Archive for Friday, November 9, 2007

Utilities say little to be done about emissions

November 9, 2007


State's current coal-fired plants could be in jeopardy

The operating permits for the state's 16 coal-fired power plants are up for renewal by October, 2008. Enlarge video

— Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby says he wants to engage utilities in a discussion about reducing carbon dioxide emissions at their power plants.

It might be a short conversation.

Representatives of utilities operating in Kansas say there is nothing they can do about their present CO2 emissions.

"There is no large-scale, proven technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions," said Karla Olsen, a spokeswoman for Westar Energy Inc.

Topeka-based Westar is Kansas' largest utility, and about 80 percent of its power is produced by coal-burning plants that emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas blamed for global climate change.

Last month, Bremby cited concerns with climate change when denying permits for two 700-megawatt coal-burning power plants in western Kansas.

Lawmakers angered over the decision have asked Bremby whether he intends to limit CO2 levels as other industries seek KDHE permits.

Bremby said he won't set regulations on carbon dioxide emissions, but he will seek a plan to reduce emissions, possibly when utilities come in for renewal of operating permits.

"It's his goal to engage industry to come up with voluntary plans to reduce emissions, not just CO2, but all emissions," KDHE spokesman Joe Blubaugh said.

But in recent testimony to a legislative committee, Westar's executive vice president Jim Ludwig said several "myths" exist about global warming - including that renewable power sources can replace the need for fossil fuel.

He said wind, solar, hydro or geothermal energy are not feasible replacements for baseload generation such as coal and nuclear power.

Craig Volland, of the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed in part with Ludwig's assertion.

"I think it will take some time to work out the carbon dioxide emissions coming from existing coal plants," Volland said.

But, he said, research on ways to capture the carbon dioxide soon might produce results. Combined with conservation, "we may be able, as time goes on, to shut down the oldest and least efficient plants," he said.

And, he said, he believes wind energy might one day be a viable substitute for additional coal or nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, utilities must get their operating permits renewed every five years. One before KDHE is Westar's Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Marys, which the EPA says emits 18.1 million tons of CO2 every year - the most in the state.


toefungus 8 years ago

Go Governor. Make the rich and powerful state of Kansas forgo economic development to ease your appointment to federal cush jobs. This is what Democrats have been wanting to do since Reagan. Kill economic development so they can have a populous dependent upon government.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"There is no large-scale, proven technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions," said Karla Olsen, a spokeswoman for Westar Energy Inc.

That's not what Sunflower was telling us.

imastinker 8 years ago

What the people involved in this discussion are missing is that the utility company is not "creating" all that gas. It's all of us. We are the users, and the power company only creates the power needed to supply our homes. We are the ones creating the gas. There are lots of things to reduce energy consumption, but they aren't being done. We are just blaming the power company.

Why don't some of you people that are complaining put up a small wind turbine or solar panel? You can set it up to run the meter backwards, cutting your own consumption and the output at the plant. Why don't you have solar water heaters or ground source heat pumps? These are much less expensive and more effective than the proposals being suggested.

jade 8 years ago

Bremby rocks!

I agree we need to reduce our energy consumption, but we have also to replace dirty non-renewable sources of that energy with clean renewables that people can afford to install. Tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines, energy-saving windows, insulation, and so on expire December 31, 2007, because Congress is unlikely to renew the 2005 legislation. If one has the several thousand dollars to install solar panels in the first place, the tax credit is up to $2000! It's up to $500 I think for windows. Now's the time, if you can afford it.

average 8 years ago

Of course there is something they can do about their CO2 emissions. Not speculative in the least. It's called nuclear fission.

I want choice. Sure, I can buy "credits" from (and do), but that doesn't send a message to Westar that I don't like the Jeffrey or Lawrence plants any more than I like the Sunflower proposal. Nor do I like paying them for their politicking and corruption. I don't know what percentage of people would buy slightly more expensive power from a wholesaler that supports wind, solar, and possibly nuclear, but I surely would.

imastinker 8 years ago

Why don't you think a democrat controlled congress would renew energy saving tax credits? If anybody would it should be them.

Jackalope 8 years ago

All of the coal fired plants in Kansas must have their air permits reviewed before October of next. I suggest that unless Bremby is a complete environmental hypocrite, devoid of anything but delusions and political aspiration, that he should shut them all down........ He may as well start telling those filthy plants that their days are numbered........

jafs 8 years ago

If we all reduced our consumption of electricity, that would significantly affect CO2 output, and thus perhaps global warming.

I don't believe we should be waiting for industries to clean up their act, or for new renewable sources of energy to be found.

Let's all be mindful now in the use of our precious natural resources, and about the effect of our choices.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

" We are the users, and the power company only creates the power needed to supply our homes. We are the ones creating the gas."

Yes, they are producing the gas to satsify consumer demand, but it is still they who are producing the CO2.

