There are some heartening recent stories from the land of Coal Backlash. Portland-based PacifiCorp is giving up on new coal plants entirely — not for environmental reasons but for economic ones. (Lesson: coal isn’t cheap.)
Missouri is probably the most hostile state for climate activists. It ranks among the top five states for emitting CO2, its emissions are growing faster than any other state’s, 85% of its power comes from coal, it is 46th out of 50 state in terms of conservation programs, its citizens are generally poor and in dire need of jobs, and its entire political class is deeply, deeply conservative. Nonetheless, even there, the fight against new coal plants is coming alive.
Not so in West Virginia.
WV governor Joe Manchin is planning on building a series of liquid coal plants across the state, despite citizen protests. There’s a lot of idiocy going on in this story, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. There’s this:
Jeff Herholdt, director of the Division of Energy, said he didn’t believe that a state energy plan was the right place to talk about strip mining regulation or greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re talking about apples and oranges,” Herholdt said Friday. “That’s a different subject.”
Yeah, what’s energy got to do with the environment?
And check out this exciting news for WV citizens:
The plan concludes that "advanced coal technologies provide the same level of environmental beneficiation as" traditional coal-fired power plants, in terms of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.
As environmentally beneficent as traditional coal-fired power plants? I don’t know if WV can take much more beneficiation!
This probably takes the cake, though:
"Advanced coal plants would also be able to capture and sequester [carbon dioxide]," the plan states.
The plan concedes that technology to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground "is still in the experimental/demonstration phase and has not been proven to be financially and technically viable yet for existing plants," but, the study says, "there is guarded optimism that current studies and experiments will refine and prove sequestration technology to be technically feasible, financially sound and environmentally safe."
So sequestration technology hasn’t been proven financially or technically viable, but nonetheless, the plants would be able to sequester CO2. What’s the source of this guarded optimism?
In May, an international panel of scientists concluded that carbon-capture technology is still decades away from making a sizeable contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Hm. That doesn’t sound good. But no worries:
Herholdt said his agency had not reviewed that study or other reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change while drafting the state’s energy plan.
"We tried to focus on West Virginia’s energy opportunities," he said. "We are a state that has a lot of interest with the coal industry and a lot of our economy is based on coal. It makes sense to play to our strengths."
Don’t bug us with your "science." We’ve got a bunch of coal!
Wow. There’s so much wrong with climate and energy policy in this country that it’s hard to imagine one story capturing it all. But this gets close.