Sunday, June 29, 2008

'Clean Coal': a New Way to Pollute the Planet

Big Coal has lots of money to advertise the myth of 'clean coal' and fool some of the public. Coal companies would like to build new coal-fired power plants first, and test later whether or not they can actually 'clean' the coal by removing the global warming pollution and other pollutants. Coal lobbyists have fooled some governmental officials as well as the Presidential candidates to think that clean coal is real. But Big Coal can't fool all of the people all of the time. The chorus of people who say that there is no such thing as clean coal grows larger and louder every day! The Buffalo News "gets it", as evidenced by today's editorial that exposes the many 'ifs' associated with the unproven, 'clean coal' technology proposed for Jamestown, NY.

NY Governor Paterson and his advisers need to "get it" too. It makes no sense to back the Jamestown clean coal initiative with $6 Million before finding out the results of a much less costly initiative to determine whether the capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide is even feasible, let alone economical, environmentally safe and permanent.

Hooker Chemical Company previously thought that burying toxic chemicals in clay vaults would be safe too, but they were completely wrong. Remember Love Canal in the city of Niagara Falls? The toxic chemicals LEAKED out, and the people in the neighborhood suffered the consequences. Pumping toxic concentrations of carbon dioxide underground under pressure is no different in principle. It's just another way to pollute the planet.

What if toxic concentrations of buried carbon dioxide were to LEAK out? A leak of toxic concentrations of carbon dioxide buried under a crater lake in an extinct volcano did occur in Cameroon. Almost 1,800 people living around Lake Nyos died by suffocation. Scientists concluded that carbon dioxide, trapped at the bottom of the lake, had suddenly risen to the surface due to 'lake overturn'. The report is here.

Another major concern is what will be the impact of newly-built coal-fired power plants on global warming and climate change if the carbon dioxide (CO2) can not be sequestered? According to climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, "Coal will determine whether we continue to increase climate change or slow the human impact. As oil resources peak, coal will determine future CO2 levels." Hansen favors a moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants in the absence of a proven method for carbon dioxide capture and sequestration.

Let's forget about the 'clean coal' myth and the old fossil fuel economy, and push for a real clean energy economy, creating new jobs involving renewable energy sources like wind, geothermal and solar, that emit no global warming pollution.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Business Gets Green: Session II

The second session of Business Gets Green was held on June 19th at the Buffalo Museum of Science. When asked for his thoughts on the session, Bill Nowak, meeting organizer and Executive Director of Green Gold Development Corp., said:

"When we got 80 folks to the first Business Gets Green session, I was impressed. At the 2nd one there were 90 folks, the featured speakers were truly excellent, the 20 businesses that introduced themselves were fascinating, and the networking was enthusiastic and extensive."

Eric Posa, President of DocuSyst, said that the session was " of the best events that I have been to in a long time. It was very refreshing to learn about the projects and services in the Buffalo area that are helping to bring positive change."

Dave Majewski, President of Premium Services Inc. and a featured speaker, was highly enthusiastic about the session. He said "WOW on last night it was @#$%&$ WOW! How interesting and educational." As a direct result of his presentation and networking following the session, he will be partnering or working with three business as well as with UB, ECC and Daemen College. WOW!

Videos of the featured presentations:
Green Shorts: Videos of the short presentations:
A list of participating Businesses with contact information is here.

Videos of presentations are courtesy of LCTV and videographer Jon Allen.

Analysis of featured presentations by James Heaney of the Buffalo News is here.

Business Gets Green is sponsored by the Green Gold Development Corporation. Save the date for the next Session on July 17, featuring John Beckinghausen, HSBC's North American Director for Sustainability.
Reminds me of an earlier blog I wrote on sustainability that links to an informative and cute video (5 stars).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Candidates address Climate Change, June 18

WNY Climate Action Coalition


The 26th Congressional District seat is currently held by retiring Congressman Tom Reynolds. All announced candidates have been invited to attend to present their positions and intended policies to address the pressing issue of climate change.

Please come join the conversation and see if you are inspired to volunteer on one of their campaigns!

Wednesday, June 18, 7 PM
Unitarian-Universalist Church of Buffalo
Elmwood Ave at West Ferry St

Refreshments will be served at 6:30 PM
Click here for a printable flyer

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Socially Responsible Investing, June 17th

HSBC is holding a
Socially Responsible Investing Seminar

9:00 to 10:30 AM at the HSBC Auditorium, One HSBC Center, Buffalo, NY

  • David Leach, The Calvert Group, Investing in Green Companies and Resources
  • Paulette Crooke, HSBC Regional President, Environmental Initiatives to cut Carbon Emissions
  • Local Business Clients in the Environmental Preservation field, Two minute "Commercials" on how their company helps the environment
LIVE THE BRAND: Michael A. Anderson, AVP, One HSBC Center, Buffalo, NY, 716-841-4371

BUSINESS: Green Jobs Workshop - June 20

Friday, June 20th - 1:00 to 6:00 PM

BUSINESS to BUSINESS - A Green Jobs Workshop
Daemen College, Wick Center, 4380 Main St., Amherst NY
Admission $15 - Waived if you register by Friday, June 13
Register with Katie Chadwick at 716-852-4191 or at

