronicle

Scientists long have issued the warnings: The modern world's appetite for cars, air conditioning and cheap, fossil-fuel energy spews billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, unnaturally warming the world.
Yet, it took the dramatic images of a hurricane overtaking New Orleans and searing heat last summer to finally trigger widespread public concern on the issue of global warming.
Climate scientists might be expected to bask in the spotlight after their decades of toil. The general public now cares about greenhouse gases, and with a new Democratic-led Congress, federal action on climate change may be at hand.
Problem is, global warming may not have caused Hurricane Katrina, and last summer's heat waves were equaled and, in many cases, surpassed by heat in the 1930s.
In their efforts to capture the public's attention, then, have climate scientists oversold global warming? It's probably not a majority view, but a few climate scientists are beginning to question whether some dire predictions push the science too far.
"Some of us are wondering if we have created a monster," says Kevin Vranes, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado.
Vranes, who is not considered a global warming skeptic by his peers, came to this conclusion after attending an American Geophysical Union meeting last month. Vranes says he detected "tension" among scientists, notably because projections of the future climate carry uncertainties — a point that hasn't been fully communicated to the public.
The science of climate change often is expressed publicly in unambiguous terms.
For example, last summer, Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, told the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce: "I think we understand the mechanisms of CO2 and climate better than we do of what causes lung cancer. ... In fact, it is fair to say that global warming may be the most carefully and fully studied scientific topic in human history."
Vranes says, "When I hear things like that, I go crazy."
Nearly all climate scientists believe the Earth is warming and that human activity, by increasing the level of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, has contributed significantly to the warming.
But within the broad consensus are myriad questions about the details. How much of the recent warming has been caused by humans? Is the upswing in Atlantic hurricane activity due to global warming or natural variability? Are Antarctica's ice sheets at risk for melting in the near future?
To the public and policymakers, these details matter. It's one thing to worry about summer temperatures becoming a few degrees warmer.
It's quite another if ice melting from Greenland and Antarctica raises the sea level by 3 feet in the next century, enough to cover much of Galveston Island at high tide.
Models aren't infallible
Scientists have substantial evidence to support the view that humans are warming the planet — as carbon dioxide levels rise, glaciers melt and global temperatures rise. Yet, for predicting the future climate, scientists must rely upon sophisticated — but not perfect — computer models.
"The public generally underappreciates that climate models are not meant for reducing our uncertainty about future climate, which they really cannot, but rather they are for increasing our confidence that we understand the climate system in general," says Michael Bauer, a climate modeler at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York.
Gerald North, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, dismisses the notion of widespread tension among climate scientists on the course of the public debate. But he acknowledges that considerable uncertainty exists with key events such as the melting of Antarctica, which contains enough ice to raise sea levels by 200 feet.
"We honestly don't know that much about the big ice sheets," North says. "We don't have great equations that cover glacial movements. But let's say there's just a 10 percent chance of significant melting in the next century. That would be catastrophic, and it's worth protecting ourselves from that risk."
Much of the public debate, however, has dealt in absolutes. The poster for Al Gore's global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, depicts a hurricane blowing out of a smokestack. Katrina's devastation is a major theme in the film.
Judith Curry, an atmospheric scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has published several research papers arguing that a link between a warmer climate and hurricane activity exists, but she admits uncertainty remains.
Like North, Curry says she doubts there is undue tension among climate scientists but says Vranes could be sensing a scientific community reaction to some of the more alarmist claims in the public debate.
For years, Curry says, the public debate on climate change has been dominated by skeptics, such as Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and strong advocates such as NASA's James Hansen, who calls global warming a ticking "time bomb" and talks about the potential inundation of all global coastlines within a few centuries.
That may be changing, Curry says. As the public has become more aware of global warming, more scientists have been brought into the debate. These scientists are closer to Hansen's side, she says, but reflect a more moderate view.
"I think the rank-and-file are becoming more outspoken, and you're hearing a broader spectrum of ideas," Curry says.
Young and old tension
Other climate scientists, however, say there may be some tension as described by Vranes. One of them, Jeffrey Shaman, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University, says that unease exists primarily between younger researchers and older, more established scientists.
Shaman says some junior scientists may feel uncomfortable when they see older scientists making claims about the future climate, but he's not sure how widespread that sentiment may be. This kind of tension always has existed in academia, he adds, a system in which senior scientists hold some sway over the grants and research interests of graduate students and junior faculty members.
The question, he says, is whether it's any worse in climate science.
And if it is worse? Would junior scientists feel compelled to mute their findings, out of concern for their careers, if the research contradicts the climate change consensus?
"I can understand how a scientist without tenure can feel the community pressures," says environmental scientist Roger Pielke Jr., a colleague of Vranes' at the University of Colorado.
Pielke says he has felt pressure from his peers: A prominent scientist angrily accused him of being a skeptic, and a scientific journal editor asked him to "dampen" the message of a peer-reviewed paper to derail skeptics and business interests.
"The case for action on climate science, both for energy policy and adaptation, is overwhelming," Pielke says. "But if we oversell the science, our credibility is at stake."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Do the math on gobal warming

