Our guest blogger is Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal credited the American Council for Clean Coal Electricity’s (ACCCE) president, Stephen Miller, for convincing politicians, the media and the public that “clean coal” is a cure all for global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants:
Mr. Miller, 55 years old, is president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a Virginia group funded by the country’s major coal-burning utilities, coal producers and railroads that haul coal. Over the past year, his organization has spent nearly $40 million on television and radio spots and other outreach efforts to bolster public support for coal, and to reinforce fears that limits on its use will raise living costs.
ACCCE’s TV ads feature a diverse group of American archetypes saying “I believe” in achieving energy independence, using new technologies, and other similar platitudes. Only at the end does it mention that the ad is about “clean coal.”
What does ACCCE mean by “clean coal”? To the degree it means anything, it’s a euphemism for reducing greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants via carbon capture and storage (CCS), a promising but unproven technology. In fact, the International Energy Agency yesterday released a report that determined that CCS is a long way from commercialization:
Many questions remain. To date, only four full-scale CCS projects exist in the world; none of these projects captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from a coal-fired power plant….[yet] current CCS spending and activity levels are nowhere near enough to achieve the G8 [reduction] goals.
In other words, CCS is a promise, not a cure for global warming. However, ACCCE would like to make a US program of binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions dependent on the commercialization of CCS.
Since CCS commercialization is at least a decade away, ACCCE’s interim answer to the threat posed by global warming would be to continue voluntary measures. Since US emissions have increased by 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent under the voluntary measures favored the Bush Administration, it is clear that this approach doesn’t work. ACCCE would leave coal-fired power plants essentially uncontrolled, even though they are responsible for about nearly all US power sector and one-third of total US greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead of ACCCE’s voluntary approach, the Center for American Progress recommends that a mandatory global warming cap and trade program include a new source pollution performance standard for all new coal fired power plants. This would require an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — the level CCS could achieve. This plan would use some revenue from the auction of “greenhouse gas allowances” to offset the additional expense of building a coal fired power plant with CCS. By mandating emissions reductions based on CCS, there would be a much larger incentive for public and private investments in CCS research and deployment. There would also be a market for this technology.
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned that the world must act now to stop global warming. “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late.” Yet ACCCE would delay reductions for a decade. If ACCCE were serious about global warming, it would support the CAP proposal. But it does not. The real goal of ACCCE’s “clean coal” campaign is to convince public officials to delay binding reductions for a decade. The US — and the rest of the planet — cannot afford to wait.
UPDATE: WLNS-TV in Lansing, Michigan reports on ACCCE’s continued push to claim “clean coal” is good for jobs:
Advocates paid a visit to downtown Lansing in a push for energy independence. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity discussed energy, the economy and the environment during a campaign stop in the capital city. The group says clean coal could work to offset Michigan’s staggering unemployment rate.
Chuck Coolidge, ACCCE Outreach Director: “Right now, Michigan is actually utilizing the vast majority of coal use that’s keeping their electricity rates at some of the lowest in the nation. They gain to get those rates even cheaper and employ more jobs and things like that.”
The coalition believes clean coal can provide affordable and reliable electricity to millions of Americans.