  • 1:10 -1:30: Introductory Remarks – Honorable Antoine Thompson, Ranking Minority Member, Environmental Conservation Committee, New York State Senate

  • 1:30 - 2:00: Parts and Services Required for Wind Energy Facilities - Bill Nowak - Wind Action Group
  • 2:00 - 2:30: Landfill with Methane Capture - John Lembach - Director of Research IBEW Local 86 Rochester, NY
  • 3:00 - 3:15: Break – Beverages & Cookies
  • 3:15 - 3:45: Opportunities Created by the Reopening of the Highland Avenue Plant in Niagara Falls - Speaker to be determined - Globe Specialty Metals Inc.
  • 3:45 - 4:15: New York’s Efforts to Capitalize on the Green Economy - Diego Sirianni - Empire State Development Corporation
  • 4:15 - 5:00: Where to Get Help on Breaking into the Renewable Energy Economy - Panel Discussion Moderator: Robert E. Knoer, Esq. - The Knoer Group, PLLC
  • 5:00 - 6:00: Social Networking Hour
For a printable flyer, click here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Business Gets Green meets June 19th

The Second Session of Business Gets Green meets on Thursday, June 19th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Buffalo Museum of Science. Free Event.

Featured speakers and Topics will include:

Businesses that want to give a 1 minute introduction need to pre-register.
Questions? Contact Bill Nowak at

Videos, Reports
, and Business Contacts from the May 15th Session are available here.

Business Gets Green is sponsored by Green Gold Development Corp.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Coal Power: Advance or Big Mistake?

NY Governor Paterson today announced State support for an 'advanced coal' power plant in Jamestown. The plant is intended to be a demonstration facility for carbon dioxide capture and permanent underground storage, a still unproven technology.

'Advanced coal' is a new name for what the coal power companies have been calling 'clean coal'. To date, there is no such thing. It is not known whether this unproven technology will be commercially feasible, cost effective and environmentally safe. Electricity costs will certainly rise since 'clean coal' power plants will be expensive to build and operate.

Climate activists and environmentalists were not happy with the Governor's support for the initiative. “This power plant is ill-advised from both environmental and economic points of view and does not deserve to go forward,” said Walter Simpson, co-founder of the Western New York Climate Action Coalition and leader of a coalition of groups opposed to the plant. He criticized the Governor for "acting before an $800,000 New York State Energy Research & Development Authority-funded study to examine the geological and legal issues associated with carbon capture and storage in the Southern Tier region has begun". Brian Smith, Western New York Program Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment said “Investing millions of tax dollars in unproven, highly questionable technology is unwise.”

It is not known whether underground storage of carbon dioxide (carbon sequestration) is safe and permanent. Would you like to have toxic concentrations of carbon dioxide stored underground where you live? Suppose toxic concentrations of the gas leak out? What do you think: Advance or Mistake?

Here's Tom Toles' take on carbon sequestration:
[Click to enlarge]

No Fuel Costs or CO2 using Wind Turbines

Dave Bradley of the Buffalo Wind Action Group wrote informative answers to questions asked about my post, Clean Coal: More Expensive, Less Desirable. The answers are in the comments section below that post, but in case you missed them, I decided to post them here:

Question: How much of that $1.5B cost for Huntley is government subsidy?
Answer: Most of that $1.5 billion (and it could be $2 Billion) is the cost of constructing the facility AND the Air Separation plant(s) to supply it with O2 instead of air. The subsidies come from allowing the CO2 pollution to occur, and also from the long term power purchase agreement that would take place between NRG and the New York Power Authority (NYPA). The price stability (very hard to find in NY) would protect it from competition from lower cost generation, such as onshore wind turbines.

There may also be certain subsidies from either NY State or the Dept. of Energy for this initial trial plant (though other such projects have been done on a slightly smaller scale). But the main subsidies are the essentially cost free allowance to pollute our atmosphere with fossil fuel derived CO2, not including the costs of coal mining (like mountain top removal), and the preferential stability that a Power Purchase Agreement gives (wind projects get no such treatment from NYPA in NY). That will lower the financing insecurity, and save the owners billions in higher interest costs that would otherwise happen if NRG has to sell this power on the NYISO at whatever rate NYISO goes for at any given time - the so-called free enterprise route.

Question: And how much solar or wind generating capacity could that much money buy? 680 MW?
Answer: As for the $1.5 billion in capital, that could buy 750 MW of installed onshore wind capacity - a very decent sized wind farm, or set of farms. With an average of 33% output (typical NY value), this would deliver an average of 250 MW of power. However, most of the costs would be involved in paying down the debt - no fuel costs for wind turbines. That avoids this terrible fate.

The Huntley plant was built for $40/ton coal, and so far this year, prices are now near $108/ton, with this just the early part of summer. The coal price spike is due to oil and natural gas prices going up, as well as the devaluation of the dollar, which allows Europeans (Euro currency) to buy our coal cheap (to them) and the increased demand just spikes U.S. prices. The one virtue of coal used to be its cheapness - and that is also fading away.