Sean Casten

Sean Casten is president & CEO of Recycled Energy Development, LLC, a company devoted to profitably reducing greenhouse emissions.

Shameless self-promotion

RED positioned to fund $1.5 billion of recycled energy projects

While humility makes it awkward for me to be posting this, David said it would be OK. (I swear!) More seriously, this is a day of great pride at RED and I wanted to share a bit with you -- and perhaps explain the lack of time I've had for more insightful posts lately. We've just completed a pretty substantial equity raise, with funds available to invest in recycled energy projects that convert waste heat to power. The target for our investments are places where we can simultaneously generate profits, lower energy costs, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions - in other words, all the things I've blogged about here before. But now instead of just being an academic idea, we have the financial resources to go out and prove the concept. And, it bears noting, quite a bit of financial pressure to do so. More important than that, though, is that we have a platform to change the way the world makes power. Lots of good press today in Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, and The International Herald Tribune, among others. (Or, if you're a stickler for original source material, our press release is here.) But perhaps the best piece -- and the one that really gets what we're out to do -- is on the Dow Jones newswire, printed below the fold ($ub req'd, or else I'd give the link).

Stupid idea, on so many levels

Expensive coal + hydrogen = ?

As follow-up to my post yesterday: There is now a bidding war emerging for the FutureGen clean coal plant, targeted to cost $6500/kW. Texas and Illinois are fighting to win this fantastic prize. If they get it, they'll ensure they can keep burning coal, but will do it in a plant that is absurdly expensive. As a fringe benefit, they'll generate hydrogen (aka, a fuel that no one is presently demanding for their vehicles), on the off chance that if a market arises they can sell it. Goodness knows they'll need it if the coal plant is ever going to pencil out. Presumably, this is a better idea than investing in more cost-effective renewable/cogen/efficiency projects that would actually produce a product people want. See an article from Restructuring Today, "Illinois works hard to win FutureGen clean coal/hydrogen plant" ($ub req'd), below the fold:

Stupid idea, on so many levels

Expensive coal + hydrogen = ?

As follow-up to my post yesterday: There is now a bidding war emerging for the FutureGen clean coal plant, targeted to cost $6500/kW. Texas and Illinois are fighting to win this fantastic prize. If they get it, they'll ensure they can keep burning coal, but will do it in a plant that is absurdly expensive. As a fringe benefit, they'll generate hydrogen (aka, a fuel that no one is presently demanding for their vehicles), on the off chance that if a market arises they can sell it. Goodness knows they'll need it if the coal plant is ever going to pencil out. Presumably, this is a better idea than investing in more cost-effective renewable/cogen/efficiency projects that would actually produce a product people want. See an article from Restructuring Today, "Illinois works hard to win FutureGen clean coal/hydrogen plant" ($ub req'd), below the fold:

Coal: Still not cheap

The cost of the FutureGen ‘clean coal’ plant doubles

This from Greenwire today ($ub req'd): "The DOE FutureGen program has announced that their "clean coal" plus carbon sequestration is checking in at $1.8 billion for a 275 MW plant, or $6500/kW." OK, so it's at an early stage, but even if you cut that cost in half, it still doesn't pencil out. How long before we get over the illusion that coal is cheap? Story below the fold. (Note that I have given them the benefit of the doubt that their description of the plant as a "275 watt" facility was a typographical error.)

New York gets it right

NY Gov. Spitzer favors 100% auction under RGGI

New York state has announced that they intend to auction 100% of their carbon allowances under RGGI. This is a good thing. There is a 60 day comment period now open. File those comments, NY Gristers!

Coal isn't cheap

Don’t believe the power company hype about coal’s low price

This just in from Restructuring Today ($ub req'd): Sunflower Electric, of the recent Kansas decision not to allow an electric permit because of CO2 concerns, has argued that the decision was a bad idea because it will drive up power prices. But their math is wrong. Here's a partial excerpt from the RT story: A decision by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment to deny a coal power plant permit would mean higher power bills for some. That's "an absolute certainty," Sunflower Electric Power told us Friday. How much higher? At today's prices the firm could pay 1.5¢ for coal versus 8¢ for natural gas. Uh, no. But this is a mistake that is aggressively and frequently made by our electricity generators.

Fascinating, but for the wrong reasons

Shellenberger & Nordhaus echo flawed economic assumptions

I just finished reading Shellenberger & Nordhaus' latest, and while I realize I am a bit late to the party, I think they say some fascinating things -- perhaps not for the reasons they intended. S&N manage to succinctly distill an awful lot of the ideas that are core not only to policy debates on carbon, but to policy discussions of any major change to the economy. Understanding these biases is critical to understanding why S&N write what they write, but also why they are so deeply wrong.

It's the efficiency, stupid

Water limits on power plants

From Greenwire today (sub req'd): water availability may limit new power plants. This is widely appreciated in the power sector, but doesn't get as much attention elsewhere. It's especially acute as our population growth moves south and west where we are especially water-limited. What's under-appreciated is that this is a story about efficiency. When two thirds of the fuel we burn in power plants is wasted as heat, and that heat is rejected in cooling towers (at least in coal and nuke facilities), any gain in energy efficiency is a reduction in water use. Given the huge gains available in efficiency, it ought to be central to this discussion. Also bear in mind that Clean Air Act compliance and carbon sequestration drive down the efficiency of coal plants, thereby increasing water use per MWh. Excerpts of the full article below the fold:

Goooooooooal

Moving toward a better energy policy

There's a great line often ascribed to Yogi Berra: "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." This perfectly describes U.S. energy policy -- and offers a way forward that would not only create lots of social benefits, but just might make energy policy something that matters to U.S. electoral politics. To see why, try ranking those events in political history when politicians really got it right. Declaration of Independence? Emancipation Proclamation? Man on the moon? Pick whichever ones you'd like. Here's my prediction: those great moments were all framed around goals we sought to achieve, without prejudice to the path we took to get there. Why does this matter to energy policy? Because we've never had an energy policy that got beyond a narrow focus on the path.

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