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Ted Nace's Posts

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Did the coal industry create its own PR nightmare?

The press coverage of the Tennessee sludge spill has been nothing short of astonishing. Barely a week has passed since the accident and already a Google search for the phrase Tennessee spill produces 2,280,000 results! Compare that to 1,740,000 for Three Mile Island and 708,000 for Exxon Valdez. In little more than a week, this has become one of the biggest environmental stories in recent decades. Obviously, the naked fact of being the biggest coal spill in history (100 times larger than the Valdez spill) is reason itself for the intensity of the coverage. But is it also possible that …

Read more: Uncategorized

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Climate youth activists target the Capitol Power Plant

The U.S. coal-fired power plant fleet is filled with geezers. Out of 1,522 existing generating units, 600 were running during the Nixon-Kennedy debates. Nearly 10 percent were built in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Still, it would be hard to find a coal plant that has seen more history than the Capitol Power Plant in Washington, D.C. It was commissioned by an act of Congress in 1904 and completed in 1910. That year, Teddy Roosevelt was the first U.S. President to ride in an airplane. The plant was eight years old when the doughboys came home from France. When it …

Read more: Politics

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Placing coal reserves into trust status would be a nice gift to our kids’ future

A generation before David Brower started raising hell at the Sierra Club, a similarly militant scientist named Victor Ernest Shelford organized the Ecological Society of America, becoming its first president in 1916. Shelford stepped down from that position when the Ecological Society of America shied away from taking controversial stands. With a small group of other activist scientists, he formed the Committee for the Preservation of Natural Conditions (1917) and later the Ecologists Union (1946) with the objective of taking "direct action" to protect threatened areas. For Shelford's Ecologists Union, "direct action" meant buying threatened areas. The approach proved wildly …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The demise of California’s Measure T is bad news for the environment

"Market failure" is one cause of environmental problems, but "democracy failure" is even worse. Russia and China aren't the only examples. It also happens closer to home, as illustrated by last week's decision by California's Humboldt County to abandon Measure T, a local law banning non-local corporate money from local elections. For years Humboldt County, like many rural counties in lumber or mining areas, was dominated by a single corporation -- Pacific Lumber, a subsidiary of Texas-based Maxxam, Inc. For local voters, the last straw came when Maxxam spent several hundred thousand dollars on a recall initiative against District Attorney …

Read more: Politics

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Google’s CEO is the one person who can engineer the transition

No position under the next administration will be more important for the economy, the environment, and national security than energy secretary. And no one fits the position as perfectly as Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Schmidt recently told the New York Times that he's not interested in the role of "chief technology officer" in an Obama administration. But that's the wrong spot for Schmidt, a big waste of his administrative talents. Give it to some other geek. Schmidt should run energy. That's a job with real power, and it's absolutely vital that under Obama the energy secretary grasp the nature of …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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What’s the best way to phase out the huge fleet of aging coal plants?

The anti-coal movement has a lot to celebrate right now. Of the 151 coal plants on the drawing boards as of the May 2007 report by the Energy Department, 82 have now been abandoned, blocked, or placed on hold. In September, Juliette Jowitt of the UK's Manchester Guardian wrote: In a few years, the backlash against coal power in America has become the country's biggest-ever environmental campaign, transforming the nation's awareness of climate change and inspiring political leaders to take firmer action after years of doubt and delay. Plants have been defeated in at least 30 of the 50 states, …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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How the new European carbon standard could backfire

Last week's action by the European Parliament to adopt the "Schwarzenegger clause" as a requirement for new coal plants built after 2015 shows the danger of locking in well-intentioned half-measures. The Schwarzenegger clause is a California regulatory requirement that emerged out of SB 1368, enacted in 2006 and rightly hailed at that time as a huge step forward. The basis of the standard was a requirement that carbon dioxide emissions from any new coal plant supplying power to California customers should not exceed the emissions of a combined cycle gas plant. Since new combined cycle gas plants produce 800 pounds …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Poll shows 86 percent of public wants a five-year halt on new coal plants

Shortly before the July 4 holiday, Opinion Research Corporation released a poll entitled "Opinions About Gas Prices and U.S. Energy Independence" [PDF] which shows -- drum roll please -- that the public, by a three-to-one margin, is either "very angry" or "somewhat angry" about gasoline prices. While gas prices grabbed the headlines, the poll also happened to ask a number of questions about coal, and the answers were both interesting and surprising: The percentage of people who said they opposed new coal plants was actually higher than the percentage expressing outrage over gas prices. When asked whether "America should commit …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Solar thermal can save us, but it needs public clamor

[Editor's note: When this post was originally run, the phrase "100 miles by 100 miles" was changed to "100 square miles," which is very different. The article has now been corrected (or rather, unmiscorrected) and the appropriate intern flogged; our apologies to Ted and Alex.] This post was coauthored with Alex Carlin, organizer of Let's Go Solar and instigator of the recent Environment America study (PDF), "On the Rise: Solar Thermal Power and the Fight Against Global Warming." Every day more people are finally hearing about what Joe Romm calls "the solar power you don't hear about" -- solar thermal …

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Administrative law judges give controversial coal plant thumbs down — final decision up to PUC

One of the most controversial coal plant proposals in the country just took yet another big hit. Minnesota's two administrative law judges on the hearings for the Big Stone II plant in South Dakota, Steve Mihalchick and Barbara Neilson, recommended today that the state Public Utilities Commission deny a certificate of need for the plant's transmission lines in western Minnesota. If adopted by the PUC, the ruling will kill the highly controversial project. According to the ALJs' recommendation [PDF], the sponsors of the plant "have failed to demonstrate that their demand for electricity cannot be met more cost effectively through …