Monday, January 22, 2007

TXU Coal-Burning Power Plants Face More Opposition

The debate over Gov. Perry's decision to fasttrack coal-burning power plants went national during the governor's race. This month the Rolling Stone covers the story. From the introduction, you might think that Texas is getting something of a reputation.

Like most stories about energy, corruption and greed, this one is centered in Texas. TXU, an electric-power company based in Dallas, has announced plans to build eleven new coal plants in Texas by 2011 -- a move that a trade publication calls "one of the most ambitious generation capacity expansions in recent power industry history." Texas already dumps more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other state in the nation. TXU's new fleet of coal plants would more than double the company's current pollution, spewing 78 million tons of planet-heating pollution each year -- the equivalent of 11 million SUVs.

Coal is cheap, plentiful and extremely dirty. As the article points out, when the hurricanes of 2005 damaged refineries, TXU's CEO John Wilder decided to switch from emphasizing gas to focusing on coal to generate electricity. The result has been a surge in profits for TXU, and a nice bonus to the big guy. In 2005, Wilder was paid over $55 million -- twice the executive pay of former ExxonMobil boss Lee Raymond.

But coal is only profitable because its pollution-related costs -- blasted mountains, increases in asthma and heart attacks, neurological damage from toxic mercury, environmental chaos caused by global warming -- are all offloaded onto the public. That's why TXU is rushing to build so many new coal plants: In the next five years, Congress is widely expected to crack down on global warming by placing limits on carbon-dioxide emissions, making coal less profitable. If TXU can sneak its plants in under the regulatory wire, it could be exempt from new regulations -- allowing the company to dump massive amounts of carbon for free.

We're told that the need for new plants is so pressing because demand for energy may exceed supply in the near future. But a story last year that didn't get nearly as much attention as it deserved suggested that TXU may have been manipulating supplies at the very time it was making those claims.

TXU Corp. may have manipulated wholesale electricity supplies and prices last year, according to an annual review of the Texas market. An outside company hired by the state's Public Utility Commission found evidence that a power producer shut down some of its generating capacity on certain days in 2005 in order to squeeze supply and boost prices.

The report doesn't specifically name TXU, but it states that the company in question had about 13,000 megawatts of available capacity. The only company in Texas with that much juice is TXU.

The company's plans are running into hurdles at every turn. In addition to several lawsuits, and a pending Supreme Court decision, we learn per McBlogger [warning: not for the easily offended] that a bipartisan bill was introduced earlier this month by the Senate.

"The Climate tewardship and Innovation Act of 2007" would cap greenhouse-gas emissions of the electric power, industrial, transportation, and commercial sectors at 2004 levels by 2012 and reduce them to one-third that level by 2050.

One of the bill's co-sponsors is Sen. Barack Obama, so look for this legislation to get a lot of attention this year.

And now comes news that even Wall Street is preparing to push for legislation to curb greenhouse emissions.

The coalition of industries and environmental groups -- called the United States Climate Action Partnership -- says Congress needs to establish a cap on carbon dioxide emissions, the chief man-made contributor to climate change, and mandate deadlines for power companies to install carbon emission controls on new and existing power plants.

What makes this announcement big news is its corporate members: Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar Inc., Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, PG&E Corp., and PNM Resources. This eye-popping list of names tells you everything you need to know about the current political climate regarding global warming. The tide has clearly turned.

And now, just in time for the president's state of the union speech, Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) is filing a bill to establish a global warming task force in Texas.

“The state is like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. We need a plan to deal with this challenge. At the same time, the reality of global warming provides excellent opportunities for businesses that innovate and create solutions to these problems. My bill directs the global warming task force to investigate and prepare for the worst while seeking opportunities for businesses that do the rightthing,” Burnam said.

"I do hope, as it has been reported, that the President addresses global warming tonight. And I hope that the state of Texas will take the necessary steps to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for a carbon-constrained economy.”

If you want to know where TXU is proposing to build, Environmental Defense has a map showing the proposed location of some of the new plants.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
TXU Coal Power Customers for sale at $18,750 for each baaaing sheeple head.

TXU has 2.4 million customers forced to buy power from them alone.
That's all it's got plus some aging coal plants. Oh yeah, it also has
$12,300,000,000 of debt too. Some gang is willing to pay
$45,000,000,000 to buy that mess and the only profit can come from the
sheeple with the electric noose around their necks.

Do the math and explain how each customer has to pay out of their
pockets $18,750 so that their new owners just break even on the
purchase price of themselves. (Oh yeah, there's still that $12.3
billion debt the sheeple have to pay, plus interest too.) Did somebody
say PV was going down in price?
"TXU also has about $12.3 billion in debt that likely would be assumed
by a buyer."
$45 Billion Bid for a Texas Utility in Biggest Buyout Ever
Published: February 24, 2007