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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Center's Global Warming Safety Program for Elderly

The Center has established an Elderly Allowance Reserve Program (EARP) to address environmental equity concerns related to climate change. Emission trading programs could negatively impact low-income and elderly citizens via higher energy prices. These allowances would come from a special reserve, similar to the current Acid Rain Program Renewable Energy and Conservation Reserve, when the initial allowance allocation is made.

EARP allowances would be awarded to producers, utilities, automakers and others that undertake practices and programs designed to mitigate or prevent price shocks, increase the installation of pollution control equipment, promote community education and enhance health-related activities. Producers utilities and automakers could choose to work with organizations and businesses that conduct energy price equity activities related to climate change mitigation and reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide. The EARP should be included in any global warming or climate change legislation that Congress will consider.

As an alternative to legislation and as an insurance policy in case climate change legislation does not pass, the Center has developed a voluntary EAR Program (EARP) that provides a platform for utilities, automakers and communities to address and influence the energy cost issue. Any utility, automaker or citizen can: sell to, donate or purchase compliance allowances from, the voluntary EARP or otherwise support the EARP. The Center will meet with interested stakeholders to develop EARP projects. The Center will work to develop an emissions trading platform to directly facilitate exchanges. The Center EARP program will leverage allowances and resources to promote elderly energy equity practices and projects.

The Center will alert businesses, mayors, states, elder citizens groups, Congress and the general public about innovative methods for participating in this program, enhancing electricity production, auto emissions reductions and protecting constituent communities. Participation in the EARP will clearly show that a producer, utility or automaker is is willing to include EARP in the emission trading market. Allowances are fully marketable commodities. Once allocated, allowances may be bought, sold, traded, or banked for use in future years. Allowances may not be used for compliance prior to the calendar year for which they are allocated.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Court Strikes Down EPA Clean Air Mercury Rule

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the EPA violated the Clean Air Act by attempting to implement the 2005 Bush administration Clean Air Mercury Rule that would have allowed a cap-and-trade program to reduce mercury emissions at electricity power plants. The court ruling strikes down the rule and means that big coal-burning utilities will have to install expensive mercury-reduction equipment at more of their power plants rather than rely on a fleet-wide trading program.

UPDATE (March 26, 2008): The Bush Administration has appealed the court ruling that struck down the U.S. EPA's mercury cap-and-trade plan. The earlier ruling by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found the EPA violated the Clean Air Act when it enacted the mercury rule in 2005.

The Center opposed the Clean Air Mercury Rule because we knew it would lose in court. We supported the Clear Skies Initiative, which failed in Congress that would have mandated the Clean Air Mercury Rule. Without the law, we knew this attempt to implement the failed legislation at the regulatory level would fail. Now it could be years before the EPA can enact new rules on mercury.

The three-judge court unanimously ruled on Feb 8 that the government failed to consider the effect on public health and the environment. Mercury from power plants can contaminate seafood and can damage the developing brains of fetuses and young children. A "cap-and-trade" program allows power plants that fail to meet emission targets to buy credits from plants that did, rather than having to install their own mercury emissions controls. The rule was to go into effect in 2010 and would have required utilities to comply with overall limits that would reduce nationwide emissions by 70 percent by 2018. The nation's 1,100 coal-burning units emit about 48 tons of mercury each year, the largest unregulated U.S. source. The EPA rule vacated by the court would have set the cap at 38 tons per year by 2010 and 15 tons per year in 2018.

Seventeen states argued that the cap-and-trade system would endanger children near some power plants that pollute but use credits to do it legally. The states included New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. (Reuters) (AP)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Coal & Nuclear Vulnerable To Natural Ga$

The Washington Post and The New York Times had articles on increasing prices for electricity and a retreat on building new coal plants that has us concerned, particularly in a weakening economy. Combine the subprime crisis with increasing energy prices and cautious energy companies and we could really be in a big mess.

The New York Times:

Stymied in their plans to build coal-burning power plants, American utilities are turning to natural gas to meet expected growth in demand, risking a new upward spiral in the price of that fuel. With opposition to coal plants rising across the country the executives see plants fired by natural gas as the only kind that can be constructed quickly and can supply reliable power day and
night.

The Washington Post:
The story behind the electricity price increases begins in the late 1990s, when Virginia, Maryland and the District loosened their controls on the power industry. As in many other states, the idea was to let customers choose among power suppliers, creating competition that would push prices down. Power companies say they have been hit with higher costs, which had to be passed on to customers. The prices of natural gas and coal have increased sharply. And because the region needed to import electricity from other areas, utilities had to pay the power-line equivalent of highway tolls.
Nuclear power plants are now being projected to cost as much as $4 billion and if utilities are bristling at the increased upfront cost of coal plants imagine board room decisions on nuclear plants. Let's hope the nuclear industry can hold on to the subsidies for the first six plants or the nuclear renaissance could stall.

We think the coal, nuclear and natural gas industries are going to need to consolidate, or at least form expanded new consortia to build multiproduct power plants. If $4 billion is going to be spent for a power plant, it should be a nuclear/coal hybrid that produces hydrogen for fuel cells, oxygen for oxycombustion in coal plants that converts CO2 to gasoline via the Fischer-Tropsch method. A scrubber would still be needed for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury (Selective Catalytic Reducer). The CO2 could be converted onsite or piped to other conversion facilities.

The nuclear part of the plant would be used to produce electricity and hydrogen via electrolysis (or high temperature electrolysis) or the sulfur-iodine cycle that would be used in the Fischer-Tropsch process and piped away to produce fuel cells. The oxygen from the electrolysis process will be piped to the coal part of the plant for use in the firebox. These processes need very high temperatures of about 900 degrees Celsius. (Full Description) And the consortia would need to partner with the natural gas pipeline companies to access their right of ways. The natural gas industry might not have a choice because although gas-fired power plants are cheaper to build, the gas simply is not available. Liquefied natural gas facilites are being rejected all over the U.S. Sounds like a new energy bill to us. Maybe the FutureGen and Nuclear Power 2010 programs should work together to explore the hybrid plant described above.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Federal Government Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request

Environmental, Energy, Natural Resources & Agriculture

Environmental Protection Agency: $7.14 billion. (FY 2009 EPA Budget in Brief)

Department of Energy: $25 billion (FY 2009 DOE Budget in Brief)

Department of Interior: $10.7 billion (FY 2009 DOI Budget in Brief)

Department of Agriculture: $95 billion (FY 2009 DOA Budget in Brief)