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January 30, 2008

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Illinois governor “stunned” after FutureGen reversal

January 30, 2008

Despite President Bush’s committment to invest in “clean coal” technology at last Monday’s State of the Union address, the government announced Tuesday that the state-of-the-art FutureGen coal plant planned for downstate Mattoon, Illinois, was not worth the $1.8 billion price tag.  Illinois Senator Dick Durbin called the move a “cruel deception,” and vowed the Illinois Congressional delegation would not go down without a fight. 

The 275 megawatt plant was to achieve “near zero emissions” by utilizing the latest in coal gasification technology and pumping CO2 emissions into deep underground geological chambers, a process known as “carbon sequestration.”  The decision cost Illinois over 1,000 jobs, and may play a role in next Tuesday’s Illinois primaries should any of the candidates address it. 

Both Obama and Clinton support carbon caps and “clean coal” technologies such as coal gasification, as long as they emit 20% less carbon over their life cycle than conventional fuels.  McCain, Romney and Huckabee each support the use of coal, but none support a carbon cap as strict as the Democrats.  See where all the candidates stand on coal with this chart.         

Economic concerns overshadow global warming

January 28, 2008

Articles from the BBC and New York Times seem to confirm a recent report by Environment Illinois arguing that the presidential primary contenders have bagged environmental talk to focus on the foundering economy.  The environmental blog Celsias writes that the economy has distracted voters from what was once a much greater priority: finding long-term, renewable energy solutions.

“This is where a shift in mainstream public thinking is so important. If public priority rests only on a superficial short-term understanding of a healthy economy, as opposed to a deeper long-term understanding of economic sustainability, then business-as-usual may persevere for yet another presidential term in the United States — the nation with the greatest responsibility ability to foster and encourage change.”

Interestingly, an earlier article on the site warns that a rapid expansion of biofuel production would be shortsighted and potentially environmentally disastrous.  The author rails against monocrop farming, comparing the uninhibited expansion of corn production to last year’s colony collapse disorder, during which colonies of honey bees mysteriously disappeared due to environmentally-induced stress.      

           

Giuliani and McCain say no to GHG cap

January 27, 2008

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain both agreed setting mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions would have a stifling effect on the economy.  While McCain suggested a “cap and trade” system that wouldn’t necessarily decrease CO2 emissions, both candidates pledged to expand the use of nuclear energy at Thursday night’s Republican debate.

Giuliani: “We haven’t licensed a nuclear power plant in 30 years. France is 80 percent nuclear; we’re 20 percent nuclear; we’re going down to 15 percent nuclear. We have to crack through there.”

McCain: “I am confident American technology and the embrace of green technologies, many of the things that Rudy just talked about, and nuclear power being one of them, we can reduce these greenhouse gas emissions.”

Giuliani said he also supports clean coal technology such as carbon sequestration, as well as a cocktail of other alternative energy technologies like wind, hydro, biofuels, and hybrid vehicles.  McCain emphasized the importance of making global energy agreements with rapidly developing countries like China and India.  Read why the group Climate Progress calls McCain’s promises “double-talk.”

Do voters care about global warming?

January 27, 2008

The economy is in a slump, which means critical environment issues like global warming have been put on the back burner says Environment Illinois.  The citizen-based, environmental advocacy group tallied the number of questions top reporters have asked presidential candidates to date, and found that only four out of 2,938 mentioned global warming.  That’s only one more than the total questions addressing UFO’s.  In a letter sent to the group’s email subscribers, Executive Director Rebecca D. Stanfield writes:

“In my opinion, energy and global warming are two of the most urgent problems our new president will face when he or she takes office exactly 360 days from now. But I am astonished that, instead of the presidential candidates facing tough questions about their plans to solve these two problems on the campaign trail, something else is happening, something very frustrating to me… America is at a critical crossroads and who our next president is and the decisions she or he makes will make all the difference in determining the health, safety and well-being of our country. What truly are these reporters waiting for?”

And why are they making my job so hard? Anyway, here’s a video the group posted to Youtube.

January 21, 2008

The American Wind Energy Association announced on Thursday that domestic wind power capacity increased 45 percent last year.  According to the group’s release, 5,244 new megawatts of wind power were installed nationwide.

“The U.S. wind power fleet now numbers 16,818 MW and spans 34 states. American wind farms will generate an estimated 48 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind energy in 2008, just over 1% of U.S. electricity supply, powering the equivalent of over 4.5 million homes.”

With Illinois’ renewable energy pledge in the books, it will be interesting to see how fast wind power expands in the Midwest. According to an earlier report from AWEA, Illinois ranks 16th nationally in wind energy potential.  This map indicates wind power productivity potential in Illinois, with pink being the highest.        

Wind to bring more power in Japan

January 20, 2008

Wind Turbines 

The New York Times reports that Japan, the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas producer, plans to invest in offshore wind power.  Japan currently gets 0.6 percent of its energy from renewable sources, but by law must more than double this output by 2011.  By tapping into the Pacific sea breeze, Japan hopes to replicate Europe’s success in wind power, which meets 3.3 percent of the continents’s energy needs.  Some say Japan must invest more in wind if it plans to meet Kyoto standards.

The issue is just as hot in Illinois, where legislation mandates 25 percent of energy must come from renewable energy sources by 2025. Seventy-five percent of this alternative energy must be in the form wind power.  Here’s a fact sheet on wind power from the American Wind Energy Association.             

Getting to know Nuclear

January 20, 2008

Don’t want to rely on the Simpsons show for news and info on nuclear energy?  Read up on its real risks and benefits.  

Though they cost billions of dollars to build, the construction of nuclear plants releases minimal amounts of greenhouse gasses.  Once they are operable they produce zero CO2 emissions. The argument of opponents focuses almost entirely on security, both against environmental spills and terrorist attacks.  But with the exception of Three Mile Island, which did not result in environmental contamination or death, the U.S. has an immaculate record in safety. And the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission argues power plants are adaquately secure in this f.y.i.

Aside from the government and nuclear power advocates like the Nuclear Energy Institue however, most NGO’s and non-profit organizations are categorically against the use of nuclear power.  The Union of Concerned Scientists argues that nuclear is no “silver bullet” solution for solving our energy problems, and is an unnecessary risk to the environment and national security.  The issue made the front page of The Economist magazine’s September 6th edition, a good launching point to be up to date on the future of American nuclear energy.         

For raw stats on the domestic use of nuclear energy, see this faq from the NEI.      

Obama on Nuclear Power:

January 19, 2008

In a spring 2006 congressional testimony, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama suggests nuclear energy should remain part of the domestic energy equation, saying “As Congress considers policies to address air quality and the deleterious effects of carbon emissions on the global ecosystem, it is reasonable — and realistic — for nuclear power to remain on the table for consideration.”  He reaffirms that nuclear should remain “in the energy mix” at a recent Democratic presidential candidate debate

Aside from Sen. Hillary Clinton, a self-declared “agnostic” on nuclear energy, Obama is the sole Democratic candidate willing to consider the continuesd use of nuclear energy.  It’s a position more in line with the Republican contenders, all of whom support the use of nuclear energy.  It has endeared him to energy behemoth and Illinois-based Excelon, which operates some of Illinois’ 11 nuclear power plants, but it has drawn criticism from most environmental groups.  By pledging opposition to storing nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain repository, Clinton distanced herself from Obama and won the state’s primary.  Just for the record, Obama has also pledged to close Yucca, but it may not carry as much weight.  See what grist.org had to say.   

What people are saying

January 14, 2008

Courtesy of the Society of Environmental Journalists, here is a comprehensive list of environmental blogs covering a variety of energy issues.