January 16, 2007
Why Global Warming is Probably a Crock

By James Lewis
American Thinker
As a scientist I've learned never to say "never." So human-caused global warming is always a hypothesis to hold, at least until climate science becomes mature. (Climate science is very immature right now: Physicists just don't know how to deal with hypercomplex systems like the earth weather. That's why a recent NASA scientist was wildly wrong when he called anthropogenic warming "just basic physics." Basic physics is what you do in the laboratory. If hypercomplex systems were predictable, NASA would have foolproof space shuttles --- because they are a lot simpler than the climate. So this is just pseudoscientific twaddle from NASA's vaunted Politically Correct Division. It makes me despair when even scientists conveniently forget that little word "hypothesis.")
OK. The human-caused global warming hypothesis is completely model-dependent. We can't directly observe cars and cows turning up the earth thermostat. Whatever the human contribution there may be to climate constitutes just a few signals among many hundreds or thousands.
All our models of the earth climate are incomplete. That's why they keep changing, and that's why climate scientists keep finding surprises. As Rummy used to say, there are a ton of "unknown unknowns" out there. The real world is full of x's, y's and z's, far more than we can write little models about. How do you extract the human contribution from a vast number of unknowns?
That's why constant testing is needed, and why it is so frustrating to do frontier science properly. Science is difficult because nature always has another surprise in store for us, dammit! Einstein rejected quantum mechanics, and was wrong about that. Newton went wrong on the proof of calculus, a problem that didn't get solved until 1900. Scientists are always wrong --- they are just less wrong now than they were before (if everything is going well). Check out the current issue of Science magazine. It's full of surprises. That's what it's for.
Now there's a basic fact about complexity that helps to understand this. It's a point in probability theory (eek!) about many variables, each one less than 100 percent likely to be true.
If I know that my six-sided die isn't loaded, I'll get a specific number on average one out of six rolls. Two rolls of the die produces 1/6 x 1/6 = 1/36. For n rolls of the die, I get (1/6) multiplied by itself n times, or (1/6) to the nth power. That number becomes small very quickly. The more rolls of the die, the less likely it is that some particular sequence will come up. It's the first thing to know in any game of chance. Don't ever bet serious money if that isn't obvious.
Now imagine that all the variables about global climate are known with less than 100 percent certainty. Let's be wildly and unrealistically optimistic and say that climate scientists know each variable to 99 percent certainty! (No such thing, of course). And let's optimistically suppose there are only one-hundred x's, y's, and z's --- all the variables that can change the climate: like the amount of cloud cover over Antarctica, the changing ocean currents in the South Pacific, Mount Helena venting, sun spots, Chinese factories burning more coal every year, evaporation of ocean water (the biggest "greenhouse" gas), the wobbles of earth orbit around the sun, and yes, the multifarious fartings of billions of living creatures on the face of the earth, minus, of course, all the trillions of plants and algae that gobble up all the CO2, nitrogen-containing molecules, and sulfur-smelling exhalations spewed out by all of us animals. Got that? It all goes into our best math model.
So in the best case, the smartest climatologist in the world will know 100 variables, each one to an accuracy of 99 percent. Want to know what the probability of our spiffiest math model would be, if that perfect world existed? Have you ever multiplied (99/100) by itself 100 times? According to the Google calculator, it equals a little more than 36.6 percent.
The Bottom line: our best imaginable model has a total probability of one out of three. How many billions of dollars in Kyoto money are we going to spend on that chance?
Or should we just blow it at the dog races?
So all ye of global warming faith, rejoice in the ambiguity that real life presents to all of us. Neither planetary catastrophe nor paradise on earth are sure bets. Sorry about that. (Consider growing up, instead.)
That's why human-caused global warming is an hypothesis, not a fact. Anybody who says otherwise isn't doing science, but trying to sell you a bill of goods.
Probably. James Lewis is the nom de plume of an academic scientist. He blogs at Dangerous Times.Page Printed from: at January 19, 2007 - 01:51:05 PM EST

Card check bill, what is it?

This is a few months old but is informative none-the-less about what is going on in Congress.

September 10, 2006

Tom Vilsack, Rallying Dems 'Round an Anti-Democracy Cause

National Assoc of Manufacturers;

Interesting piece by David Broder in today's WaPo, praising Iowa Governor and likely Presidential candidate Tom Vilsack and the issue he has found to rally diverse elements of the Democrat party. The good news for the Dems is that Vilsack has rallied them -- from the Democratic Leadership Council to the AFL-CIO. The bad news for the Dems is that the issue is the anti-democracy "card check" bill that's bouncing around the Congress. The bill would allow unions to gain recognition of an employee group short of an election. In being so blatantly against secret ballot elections, the bill is as flagrantly anti-democracy as they come.
The way it works under current law (the same law that saw the unions expand their ranks in the 50's, 60's and 70's) is that if a union wants to represent a given workforce, they need to get "authorization cards" signed by 30% of that workforce. What union organizers do, of course, is, uh, visit people face-to-face and, uh, urge them to sign the cards. Some have even used the word "intimidation" in describing this process. Imagine that. If they get enough cards, they have an election. Whaddaya know? A bunch of people who, uh, voluntarily signed those cards end up voting against the union. And so "Foul!" cry the unions. Their proposal -- since they keep losing elections -- is to lower the bar. In other words, how 'bout we just let the union win if we can get enough people to, uh, voluntarily sign cards that say, "I want to join a union"?
As unions have seen their numbers dwindle, they have found everyone on earth to blame but themselves. Remember that for 8 years of the Clinton Administration -- friendly to labor -- their numbers continued to sink. The card check bill -- that flies under the misnomer, "Employee Free Choice Act" -- is championed by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) who will be chair of the Education and Workforce Committee if the Democrats take control of the House.
How ironic would it be if America -- champions of democracy all over the globe -- abandoned secret ballot elections right here at home? Mark us down as pro-democracy. We continue to favor secret ballot elections. Let's hope Tom Vilsack can rally the Dems around an issue that smells just a little more like democracy.

Posted by Pat Cleary at September 10, 2006 12:00 PM

Weather Channel wants to snuff out free thots?

Weather Channel Climate Expert Calls for Decertifying Global Warming Skeptics

January 17, 2007

Posted by Marc Morano 202-224-5762 (8:50pm ET)

The Weather Channel’s most prominent climatologist is advocating that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming. This latest call to silence skeptics follows a year (2006) in which skeptics were compared to "Holocaust Deniers" and Nuremberg-style war crimes trials were advocated by several climate alarmists.

The Weather Channel’s (TWC) Heidi Cullen, who hosts the weekly global warming program "The Climate Code," is advocating that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) revoke their "Seal of Approval" for any television weatherman who expresses skepticism that human activity is creating a climate catastrophe.

"If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns," Cullen wrote in her December 21 weblog on the Weather Channel Website. [Note: It is also worth taking a look at the comments section at the bottom of Cullen’s blog, very entertaining.] See: This latest call to silence skeptics of manmade global warming has been the subject of discussion at the annual American Meteorological Society’s Annual conference in San Antonio Texas this week. See:
"It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather. It's not a political's just an incorrect statement," Cullen added. [Note to Cullen: Hurricanes (Cyclones) in the Southern Hemisphere do rotate clockwise. Also, Cullen and the media have ignored the growing climate skepticism by prominent scientists see: ]
Cullen’s call for decertification of TV weatherman who do not agree with her global warming assessment follows a year (2006) in which the media, Hollywood and environmentalists tried their hardest to demonize scientific skeptics of manmade global warming. Scott Pelley, CBS News 60 Minutes correspondent, compared skeptics of global warming to "Holocaust deniers" and former Vice President turned foreign lobbyist Al Gore has repeatedly referred to skeptics as "global warming deniers." See: &
Cullen Featured Advocate of Nuremberg-Style Trials for Climate Skeptics
In addition, Cullen’s December 17, 2006 episode of "The Climate Code" TV show, featured a columnist who openly called for Nuremberg-style Trials for climate skeptics. Cullen featured Grist Magazine’s Dave Roberts as an eco-expert opining on energy issues, with no mention of his public call to institute what amounts to the death penalty for scientists who express skepticism about global warming. See:

Cullen’s call for suppressing scientific dissent comes at a time when many skeptical scientists affiliated with Universities have essentially been silenced over fears of loss of tenure and the withdrawal of research grant money. The United Nations Inner Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process has also steadily pushed scientists away who hold inconvenient skeptical views and reject the alarmist conclusions presented in the IPCC’s summary for policymakers. See:

Cullen also participated in the New York premiere of the fictional Hollywood global warming disaster film The Day After Tomorrow in 2004 and has routinely promoted celebrity environmental views. See: & The Weather Channel, which has billed itself as itself as the "pre-eminent provider of weather information," also served as a consultant to The Day After Tomorrow and allowed the use of its name and logo in the movie.
Broadcast meteorologists (TV weatherman) skeptical of climate alarmism have -- up until now -- been unburdened to speak out on climate issues. Cullen’s call for decertification by the AMS can only serve to intimidate skeptics and further chill free speech in the scientific community. Stripping the "Seal of Approval" from broadcast meteorologists could affect their livelihoods, impact their salaries and prestige. TV weathermen are truly the last of the independent scientists and past surveys have shown many of them to be skeptical of manmade global warming claims. Their independence is being threatened now. For more info on the background of the AMS seal, see:

Intimidating scientists with calls for death trials, name calling and calls for decertification appears to be the accepted tactics of the climate alarmists. The real question is: Why do climate alarmists feel the need to resort to such low brow tactics when they have a compliant media willing to repeat their every assertion without question. See:

The alarmists also enjoy a huge financial advantage over the skeptics with numerous foundations funding climate research, University research money and the United Nations endless promotion of the cause.
Just how much money do the climate alarmists have at their disposal? There was a $3 billion donation to the global warming cause from Virgin Air’s Richard Branson alone. The well-heeled environmental lobbying groups have massive operating budgets compared to groups that express global warming skepticism. The Sierra Club Foundation 2004 budget was $91 million and the Natural Resources Defense Council had a $57 million budget for the same year. Compare that to the often media derided Competitive Enterprise Institute’s small $3.6 million annual budget.

In addition, if a climate skeptic receives any money from industry, the media immediately labels them and attempts to discredit their work. The same media completely ignore the money flow from the environmental lobby to climate alarmists like James Hansen and Michael Oppenheimer. (ie. Hansen received $250,000 from the Heinz Foundation and Oppenheimer is a paid partisan of Environmental Defense Fund)
The alarmists have all of these advantages, yet they still feel the need to resort to desperation tactics to silence the skeptics. Could it be that the alarmists realize that the American public is increasingly rejecting their proposition that the family SUV is destroying the earth and rejecting their shrill calls for "action" to combat their computer model predictions of a "climate emergency?" See

That may be the real Inconvenient Truth. After all, even the UN is reportedly downgrading man’s impact on the climate by 25% and now concedes that cow "emissions" are more damaging to the planet than C02 from cars. See:


Pelosi to tackle energy

It would appear since Obama has taken up the energy issue as his own everybody wants to get in on the act. I understand ALGORE is being considered as the chair for this ad hoc committee. Its a good time to have Congressman Boucher there as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce. I think if I was a front runner for Pres in 2008, I would pick Rick now for my V-P running mate.

Pelosi creates panel to tackle energy bill

Thu Jan 18, 2007 4:37pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she is creating a special committee to prepare a package of legislation to address the nation's energy needs and global warming.

"I have asked the chairs of the relevant committees to hold hearings and pass legislation so that by the Fourth of July we can have a package of legislation to truly declare our energy independence," Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters at a news conference.
She spoke as debate was under way on the House floor over a Democratic bill to end certain subsidies to the oil industry and use the money to promote new forms of energy.
Pelosi said she was forming "a select committee on energy independence and global warming. Its purpose will be to communicate with the American people on this important issue."

She predicted House passage of the oil industry subsidies bill and said, "Today is a start. It's just a beginning, this legislation that will be passed ... By the Fourth of July, we will have good news to report."
© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

China and future technology

Monday, January 08, 2007

China's Coal Future

To prevent massive pollution and slow its growing contribution to global warming, China will need to make advanced coal technology work on an unprecedented scale.