What's required is a comprehensive plan which will include decreasing the amount of energy used (conservation,) greatly expanding the use of renewable energy sources (which clearly excludes nuclear) and large reductions in the amount of CO2 and other pollutants released into the atmosphere by coal-burning power plants, which will probably mean a large reduction the amount of electricity we get from them.

Jonathan Allison 8 years ago

Why change anything? Eventually humans will evolve to become more "green", forming chloroplasts to become photosynthetic. Then instead of our natural breathing contributing to CO2 emissions we'll consume CO2.

Jackalope 8 years ago

Chaos and disorder is a concern for Lawrence? Or is it just the old grandfather clause argument that allows garbage in the middle of town and is called "progress." Get real. Lawrence, an environmental and social cesspool, a median of reason and sensibility??

rootdown1212 8 years ago

So, Jackalope, after Bremby shuts down all the power plants, then what? Where's the power going to come from to meet the existing need? We would either import power from out-of-state (and that power would probably come from a coal plant). Or we would have NO electricity and take a step back 125 years. What is your proposal?

The only solution is to reduce consumption and begin to install new, cleaner power sources. Wind power is a complete farse. We need more nuclear power if we are interested in clean power that can meet our base and peak demands regardless of the weather conditions. Also, remember that WE are the reason that CO2 emissions are high, not the power or oil companies. They're just supplying the addition.

a_flock_of_jayhawks 8 years ago

Westar and the other companies that operate plants that generate CO2 are taking a risk with this tactic. It goes like this: They can claim that there's nothing that can be done to reduce emissions and then wait to see if a) the regulatory agencies leave the issue alone for fear of upsetting the apple cart or b) those agencies put regulations in place that spell out exactly what can be done and put timelines and targets in place for it to occur.

Instead, it would be in their interests to suggest a course of action and then move to implement it themselves without the government forcing a solution upon them. Then, they can control their own destiny to some degree. They are just testing to see if the "nothing can be done" argument will fly because it is the path of least resistance and maximum profits.

JSpizias 8 years ago

"But in recent testimony to a legislative committee, Westar's executive vice president Jim Ludwig said several "myths" exist about global warming - including that renewable power sources can replace the need for fossil fuel.

He said wind, solar, hydro or geothermal energy are not feasible replacements for baseload generation such as coal and nuclear power."

And Ludwig is absolutely right! In a recent paper entitled "Thermodynamics of Energy Production from Biomass", Patzek and Pimentel, two of the country's leading experts in energy production and utilization make the following statement: "We want to be very clear: solar cells, wind turbines, and biomass-for-energy plantations can never replace even a small fraction of the highly reliable, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectric power stations. Claims to the contrary are popular but irresponsible". Given the concern about CO2, Patzek and Pimentel feel that increased nuclear power generation is essential.

The talk by "climate catastrophizers" about reducing earth CO2 emission by 85% is ludicrous, given what is transpiring in the rest of the world. Consider this from a recent NY Times article.

From NY Times-October 24, 2007 "China's Green Energy Gap China's increase has been the most substantial. The country built 114,000 megawatts of fossil-fuel-based generating capacity last year alone, almost all coal-fired, and is on course to complete 95,000 megawatts more this year.

For comparison, Britain has 75,000 megawatts in operation, built over a span of decades."

Thus, last year China built the equivalent of 163 power plants of 700 megawatts each, and will build almost this many again this year, almost all of them coal-fired.

from the same article "The same big utility company building the green plant in Boxing, CLP, has just opened a coal-fired plant in southernmost China. On schedule and built for half what it would cost in the West, that plant will generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity - compared with 6 megawatts from the Boxing biomass plant. CLP is so impressed that it is bidding to build coal-fired plants in India with Chinese technology.

These are the realities faced by companies seeking to make themselves more environmentally friendly in China, where coal is king. Coal-fired plants are quick and cheap to build and easy to run. The most talked-about alternative to coal in China involves plans to quadruple the country's share of power from nuclear energy by 2020. But the plan, which contemplates dozens of reactors, still amounts to just 31,000 megawatts of nuclear power over the next dozen years."

If we wish to unilaterally cripple our economy in an irrational "war on CO2" we should realize the rest of the world isn't. Oil is at $100 a barrel, natural gas is also skyrocketing, and we have hundreds of years of coal right here at home. Does any of this make sense?

a_flock_of_jayhawks 8 years ago

JSpizias writes, "Does any of this make sense?"

Yes, it does. Nice post, lots of info. The US, along with China, India, and Russia, is still in the top 4 greenhouse gas emitters in the world and the estimate is that we increased 15% from 1990 to 2000. I, for one, do not subscribe to the idea that if we take action that it will not ultimately make a difference in the outcome. Instead of a scorched earth approach, we can and should make a difference.

What puzzles me is that we were talking about energy sources back in the 70's and the fact that those sources needed to change and almost 40 years later we still don't have a solid plan to make it happen. Instead, we have an energy policy that was born in secret meetings with the energy corporations and, surprise, it emphasizes more use of those sources.

The good news is that there are some breakthroughs in this segment that will soon be available that do not contribute CO2.

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