Fri, 2015-02-06 08:14Farron Cousins
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“Clean Coal” Fantasy Finally Losing Federal Support, But Industry Never Took It Seriously Anyway

The phrase “clean coal” has about as much merit as saying “sanitary sewage,” but that hasn’t stopped the industry and pro-coal talking heads from repeating that phrase ad nauseum to the American public.

The Orwellian industry buzzphrase was so successful that the Obama administration, as part of the 2009 stimulus package, pledged more than $1 billion to create the largest carbon-capturing system known as FutureGen 2.0. The total cost of the project was estimated at $1.65 billion, with $116 million already spent by the federal government.

But this week, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it is pulling funding from the project, officially killing the FutureGen 2.0 project. The original goal of the project was to retrofit an existing coal-fired plant near Springfield, Illinois with carbon capture and storage technology to reduce emissions by capturing and storing the CO2 underground.

The FutureGen Alliance – the coalition of companies involved in the project – derided the DOE’s decision, claiming that the federal funding was a “key component” to keeping the project alive.

The official line is that there is “insufficient time” to finish the project before the funding deadline of September 2015. But the government misses deadlines all the time – they impose them upon themselves and then move them as necessary. If the deadline were truly the only issue, they would have simply pushed it back to a more suitable and realistic time frame.

The real reason the carbon capture and storage (CCS) project was scrapped was revealed in a statement by FutureGen supporter and Democratic Senator from Illinois Richard Durbin: “A decade-long bipartisan effort made certain that federal funding was available for the FutureGen Alliance to engage in a large-scale carbon-capture demonstration project. But, the project has always depended on a private commitment and can’t go forward without it.” [emphasis added.]

Durbin’s statement was echoed in a story from RT, which pointed out that the remaining $600 million needed for the project – the portion of funds that were supposed to come from FutureGen Alliance members (the coal industry) – never materialized.

And that’s the part of the story that most of the media is ignoring. The project didn’t die because the DOE pulled taxpayer funding; the project ground to a halt by a lack of interest and investment from the dirty energy industry.

Thu, 2015-02-05 14:00Guest
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Fear, Ridicule, Danger: Is It Safe to Be a Climate Scientist?

This is a guest post by Minda Berbeco cross-posted with permission from Live Science. Minda Berbeco is programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology. She contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Recently, a college senior reached out to me, looking for tips on how to present her research to the public. We went around in circles for a while, until it became clear that the “public” she was targeting was the legislature in her fossil-fuel-loving state, her research was on climate change and her question was not, “How do I make this accessible?” but rather, “How do I survive?” 

I quickly assured her that no one was going to attack her — that, at worst, people might be dismissive of, or uninterested in, her research. I suggested that other concerns might be more pressing: getting good grades, finding a place in a research lab, securing employment after the completion of her graduate work. As for the public, I finished by saying, “My goodness; they can't hurt you, they can't fire you and they can't give you an 'F.'” Afterward, though, I wondered, “Is that really true?”

Thu, 2015-02-05 11:38Guest
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Western States Petroleum Association Spent $8.9M Lobbying Against Climate and Fracking Efforts in California Last Year

Western States Petroleum slideshow

This is a guest post by Dan Bacher.

The oil industry continued its long reign as the top spender on lobbying in California in 2014, according to data just released by the California Secretary of State.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) led the list with $8.9 million spent on lobbying in 2014, nearly double what it spent in the previous year. WSPA spent $4.67 million in 2013.

WSPA apparently spent much of its money on stopping a fracking moratorium bill in the Legislature and trying to undermine California’s law to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of WSPA and the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create questionable “marine protected areas” in Southern California, also successfully opposed legislation by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to protect the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve and the Tranquillon Ridge from offshore oil drilling plans.

“The winners of the 2014 lobbying competition are in – and the winner is… BIG OIL!’” said Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. “Congratulations, Western States Petroleum Association and Chevron! No one has spent more on evil in California than you!”

The association spent a total of $4,009,178 lobbying state officials in the third quarter of 2014, a new quarterly record by WSPA shows.

Thu, 2015-02-05 10:46John Mashey
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Rand Paul and Strange Associations with Anti-Science

In “Rand Paul Is Linked to Doctors' Group That Supports Vaccination Challenges” the New York Times documented his long involvement with the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), but only scratched the surface of the strangeness. AAPS Executive Director Jane Orient and her associates run a tightly-coupled group of 501(c)(3) public charities. They seem to reject much modern science and spend their efforts to promote political views, perhaps beyond the 501(c) rules.

03/01/15 UPDATE: see more extensive, updated replacement version of this post.

Of course, organization membership does not imply acceptance of all positions, but Paul's long-time association raises questions. Which of their views on science does he accept? Which of their policies does he support? Do their views seen in related organizations carry over into AAPS?

Jane Orient (or this or this) is the contact for at least 6 charities, some dormant.

Thu, 2015-02-05 08:14Mike Gaworecki
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The War On Solar Is Real, Unlike the "War on Coal"

You’ve most likely heard of the so-called “war on coal,” especially given how eagerly mainstream newspapers have helped conservatives in pushing this bogus meme. But there’s another war going on, one you probably haven’t heard of even though the outcome has major implications for the future of our planet.

That would be the “war on solar,” a concerted effort by vested fossil fuel interests and their political allies to hinder the progress of solar power, and more broadly attack all efforts to convert our society to run on clean, renewable energy sources.

Solar is a fast-growing clean energy industry that now employs 174,000 people, more than the coal industry. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. now has more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity, enough to power four million American homes while contributing more than $15 billion to the American economy.

The aggressors in the war on the solar industry include some familiar names: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Tax Reform and the Koch Brothers’ own Americans for Prosperity, organizations that are intent on rolling back policies — including the solar investment tax credit — designed to encourage solar energy development. These front groups for fossil fuel interests are determined to restrict the growth of the clean tech industries in favor of the dirty energy interests they’re beholden to for funding.

As Karl Cates of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis writes, “the war on solar remains starkly underreported, and vastly deserving of much more and better coverage than it’s gotten so far.”

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