By Peter Fairley
A visitor arriving in Shanghai immediately notices China's technological conundrum. Through the windows of the magnetically levitated train that covers the 30 kilometers from Pudong International Airport to Shanghai at up to 430 kilometers per hour, both the progress the country is making and the price it is paying for it are apparent. Most days, a yellow haze hangs over Shanghai's construction frenzy. Pollution is the leading cause of death in China, killing more than a million people a year. And the primary cause of pollution is also the source of the energy propelling the ultramodern train: coal.
To keep pace with the country's economic growth, ­China's local governments, utilities, and entrepreneurs are building, on average, one coal-fired power plant per week. The power plants emit a steady stream of soot, sulfur dioxide, and other toxic pollutants into the air; they also spew out millions of tons of carbon dioxide. In November, the International Energy Agency projected that China will become the world's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in 2009, overtaking the United States nearly a decade earlier than previously anticipated. Coal is expected to be responsible for three-quarters of that carbon dioxide.
And the problem will get worse. Between now and 2020, China's energy consumption will more than double, according to expert estimates. Ratcheting up energy efficiency, tapping renewable resources with hydro dams and wind turbines, and building nuclear plants can help, but--at least in the coming two decades--only marginally. Since China has very little in the way of oil and gas reserves, its future depends on coal. With 13 percent of the world's proven reserves, China has enough coal to sustain its economic growth for a century or more. The good news is that ­China's leaders saw the coal rush coming in the 1990s and began exploring a range of advanced technologies. Chief among them is coal gasification. "It's the key for clean coal in China," says chemical engineer Li ­Wenhua, who directed advanced coal development for Beijing's national high-tech R&D program (better known in China as the "863" program) from 2001 through 2005.
Gasification transforms coal's complex mix of hydrocarbons into a hydrogen-rich gas known as synthesis gas, or "syngas." Power plants can burn syngas as cleanly as they can natural gas. In addition, with the right catalysts and under the right conditions, the basic chemical building blocks in syngas combine to form the hydrocarbon ingredients of gasoline and diesel fuel. As a result, coal gasification has the potential both to squelch power plants' emission of soot and smog and to decrease China's growing dependence on imported oil. It could even help control emissions of carbon dioxide, which is more easily captured from syngas plants than from conventional coal-fired plants.
Despite China's early anticipation of the need for coal gasification, however, its implementation of the technology in power plants has lagged. The country's electricity producers lack the economic and political incentives to break from their traditional practices.
In contrast, large-scale efforts to produce liquid transportation fuels using coal gasification are well under way. China's largest coal firm, Shenhua Group, plans to start up the country's first coal-to-fuels plant in 2007 or early 2008, in the world's most ambitious application of coal liquefaction since World War II. Shenhua plans to operate eight liquefaction plants by 2020, producing, in total, more than 30 million tons of synthetic oil annually--enough to displace more than 10 percent of China's projected oil imports.
China's progress in constructing coal-conversion plants puts it far ahead of the United States, where coal gasification is still recovering from a damaged reputation. Gasification demonstration programs initiated in the U.S. after the energy crises of the 1970s were orphaned when oil and gas prices plummeted in the 1980s. That left many with the impression that the technology itself was unreliable (see "Carbon Dioxide for Sale," July 2005). In China, by contrast, oil never looked cheap, and coal has never lost its shine.
Coal and Cashmere
Northern China is fast becoming the epicenter of China's energy industry. The leading draw is the Shenfu Dongsheng coalfield, a 31,000-square-kilometer solid layer of shallow coal that stretches from the northern tip of China's Shaanxi Province to the southern edge of Nei Mongol, or Inner Mongolia. The Dongsheng field's estimated reserve of 223.6 billion tons of coal makes it the world's seventh largest; efforts to convert much of that coal to transportation fuels could make it the world's most profitable.
Until recently, Inner Mongolia's coal capital, Erdos, was largely untouched by the modern world, bounded by mountain ranges and the Great Wall to the south and by the Yellow River to the north. Its isolation is now over, thanks to freshly poured highways and new rail lines rolling over its fissured hills and steep valleys. An airport should open this year.
Erdos's GDP doubled between 2001 and 2004, largely because of coal, chemicals, and cashmere (Erdos supplies a quarter of the world's cashmere). To reach the coalfields, you drive 40 minutes south of the city, passing a 1950s-era mausoleum for Genghis Khan, the 13th-century warrior who conquered much of Asia. As you approach the dry floodplain of the Wulanmulun River, the imposing infrastructure of a dozen coal mines, including some of the world's largest and most mechanized, leaps out of the barren landscape. The region is also home to several hundred smaller, less modern mines (gases and cave-ins kill at least 6,000 Chinese coal miners a year). Miners on their day off zip by on mopeds, three or four to a vehicle, racing past 40-ton trucks heaped with coal. Along the highway, coal-­sorting terminals load railcars destined for power plants and ports on the industrialized east coast.
None of that infrastructure and activity, however, prepares a visitor for Shenhua's coal-to-fuels complex, which rises from a plateau cut into the hills. It is an impressive site, with its own coal-fired power plant, gasification plants, and two massive reactors where coal will be liquefied, each weighing 2,250 metric tons (Shenhua claimed the world hoisting record when it lifted the reactors into place last June). Flush from a $2.95 billion IPO in 2005 and $5 billion in annual revenues from its integrated mines, railroads, and power plants, Shenhua is rapidly expanding its operations. It sold 113 million metric tons of coal in just the first half of 2006, nearly matching the previous year's total. If Shenhua maintains that pace this year, it may become the world's largest producer of coal.
China's government in Beijing created Shenhua a decade ago to bring economies of scale and modern technology to bear on the Dongsheng coalfields. The company's $1.5 billion coal-to-fuels plant is an expression of that strategy--a facility so technically ambitious that many experts, Chinese and Western alike, doubted it would ever be built.
The production of transportation fuels from coal dates to early-20th-century Germany, where chemists developed two approaches to converting coal's solid long-chain hydrocarbons into the shorter liquid hydrocarbons found in motor fuels. (Nazi Germany, with little access to oil, relied heavily on these processes to fuel its highly mechanized army and air force, producing gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel from coal.) Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch invented the better known of the two approaches in the 1920s. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis reduces coal to syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. A catalyst, often cobalt, then causes the carbon and hydrogen atoms to reconnect into new compounds, such as alcohols and fuels. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is conventional chemistry today: in South Africa, for example, Johannesburg-based Sasol built Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-oil plants to ensure the country's fuel supply during the trade boycotts of the apartheid years; and by swapping in different catalysts, China's coal-to-chemicals gasification plants have employed Fischer-Tropsch for decades to yield products such as synthetic fertilizers and methanol.
Shenhua's plant, in contrast, chose Fischer-Tropsch's lesser-known rival, invented by Friedrich Bergius a decade earlier. Though used extensively by the Nazis, Bergius's process was subsequently abandoned. The process has come to be known as direct liquefaction, because it bypasses the syngas step. In direct liquefaction, the bulk of the coal is pulverized and blended with some of the plant's synthetic oil, then treated with hydrogen and heated to 450 °C in the presence of an iron catalyst, which breaks the hydrocarbon chains into the shorter chains suitable for refining into liquid fuels.
Direct liquefaction produces more fuel per ton of coal than Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Experts at the Chinese Coal Research Institute in Beijing estimate that the process captures 55 to 56 percent of the energy in coal, compared to just 45 percent for Fischer-Tropsch. However, direct lique­faction is also far more complicated, requiring separate power and gasification plants to deliver heat and hydrogen and considerable recycling of oil, hydrogen, and coal sludge between separate sections of the plant. And breaking down hydrocarbons to just the right length requires exquisite control of the operating conditions and a consistent coal supply.
Shenhua redesigned the process over the last five years to boost efficiency and reduce waste but, at the same time, increased its complexity. And the company is taking a huge engineering and economic risk by pursuing so novel a technology on such a vast scale.
By the end of this year, Shenhua hopes to be pumping out 20,000 barrels of synthetic oil per day, nearly 500 times as much as its pilot plant in Shanghai produces. According to Jerald Fletcher, a natural-resource economist at West Virginia University in Morgantown, the Erdos plant constitutes a $1.5 billion experiment that could only take place in China. "It would be hard to get that kind of commitment of funds in the West without a more proven technology," says Fletcher. Eric Larson, an expert in energy technology and modeling at Princeton University, puts it more bluntly: "It doesn't make a lot of sense to build a huge plant like that, because it may not work."
But for the Chinese government, the rewards could be worth the risk. Despite its 2005 IPO of some assets, ­Shenhua remains a largely state-owned firm, and the direct-­liquefaction plant serves a critical state interest: energy security. "No matter how big the cost, Shenhua will build it," says Zhou Zhijie, a gasification expert at East China University of Science and Technology's Institute of Clean Coal Technology in Shanghai. "China's government will support this project until the liquid flows."
Of course, if the new plant works, Shenhua stands to earn a substantial profit. The company predicts that its synthetic oil will turn a profit at roughly $30 a barrel, though many analysts say $45 is more realistic. (The U.S. Department of Energy's most recent price forecast predicts that crude oil will dip to $47 a barrel in 2014, then climb steadily to $57 a barrel in 2030.) Hedging its bets, Shenhua has also entered a preliminary agreement with partners Shell and Sasol concerning several similar-sized or bigger Fischer-Tropsch fuel plants in Northern China, which would start up in 2012.
Shenhua's Chinese coal competitors, too, are already breaking ground on their versions of coal-to-fuel plants. The Yankuang coal group, the second-largest coal producer in China, is planning a Fischer-Tropsch fuel plant near Erdos that will use a proprietary gasifier and catalyst.
Beyond the risks inherent in the large-scale deployment of unproven technology, the gasification building boom also is an environmental gamble. Indeed, what may ultimately check China's coal-to-oil ambitions is water. China's Coal Research Institute estimates that Shenhua's plant will consume 10 tons of water for every ton of synthetic oil produced (360 gallons of water per barrel of oil), and the ratio is even worse for Fischer-Tropsch plants. Last summer, China's National Development and Reform Commission, the powerful body charged with regulating China's economy and approving large capital projects, issued a warning about the environmental consequences of the "runaway development" of synthetic-oil and chemical plants, which it said will consume tens of millions of cubic meters of water annually.
That prediction sounds particularly ominous in northern China, where water is scarce. Erdos is a mix of scrub and desert whose meager water supplies are already overtaxed by population growth and existing power plants. Zhou Ji Sheng, who as vice manager of ZMMF, one of Shenhua's Erdos-based competitors, is seeking financing for a gasification project, acknowledges that water scarcity could put an end to coal gasification in the area. "Even though we have so much coal, if we have no water, we will just have to use the traditional way--to dig it out and transport it," he says. "Water is the key factor for us to develop this new industry." Zhou says his firm plans to supplement its water supply by building a 120-kilometer pipeline to the Yellow River. But evaporation from hydroelectric reservoirs, the increased demand of growing cities and industries, and the effects of climate change mean that in the summer, the Yellow River barely reaches the sea.

