It is doubtful that schemes to refine synthetic gas and liquids from coal will ever be economical. Indeed, only two countries have used such technology because they were desperate for transportation fuels. And they were expelled from trading with other countries.
The first was Nazi Germany. The second was apartheid-controlled South Africa.
But that fact seems to escape those who seek giant profits by forcing unwilling consumers to buy their fuels and assume tremendous risks. That is the case in tiny Rockport, a town of a little over 2,000 people on the Ohio River in southwest Indiana. There, a Wall Street-based hedge fund called Leucadia National has developed a business.
The headline this week from EPA read, "Triad Mining agrees to resolve Clean Water Act violations and restore affected waterways in Indiana." The press release told of violations of the Clean Water Act by a mining company that had operated in Indiana for years without much oversight. Finally EPA was stepping in because the state agencies that EPA had authorized to regulate such things had failed to do so.
Like so many other enforcement actions that EPA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertake in Indiana leave one to ask, "where was IDEM and DNR while this was going on?"
Sadly, we almost all know the answer, and that is that Indiana is a state where nearly anything goes.
Most people who have studied the issue of "clean coal" easily understand that coal is not clean and really cannot be made so. But that does not keep those who make big money mining and burning the black mineral from making those dubious claims.
Mining coal destroys entire ecosystems, burning it alters our climate, makes people sick and cuts lives short while disposal of its huge volumes of waste contaminates land and water alike.
In a shocking reversal of position, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) has altered its support for the Duke Energy Edwardsport power plant fiasco.
Just last Nov. 3, OUCC head David Stippler gave the plant and ratepayer support for it a glowing endorsement during a "technical hearing" before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). On July 1, his office modified that endorsement and said ratepayers should no longer be on the hook for the massive cost overruns in the construction of the beleaguered plant, which is now said by Duke to cost more than $3 billion.
A new report released late last week shows that US power plants increased their emissions of climate change causing, carbon dioxide by 5.56 percent in 2010 over that released in 2009.
The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) study, titled Getting Warmer, showed that Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky ranked fourth, fifth and seventh nationally in the release of the greenhouse gas and that all three significantly increased those releases in 2010.
Duke Energy always rewards its creepy, disgraced executives, it seems. A couple of days ago James L. Turner resigned in disgrace after the Indianapolis Star revealed e-mails between him and his buddy David Lott Hardy, who was the chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).
Those communications may have been illegal as ex parte communications, but hey, it’s Indiana, where the line between the regulators and the regulated has been ill-defined for a long time, especially in the last six years as Mitch Daniels has strategically placed industry leaders in the position of regulating the industries they work for.
The revolving door between the Indiana Utility Regulatory has been well established for a very long time but may have a more difficult time in the future.
In what may be the clearest signal yet of a run for the presidency by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, he decided yesterday to try to mitigate a scandal of huge proportions by firing the Chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission David Lott Hardy.
For public consumption, Mitch Daniels wears a "conservative" hat, but as Indiana governor, he oversaw one of the largest intrusions of the public sector into the private sector ever, in any state.
In 2006, he was the first to promote the building of a new coal-to-gas plant in one of the most polluted towns in the nation, Rockport, Ind. At the time gas prices were running around $12 per thousand BTUs (MMBtu), and fear was gripping the nation that natural gas was nearing an end and the only salvation, climate change or not, was converting hydrogen and carbon elements in coal into synthetic gas (syngas) that could substitute for industrial fuel and residential home heating.
When the Indiana Gasification (IG) plant was proposed for Rockport by the Mitch Daniels administration in November 2006, the price of natural gas was on the rise at around $9 per million BTUs (mmbtu). Suddenly taking coal's hydrocarbons and converting them to usable "syngas" (synthetic gas) seemed to make sense, at least until you got to the details.
That is, presumably, why the legislature passed a law telling the state's gas utilities that they had to negotiate 30-year contracts with IG on a "take-or-pay" basis that forced Indiana ratepayers to use its syngas no matter what the cost.
Then, while negotiations were still taking place, IG trotted before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) with its proposal. Sadly for them, the utilities soon discovered that even with prices for natural gas on the rise, the required price for syngas was just too high to be competitive with even volatile natural gas, which by early 2008 had risen to $13-plus.
According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, fascism is:
1. a system of government practiced by Benito Mussolini in Italy between 1922 and 1943 that was characterized by dictatorship, centralized control of private enterprise, repression of opposition, and extreme nationalism, and 2. ... any movement, tendency, or ideology that favors dictatorial government, centralized control of private enterprise, repression of all opposition, and extreme nationalism
Lately, I have heard the word "fascism" enter into American dialogue. Thus, I thought it would be interesting to see how 2008 America stacks up, in admittedly my own view. I certainly use the word with caution since a mere mention inflames any discussion of politics or philosophy.