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Toxic: acting as, or having the effect of a poison.

Senator Blockus has almost completed his important task of completely gutting health care reform for the American people. Up next, it looks like Max is going to take on clean energy. Along with senators from other coal-producing states, Max delivered proposed legislation to congress to weaken the energy legislation (H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security act). The bill narrowly passed the House (219-212) in an already very weakened form and voting has been postponed in the Senate because of opposition. A coalition of 300 environmental groups has petitioned Congress to strengthen the bill in just the opposite direction from the coal-state senators. They ask for tougher emission standards and fewer credits and offsets.

The proposed changes by Baucus et. al. ask for more money for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and “They also ask that coal mines and landfill methane projects be exempted from new greenhouse gas emission standards, and instead allow for those capture projects to be included among the types of domestic offsets available.” Did I hear you say “What?” Yes, you heard right. Coal mines would be exempt from greenhouse gas standards. Industry would be allowed to invest in coal mines to offset their emission standards. I guess it only sounds stupid if you aren’t in Congress.

flyshopaddI don’t know how many ways I can say this, but pay attention. I’m going to go over this one more time for those of you with learning disabilities and anyone with the title of “Senator” before their name. THERE AIN’T NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL! There are over 600 coal generating plants in the U.S. and not one is capturing CO2 emissions. Even if they were able to capture and store a bit of CO2, they would still be pumping out tons of ugly stuff like mercury, chromium, lead, arsenic… They would still be producing thousands of tons of toxic coal ash residue and storing it in large, unsafe ponds. They would still be discharging thousands of gallons of sludge and waste into our water and groundwaters every year. They would still be carving the tops off of mountain ranges and dumping toxic waste into our waterways.

Let’s talk just a bit about sequestration. It works kinda like this; You have to have a set of special circumstances to store CO2 underground. You need a very stable geologic formation thousands of feet down that will never, ever leak. It helps if you have a certain kind of saline aquifer in which to dissolve the gas. That aquifer has to have absolutely no way of mixing with other aquifers that provide drinking water. That water can never, ever move out of the storage area. What are the chances of finding all these criteria near a major power market? Not good. So, you will need to either, build the power plant far away from the market, in which case you will need to build very expensive power lines to your customers or, you will need to build a very expensive pipeline from the power plant to the sequestration site. CO2 must be pumped through the pipeline in a supercritical fluid state. That requires a lot of pumping stations and some very expensive infrastructure. What happens if Joe the Plumber runs his backhoe into this pipeline full of pressurized supercritical CO2? Well, I guess that’s another good reason for not building near population centers. The power needed to pump all this CO2 has to come from somewhere. It takes about a third of the power plant output just to pump CO2 into a hole in the ground so, for every two coal-generating plants you build, you have to build an extra one just to supply the juice for sequestration. Building new power lines is no answer either. The farther you have to transmit the electricity, the greater your transmission losses. If you are more than about 160 miles away, you have to step up your transmission power which cuts into profits. Even energy companies are not willing to invest their hefty profits in CCS technology. They know it will fail. They would rather have the American public subsidize the effort and they are spending millions to convince you that you should.

The clean energy bill has already been gutted until it is almost unrecognizeable by energy lobbyists in the House. Piling on by this group of coal-state senators is just pathetic. Now, Max Baucus seems to think that his Finance committee should have more jurisdiction over the bill. Max needs some time to huddle with his conservative friends to come to another “bipartisan” consensus that none of them are going to vote for anyway. Judging by the way the committee has handled health care, I can hardly wait to hear the stonewalling and whining that comes out of the committee about clean energy.


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