Carbon Power
While China's desire to end its dependence on foreign oil is helping to drive huge capital investments in liquefaction technology, the country's power producers are moving much more slowly to take advantage of coal gasification. What they, like their American counterparts, are missing is an incentive to upgrade from conventional pulverized-coal plants to the more expensive gasification plants. According to Li Wenhua, the former 863 program manager (who now directs gasification research in China for General Electric), Chinese industrialists perceive pulverized-coal plants as a license to print money. "People say you shouldn't call it a power plant; it's a money-making machine," says Li. As yet, no power company has been willing to be the first to hit the off switch.
Ironically, China's move to a more open economy has hampered efforts to deploy more innovative technologies. In the 1990s, it looked as if China's power sector was headed for its own gasification revolution. In 1993, China's leading power engineering firm, China Power Engineering Consulting in Beijing, began designing the country's first gasification power plant. The monopoly utility of the era, the State Power Corporation, planned to build the commercial-scale plant in Yantai, a thriving seaport not far from the Bohai Sea. The Yantai plant was to be the beginning of a transition to cleaner coal technology, says Zhao Jie, the plant's designer, now vice president of China Power Engineering. "China wanted to take a cleaner and more efficient way to produce power," says Zhao. Instead, the demonstration plant she designed went on a roller-coaster ride to nowhere. Design work was temporarily halted in 1994 when the cost of the technology was deemed unacceptably high, revived in the late 1990s, and then cut adrift after 2002 by the breakup of the State Power Corporation.
The Yantai power plant was based on integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology. IGCC plants resemble natural-gas-fired power plants--they use two turbines to capture mechanical and heat energy from expanding combustion gases--but are fueled with syngas from an integrated coal gasification plant. They're not emissions free, but their gas streams are more concentrated, so the sulfurous soot, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants they generate are easier to separate and capture. Of course, once the carbon dioxide--the main greenhouse gas--is captured, engineers still need to find a place to stow it. The most promising strategy is to sequester it deep within saline aquifers and oil reservoirs. In preliminary analyses, Chinese geologists have estimated that aging oil fields and aquifers could absorb more than a trillion tons of carbon dioxide--more than China's coal-fired plants would emit, at their current rate, for hundreds of years.
The Huaneng Group, a power producer based in Beijing, has pulled together a consortium of power and coal interests (Shenhua included) called GreenGen to build the first Chinese IGCC demo plant by 2010; like the related ­FutureGen project organized by the U.S. Department of Energy, GreenGen is to start with power production, then add carbon capture and storage. China's vice premier, Zeng Peiyan, made an appearance at GreenGen's ceremonial debut last summer, indicating Beijing's support for the project.
The problem is that IGCC plants still cost about 10 percent to 20 percent more per megawatt than pulverized-coal-fired power plants. (And that's without carbon dioxide capture.) China's power producers--much like their counterparts in the United States and Europe--are waiting for a financial or political reason to make the switch. In part, what's been missing is regulation that penalizes conventional coal plants. And China's environmental agencies lack the resources and power to make companies comply even with regulations already on the books. Top officials in Beijing admit that their edicts are widely ignored, as new power plants are erected without environmental assessments and, according to some sources, without required equipment for pollution control.
Even advocates of IGCC technology expect that its widespread deployment in China will take at least another decade. Indeed, Du Minghua, a director for coal chemistry at the Chinese Coal Research Institute, predicts that it will be 2020 before application of IGCC technology begins in earnest.
Waiting to Inhale
Despite such pessimistic predictions, China's vast experience with advanced coal technologies and its proven ability to implement new technologies at a startling pace provide ample room for optimism. When you're racing into Shanghai at one-third the speed of sound on a train supported by an electromagnetic force field, it's hard to believe that a country capable of such an engineering feat will continue to ignore the deadly pollution engulfing its cities.
To some analysts, the switch to clean-coal technology seems almost inevitable. "China has to rely on coal for future electricity and fuel needs, and it will eventually have to cap its CO2 emissions," says Guodong Sun, a technology policy expert at New York's Stony Brook University who has advised the Chinese government on energy policy. "Gasification is one of a very few technologies that can reconcile those conflicting scenarios at reasonable cost."
Still, the timing of such a technology transition is very much in question. Will China really wait until 2020 to start the process of cleaning up its coal-fired power plants? The answer will depend, ultimately, on when China begins to feel that using coal gasification to generate electricity is as urgent as using it to produce transportation fuels--when the costs of air pollution become as worrisome as the costs of relying on foreign oil.

Peter Fairley, a Technology Review contributing writer, traveled to China in October.
Copyright Technology Review 2007.

Texas Size Coal Debate

Texas Size Coal Debate

Reflects National Need for BalancedEnergy Policy

(Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC). Should you have any questions, please feel free to send an email to or call us on the toll-free line, 1-877-358-6699. )

A growing population (estimated to be 68 percent larger in 2010 than 2000) and booming economy spell good news for Texas, but with that growth comes an increased demand for electricity.Texans already use more electricity than any other state, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas projects that demand for electricity will rise 20 percent over the next nine years and over 40 percent by 2025. Currently, there are not enough power plants in the state to produce the electricity that will be needed in the near future. That means new plants must be built.Right now, 17 modern coal-fueled power plants have been proposed in the state, some of which will replace older, more costly and polluting plants that will be retired. There is a lot of controversy about whether these new coal plants can deliver the cleanest and most reliable electricity for Texas' growing needs.With the demand for electricity expected to rise nationally, the debate in Texas reflects the broader discussion about pursuing a balanced U.S. energy policy. As you continue to follow—and hopefully participate—in the debate on this issue, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) wants to share some facts that you might not know:Adding more coal to America's energy mix can help ensure reliable, affordable power—and still ensure that we improve air quality and protect the environment. Here's why:
Coal is affordable, averaging one-third the cost of petroleum and natural gas.
The price of coal is relatively stable. It doesn't fluctuate up and down—mostly up—like the price of oil and natural gas do.
Coal is abundant. We have a 250-year supply (at the rate of current use) right here in the U.S.
Electricity from coal is cleaner than ever and getting continuously cleaner with advancing technologies.
New power plants built today are, on average, at least 80 percent cleaner than existing ones, which have also become much cleaner over the past two decades. This includes the new plants on the drawing board in Texas and in other states across the country.
Within the near future, new power plants will utilize advanced technology that may be able to produce electricity with near zero emissions of air pollutants and CO2. Cutting-edge technologies are being developed to trap CO2 before it enters the atmosphere.
Both older and newer power plants must meet increasingly strict federal and state environmental regulations. It's smart to rely on a mix of energy sources, including renewables, to satisfy the growing demand for electricity. Clean, affordable, domestic coal is an essential part of that mix. We also should use electricity as efficiently as possible in our homes, businesses and factories. You can take part in the energy debate. One of the ways you can do this is by learning as much as you can, and then sharing that information with your friends, colleagues, and elected officials. You can find additional information on the websites listed below.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Anxiety over the weather ?

