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.
Internationally known climatologist James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies and a professor at Columbia University, calls coal-fired power plants "the single greatest threat to civilization and life on our planet."
Coal burning is responsible for 40 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. And Hansen says all of the country's more than 500 coal plants must be shut down by 2030 to avoid the worst effects of global climate change.
Coal-dependent Indiana is seventh among the states in CO2 emissions, having released 8,950 megatons between 1960 and 2005, according to a recently released Greenpeace report, America's Share of the Climate Crisis: A State-By-State Carbon Footprint. The study used data from the Carbon Analysis Indicators Tool maintained by the World Resources Institute.
In 2008, Indiana citizens saved 11.7 million gallons of gasoline by riding transit in record numbers -- the amount consumed by 20,200 cars. Transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of our dependence on oil, and about one-third of our carbon dioxide pollution Environment America outlined in a new report "Getting On Track: Record Transit Ridership Increases Energy Independence."
People are voting with their feet by driving less and taking more public transportation. Congress should listen to these voters and invest more in public transportation, which will increase our energy independence and reduce global warming pollution.
In Indiana, transit ridership increased by more than 9 percent above 2007 levels.
As business owners, we examine every cost with a critical eye. Our bottom line -- our ability to make a profit, and the livelihoods of millions of families in America who depend on us demand an honest appraisal of the realities confronting us.
No one would dispute, for instance, that a business that does not budget for rent increases or rising fuel costs for a commercial fleet in the coming years is in for a rude awakening. Businesses will fail if we don't plan with creativity and care.
That is why it is troubling to us as business owners to watch the reaction of some in our great country to the current debate over the climate legislation that will be taken up by the Senate in September. Meaningful climate legislation, not industry bailouts or the status quo, is necessary now for two principal reasons.
Richard Lugar Center for Renewable Energy
INDIANAPOLIS -- Experts from across the state came together on July 9 in Indianapolis to discuss clean energy solutions to global warming that will have a positive impact on Indiana's economy and businesses, the environment and national security. The panel was convened by Environment America and the Richard Lugar Center for Renewable Energy in response to the recent U.S. Global Change Research Program report showing that Indiana is already experiencing more extreme storms, drought and flooding due to global warming.
"In Benton County, our primary goal is the preservation of our great agricultural soils," said Benton County Extension Director Jimmy Bricker. "We also need economic development. We found that commercial wind energy has been a win-win for our landowners/farmers and our local economy, which translates to everyone in the county."
What's missing from the climate/energy debate in Congress and the U.S. Senate is any discussion on cost. It's amazing that these worshippers of the "free" market have neither debated the merits of the Waxman-Markey Bill (HR 2454) or the Senate energy bill based on the relative costs of their preferred technologies, nor in the context of least cost -- to ratepayers and the economy as whole that is.
The concept of least cost in terms of our electric energy mix is extremely important if we're going to make utility bills affordable, create the jobs we need to, improve public health and effectively address global warming. Even for those who question global warming, least-cost analysis would bring you to the same conclusion with respect to the energy mix.
To illustrate the point, compare the construction costs of the following technologies based on 2007 data from a paper titles "Business Risks and Costs of Nuclear Power," by Craig Severance. Keep in mind that these costs do not include the public health costs associated with coal and nuclear power.
Last week, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) -- a bill that will fire the starting gun in the race to build America's clean energy economy and solve global warming. The bill begins to lay the groundwork for a future powered by the wind and sun -- energy sources that won't run out, don't harm our environment and will only grow cheaper over time. We applaud Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ninth, for voting for it.
The bill would reduce U.S. global warming emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050. In addition, the bill commits the United States to achieving additional emission reductions through agreements to prevent deforestation. The bill would establish strong minimum targets for commercial and residential building codes of 30 percent energy savings starting in 2010 and 50 percent savings for residential buildings starting in 2014 and for commercial buildings in 2015.
Jesse Kharbanda's experience with "very, very bad resource management" while doing college field work in India proved to be apt training for environmental activism in a third-world state like Indiana. Few places exist in the industrialized world where educated people mismanage their resources more flagrantly than in the Hoosier state. West Virginia, perhaps.
Energy is the prime example. As they did once again during the 2009 General Assembly, Hoosier "leaders" simply refuse to embrace the role that truly renewable energy sources can play in the Indiana economy and in cleaning up its toxic environment.
Kharbanda, the Hoosier Environmental Council's (HEC) executive director, said it's a problem of priorities: "We get about 95 to 97 percent of our electricity from coal. ... The presumption on the part of key people -- key, powerful, elected officials -- is that we are a coal state, and that's all we are."
The U.S. Senate and House are both awkwardly attempting to balance the importance of solving the global warming crisis while mitigating energy costs, but they are accomplishing neither. Thanks in large part to our very own Congressman Baron Hill and Senator Evan Bayh carrying water for the utility and business interests, legislation in both chambers is quickly turning into a utility wish list designed to line the pockets of shareholders at the expense of consumers, public health, and the environment.
The legislation does little in the way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and even less to protect ratepayers. Being the "populists" that they are, both have expressed grave concerns regarding the cost of energy for Hoosier ratepayers. Senator Bayh said that Indiana would be among the states that would bear a disproportionate share of the cost of meeting climate requirements, while Representative Hill said that he has "worked diligently to safeguard the taxpayers of Southern Indiana from being unfairly penalized by the bill."
Yet both have sat idly by while residential electric bills in Indiana have risen over 30 percent in the last five years. These increases are not from government mandates requiring renewable energy production, energy efficiency standards or carbon reductions, but from the alleged least-cost form of energy: coal. According to the federal Energy Information Agency, the cost of the commodity itself has risen from $35 per ton in 2007 to $71 dollars per ton currently.
On Feb. 3, six citizens committed to nonviolent civil disobedience were arrested for trespassing on West Virginia's Coal River Mountain mountaintop removal site after they chained themselves to a bulldozer and an excavator. The same afternoon, eight more were arrested at a second protest in Pettus, W.Va.
Blasting off the tops of mountains is one way the coal industry obtains coal. It's a ruinous practice. According to Tara Lohan, writing on AlterNet, mountain top removal mining in Appalachia uses 3 million pounds of explosives a day to blow up the tops of mountains, dumping the debris into waterways and valleys and leaving behind mounds of toxic waste.
Instead of mountaintop removal, Coal River Mountain's residents and their supporters advocate a wind farm on the site as a safe alternative for clean energy and long-term jobs.
The Coal River Mountain arrests illustrate a new type of environmental movement that is building around coal. In this movement, civil disobedience is coming back as a tool for fighting climate change, specifically focused on the coal industry and its mining and burning of coal to produce electricity.