America Goes Insane Over the Weather

By Alan Commentary from the National Anxiety CenterJanuary 15, 2007

It's official. America is now totally insane over the weather.Even the Weather Channel that used to simply provide reasonably accurate, short-term information about the weather is now telling everyone we're doomed because global warming is going to destroy the Earth. Why not just rename it the Al Gore Channel? The weather used to be the concern primarily of farmers and ranchers. It determines how well or not crops would grow and herds will thrive. As America became more urbanized, the rest of the population wanted to know whether to bring an umbrella or what to wear. Now it is a source of daily anxiety over the fate of the Earth.To make matters worse, people are being told and actually believing that what they do or not can affect the weather in ways to keep the seas and temperatures from rising. It is no longer the domain of the sun, the oceans, volcanoes and clouds. These puny things are nothing compared to what kind of car you drive or what you use to heat your home.That is a definition of insanity. It is so far removed from reality that Hollywood has to conjure up films showing New York under miles of snow or so-called documentaries demanding that industry must come to a stop in order to save the Earth.I suggest we need to save the Earth from the legions of fear mongers who are seeking to control our lives for the crime of having abundant food, longer life spans, technological and scientific advances, or that permits you to get on a jet and be anywhere in the world within hours. We take for granted that trucks, the heart's blood of an economy, will deliver anything you purchase on Monday by the following Wednesday. Try to imagine our nation without cars?Let me provide an example of how far we have come since I was a child nearly seventy years ago. We had an icebox, not a refrigerator. A man would come and provide a big block of ice to keep food cool for a day or so. Air conditioning meant opening the window and turning on a fan. Washing clothes involved using a washboard and then hanging them out to dry in the sun. There was no television, no computers, no iPods, and no cell phones. Milk was delivered by a horse-drawn wagon during World War II because gas was scarce. Polio crippled thousands of people, including then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.Do you really want to return to those "good old days"? In essence, that is exactly what the Global Warming Gestapo wants to inflict on every American these days.The single most insipid phrase that any environmentalist or politician says is "climate change" because they actually believe humans are responsible for the change and ignore the fact that climate is always in a state of change.None of us can read a newspaper or a magazine, or turn on the radio or television, without being told that we are just years, if not months, from the horror of global warming. A few weeks ago Colorado was digging out from three horrendous blizzards the likes of which have not been seen in a lifetime, while the East Coast had temperatures in the 70s.The definition of weather and climate is "chaos."Mother Nature has a message for you: Get out of the way! Here comes a flood, a blizzard, a tornado, a tsunami, a hurricane, a wildfire or an earthquake. Get out of the way!The wisest climatologists who study weather trends over hundreds of years have no idea why mini-Ice ages or warming spells occur and meteorologists with access to the most sophisticated computer models cannot tell you with any certainty what the weather in your area will be a week from now!In Congress, the newly empowered Democrats are getting ready to impose an insane program of "caps and credits" on so-called greenhouse gas emissions that is straight out of the UN's Kyoto Protocol that totally exempts China and India, home to more than two billion of the six billion people on Earth.Meanwhile, those same greenhouse gases are being emitted globally by millions of livestock that are responsible for 9% of anthropogenic CO2 (Carbon dioxide) emissions, 37% of methane emissions, 64% of ammonia emissions, and 65% of global nitrous oxide.When you add in the methane and other emissions of the world's swamps and forests, and all the chemicals emitted by the world's active volcanoes, plus the fact that every human on Earth exhales two pounds of CO2 every day, the notion of crippling every element of the nation's economy to "control" such things is, well, insane.Carbon dioxide is not a "pollutant" no matter how many times Speaker Pelosi, Senator Boxer, Governor Schwarzenneger and a legion of global warming alarmists say it is. It exists in the Earth's atmosphere and, other than the oxygen that keeps us alive, is the single most important part of our environment because all vegetation, forests and crops, depend on it.Is there more of it around? Yes, since 1850 the Earth's population has increased 600%! Is it a bad thing? No. The Earth has had periods of far higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and life thrived.Right now, that eminent body of scientists, the Supreme Court of the United States, is deciding whether CO2 is a pollutant. That is insane.Finally, during the last 100 years, the average global temperature has increased less than one degree centigrade. Some places like the poles remain encased in ice and snow all year. Other places like the deserts remain arid all year.What we do not lack is a legion of "scientists" who cannot wait to run out in the streets and announce that their research conclusively proves we are doomed. We have others who run around saying that our weather is unusual or getting worse. It's the weather! The weather is always in a state of change.Are we supposed to return to the days when virgins were thrown into volcanoes or hearts were cut from living bodies in order to appease the gods that "control" the weather? Or are we all going to fall victim to those in Congress and elsewhere who insist we ruin our lives in order to achieve "control" over the weather?It's the weather! Get over it!

(Alan Caruba writes "Warning Signs," a weekly column posted at the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.)

Copyright 2006, Alan CarubaCopyright 1998-2006 Cybercast News Service

Sunday, January 14, 2007

China to get Americaan jobs

Losing to the Greens

By Robert D. NovakMonday, December 25, 2006; A29

"I've never seen industry so deathly afraid of the current politics surrounding climate change policy," a Bush administration environmental official told me. With good reason. As Democrats take control of Congress, once-firm opposition to the green lobby's campaign of imposing carbon emission controls is weak.
Panicky captains of industry have themselves largely to blame for failing to respond to the environmentalists' well-financed propaganda operation. One government official says "industry appears utterly helpless and utterly clueless as to how to respond." But the Bush administration itself is a house divided with support for greens and severe carbon regulation inside the Energy Department, reaching up to the secretary himself.
None of this necessarily means climate change will become law during the next two years, with President Bush wielding his veto pen if any bill escapes the Senate's gridlock. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, reassuming chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee after a dozen years' absence, will try to protect the automotive industry from draconian regulation. But over the long term, industry is losing to the greens.
The stakes are immense, as shown by the impact of the bill to implement the Kyoto proposal co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, the favorite Democrat of many Republicans. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that this measure would reduce gross domestic product by $776 billion annually, raise gasoline prices 40 cents a gallon, raise natural gas prices 46 percent and cut coal production by nearly 60 percent. Charles River Associates, business consultants, predicts that it would kill 600,000 jobs.
Yet, Jonathan Lash of the World Resources Institute said last week that McCain-Lieberman does not go far enough in reducing carbon emissions. Green extremists would prefer the severe legislation proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, the new chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
According to industry sources, Dingell has privately advised auto industry lobbyists to prepare for the worst. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi is making carbon emission legislation a priority, and Dingell has warned Detroit that she expects him to move a bill through his committee. He will do his best to modify legislation, but he is obliged to follow Pelosi's wishes and cannot play Horatio at the bridge.
The same dilemma faces Rep. Rick Boucher, a staunch ally of the coal industry who will become chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and air quality. He must balance Pelosi's desires with the interests of the coal counties in his southwest Virginia district.
Staunch foes of carbon regulation remain in the administration, headed by Chairman James L. Connaughton of the Council on Environmental Quality. But the Energy Department's top executive strata have gone green.
Since moving from deputy treasury secretary to energy secretary nearly two years ago, business executive and financier Samuel W. Bodman has kept a low profile. In a rare public utterance on global warming Oct. 5, 2005, he said an "increasing level of certainty" about global warming fueled by carbon dioxide "is real" and "a matter we take seriously." In private meetings, he has expressed dissatisfaction with administration policy. Bodman's undersecretary, former Senate staffer David K. Garman, has shocked industry lobbyists with his criticism of the president's views.
In the background is a pending Supreme Court decision on what the Clean Air Act requires or permits the Environmental Protection Agency to do about greenhouse gas emissions. Even if the court says the authority is merely discretionary, McCain or any Democratic president would then crack down on industry if nothing is passed before the 2008 election.
Ultimate salvation from U.S. self-destructive behavior may come from the real world. Most European Union countries, suffering higher energy costs and constraints on growth imposed by the Kyoto pact, cannot meet that treaty's requirements for emission levels. Furthermore, China is on pace to exceed U.S. emissions by 2010, meaning that unilateral U.S. carbon controls will have little impact on global emissions while driving American jobs to China.
This downside of Speaker Pelosi's green determination ought to resonate in union halls and coalfields of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. However, American industrialists, while wringing their hands, are not making their case.
© 2006 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Boucher is now the Chairman of House Energy Committee

See Congressman Boucher's information and how he voted in recent days. We look foward to great things coming down the road with congressman Boucher Chairman of the House energy Committee. He will be a player in the nations energy policy and carry the reality of coal and its role in keeping America free. GO RICK!

More dependence on foreign oil?

I must be reading this wrong I thot they said, we should increase our dependence on foreign oil?

House Energy Bill Discourages New, American Supplies of Oil and Natural Gas

Bottom Line: Increased Foreign Oil Dependence

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives today unveiled a proposal to increase taxes on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry, a move that would steer billions of dollars from investments in new, American energy resources, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).
"If the goal is to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, then this bill falls far short," said IPAA President Barry Russell. "The American oil and natural gas industry is our most precious and primary defense against increased oil imports. This is a time to encourage American investment in energy projects here at home, not discourage it. This bill takes capital from U.S. oil and natural gas companies that otherwise would be spent on domestic energy exploration."
IPAA represents more than 5,000 oil and natural gas companies, most of them small, independent businesses, who drill 90 percent of the oil and natural gas wells in the United States.
There are three provisions in the legislation specifically opposed by IPAA:
1. Section 199 -- The Manufacturing Tax Deduction. The legislation repeals a 2004 law that allowed companies to keep more of their earnings. The bill singles out the oil and natural gas industry, while maintaining this incentive for every other manufacturing and extraction industry.
IPAA's Russell said: "Increasing the industry's tax rate will siphon billions of dollars from much needed American energy projects. This measure is purely political with the goal of punishing an industry that has low favorability on Capitol Hill. But the result actually punishes the consumer and our national interest of secure, domestic energy supplies."
IPAA companies do invest their capital here in the United States. Independent oil and natural gas producers reinvest, on average, 150 percent of their domestic cashflow into new exploration projects in the United States, according to a study by John S. Herold, an energy industry consulting firm. This means that U.S. oil and natural gas companies are not only spending all of their earnings on new American energy supplies, but also borrowing from lenders and investors to find new oil and natural gas resources.
2. Royalty Provisions. The bill penalizes offshore oil and natural gas companies that signed leases in 1998 and 1999 that, due to federal agency mistake, did not set a price threshold for royalty incentives. The bill requires all companies to re-negotiate these leases (or adhere to certain payments or consequences), even though they were fairly signed and the companies have no responsibility for the federal government's contractual mistake. This creates a plethora of questions over the sanctity of federal contracts. The bill also states that those companies that do not renegotiate or pay a $9 per barrel "conservation fee" will be banned from participation in future federal offshore lease sales.
IPAA's Russell said: "The contracts signed by the federal government and energy producers are called 'non-negotiable' for a reason. Quite simply, they are legal and binding, regardless of the government's mistakes in drafting them. Many companies will choose to work with the federal government on a reasonable solution. That is a business and legal decision for each individual company. However, sanctity of contracts is a cornerstone of America. The U.S. offshore regulatory program is admired around the globe for its stability and predictability, the action in the House sends the wrong signal to investors around the world about the reliability of America's federal contracts."
3. Alternative Energy Fund. Any money raised by this bill (from increased taxes on the oil and natural gas industry to new royalties) will be captured and directed to a fund that will provide research and development of "alternative" energy.
IPAA's Russell said: "Sixty percent of the nation's energy comes from oil and natural gas. For the foreseeable future this will continue. While it is important for America to develop a broad energy portfolio, the nation's vast oil and natural gas resources cannot be ignored. Research on improving the development of these resources can be equally essential to the nation's future and its security. For example, imagine the value of new technologies that could extract the more than 390 billion barrels of oil that are currently unrecoverable in America."
IPAA represents the companies that drill 90 percent of the oil and natural gas wells in the United States and its offshore waters.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I want to see more Texas hippys on hunger strikes

Texas Hunger Strike, Mayors Oppose TXU Plan for Coal Plants
By Edward Klump
Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- TXU Corp. Chief Executive Officer C. John Wilder wasn't counting on hunger strikes and opposition from big-city mayors when he proposed spending $10 billion to build coal-fueled power plants in Texas.
The energy company has invested time and money in building corporate goodwill in Texas, where it is the largest power producer. Wilder, 48, is United Way CEO of the Year in Dallas, where the company is based, and TXU employees donated 20,000 hours of volunteer service in 2005.
Yet Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and Houston Mayor Bill White helped build a coalition of 35 local governments and related groups that are fighting TXU's expansion. While the plants will meet federal clean-air standards, the critics say TXU is ignoring alternatives that pollute the state's air less than coal does.
``TXU is purposely misleading the public in order to build old-technology coal plants the cheapest way possible to get the biggest return on their money,'' Miller said.
Wilder said his plan, unveiled in April, is the fastest, most efficient way to meet the need for added power capacity in Texas, which consumes more electricity than any other state.
Two Texas environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Waco in December to block one of the first projects. The San Francisco-based Sierra Club joined a lawsuit filed by the New York-based Environmental Defense in Travis County District Court, seeking to block a plan by Texas Governor Rick Perry to speed the review process for coal-fueled power plants, most of which are TXU's.
``This company is a renegade company that's way out of control, and they need to be responsible to the community,'' said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition in Austin, Texas.
Lemon, Pepper, Syrup
Hadden, 50, and two other environmentalists went on a 10- day hunger strike before the November elections to attract attention to their fight against coal-fueled power and demand a meeting with Perry. Hadden, who said she consumed only a concoction of water, lemon juice, red pepper and maple syrup, succeeded only in getting a meeting with a Perry staff member.
Criticism from leaders like Dallas's Miller stings more than complaints by environmental groups, which are never satisfied, said Mike McCall, CEO of TXU's power-generation unit. He said TXU has a ``100-year history of being straightforward and candid about our actions.''
TXU's plan, part of which will go before Texas environmental regulators as soon as Jan. 24, includes more than 9,000 megawatts of new capacity from 11 generation units at nine sites. Lignite coal would fuel three units, while cleaner- burning Wyoming coal would be used at the others. The goal is to have all of the turbines operating in 2010.
Coal Versus Gas
About 70 percent of power generation in Texas is fueled by natural gas, more than triple the U.S. average. Gas, which pollutes less than coal, is also more expensive. Coal is the biggest generator fuel nationwide.
TXU has idled seven of its least efficient gas-fueled generators and plans to shut down seven more as coal-fired plants are opened. McCall said the new generators will reduce the state's reliance on gas, thereby pulling down power prices, and will add the capacity needed to increase system reliability.
Texas had rolling blackouts in April, its first since 1989, as plants were idled for repairs and temperatures soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
TXU said it would have to sell electricity from the new coal-fueled plants for $50 to $53 per megawatt-hour to break even. That compares with about $60 for the most efficient gas- fueled plant and $86 for wind turbines, it said.
The cheaper coal plants will allow TXU to spend money on reducing emissions at existing plants, McCall said.
Competing Producers
NRG Energy Inc., the second-largest power producer in Texas, is taking a less polluting approach to expansion -- and paying a price.
Two months after TXU announced its plan, NRG said it would spend $16 billion to boost capacity in the U.S., including nuclear and gas-fueled generation in Texas. The plants will cost more and take longer to build than TXU's.
In the six months after TXU's announcement, its shares jumped 35 percent. In the same period, shares of Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG fell 1 percent.
``I think whenever you're out front on an issue, you know by definition it's a lonely place for a while,'' NRG's chief executive, David Crane, said in an October interview. ``But it's not something that I'm losing sleep over, because I don't think we're going to be out front on that issue for long.''
TXU's shares slid 14 percent in the last two months of 2006, after the company cut its profit forecast and opposition to the coal-fired plants mounted. The shares closed at $53.49 on Jan. 8.
Most of TXU's proposed plants will be approved, regardless of complaints, said investor Barry Abramson, who helps manage about $28 billion, including 200,000 TXU shares, at Gamco Investors in Rye, New York.
Hadden, the Austin hunger striker, said she, too, expects TXU to get the go-ahead, but isn't giving up.
``Of course we're going to fight their permits -- they're outrageous,'' she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Edward Klump in Houston at . Last Updated: January 9, 2007 02:36 EST

Monday, January 08, 2007

Truth about mining!

Published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Saturday, December 2, 2006


Humanity has changed the form of the Earth since well before biblical times. Many misconceptions are repeated so often that they are accepted as fact.
Mining in and of itself does not cause flooding in Appalachia. Streams are not destroyed by mining. Small ephemeral streams are rerouted by designed and engineered fills exactly as in highway construction.
In fact, mountaintop mining is very similar to highway construction. Instead of an English professor, ask the dozens of professors of engineering and science at the University of Kentucky performing research to improve the environment after mining.
Land left after mining is some of the most valuable land in Appalachia and will provide even more opportunities for future generations. There are now airports, hospitals, schools, golf courses, houses, recreation, farms and abundant wildlife flourishing on reclaimed mines.
No one can deny problems in the industry, just as there are in any other human endeavor.
We are striving to make improvements and, as a Christian, I am proud of the mountaintops and plateaus of Appalachia.

J. Steven Gardner

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Congress wants to pour on the coal

New Congress juices energy bills

Introduces spate of legislation to boost ethanol use, encourage coal-to-liquid fuels and boost vehicle efficiency standards.

January 5 2007: 2:40 PM EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. lawmakers unveiled a raft of energy-related bills in the early hours of the 110th Congress aimed at boosting fuel ethanol use, extracting liquid fuels from coal and tightening automobile fuel efficiency rules.
But instead of heaping all their ideas into a behemoth energy bill like they did in 2005, this year's Congress looks poised to pursue energy legislation on a piecemeal basis.
U.S. crude oil prices shot to nearly $80 a barrel in 2006 and sounded alarms across Capitol Hill. Mild winter temperatures, new global supplies and slowing economic growth have sparked a 10 percent decline in prices since the beginning of 2007 - the sharpest drop since December 2004.
But a rising focus on "energy security" by both the Bush administration and Congress has added momentum to efforts to employ home-grown fuel sources like ethanol and coal to temper U.S. import needs.
Harry Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, introduced a broad "message bill" that will shape near-term talks in the chamber's energy and environment panels, which together hold jurisdiction over most energy matters.
Rather than specific initiatives, the bill provides a broad framework for committee action on hot button issues like vehicle fuel efficiency, biofuels and global warming.
Separately, a group of Midwest senators, including prospective presidential candidate and Illinois Democrat Barack Obama, introduced the BioFuels Security Act, which would require the United States to use 60 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel a year by 2030.
"It's time for Congress to realize what farmers in America's heartland have known all along - that we have the capacity and ingenuity to decrease our dependence on foreign oil by growing our own fuel," Obama said. "But what we've been lacking is the political will."
Rising ethanol use has been a boon to U.S. farmers and has driven corn prices to the highest level in a decade. But it has also been criticized by some for essentially using food which could be used to feed people to instead fuel cars.
Biorefineries produced about 5 billion gallons of ethanol last year, well on the way to the U.S. target of using at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels annually by 2012.
Pour on the coal
Obama and Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, also introduced the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007, which would set the stage for large-scale production of transportation fuels from coal.
Both lawmakers come from states with prodigious coal supplies, and the United States has a 250-year supply.
The bill focuses on using a process called "Fischer-Tropsch" which turns natural gas or coal into liquid fuel. The fuel, which was used by Germany during World World II, has seen a resurgence.
The bill would extend loan guarantees and tax credits for new coal-to-liquid plants, which can cost about $2 billion.
The bill boosts a current 20 percent tax credit for coal-to-liquid plants to a maximum of $200 million for each of the first 10 plants built, and extends the expiration of excise tax credits from 2009 to 2020, among other things.
Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, senior Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, wants to raise corporate average fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon (mpg) by or before 2017.
The fuel economy of cars and light trucks is down to 24.6 miles per gallon from its 1987-88 peak of 25.9 mpg.
Cars account for about 25 percent of domestic oil use, according to government estimates