Monday, July 02, 2007

Senate Hearing On Global Warming & Power Plants

Jun 28: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), held a hearing entitled, Examining Global Warming Issues in the Power Plant Sector. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included representatives from: Duke Energy; PG&E Corporation; FPL Group; Natural Resources Defense Council; National Commission on Energy Policy; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Competitive Enterprise Institute; Murray Energy Corporation and the Free Enterprise Action Fund.

In opening the hearing, Boxer said, "...reducing emissions from powerplants is a fundamental part of any solution to global warming. Powerplants are the single largest CO2 emitting sector in the U.S. economy. They account for 40% of U.S. emissions. The single largest source of fuel for powerplants is coal, which accounts for about 50% of our electricity generation. In the fight against global warming, the electricity sector will play a critical role -- both as a source of emissions and as a source of possible emission reductions. The technological choices that we make in this area will affect our ability to combat global warming for many years to come. These choices can lead to large decreases in emissions or commit us to large increases in emissions."

Duke Energy testified that the issue of global climate change can be addressed "with appropriate design of a comprehensive, long-term program that caps emissions, provides the right cost-control tools and supports the development, demonstration and deployment of new technologies. Both cost containment and technology development are critical if Congress is to craft and enact a workable climate change protection act." He stressed the necessity for legislation to be flexible; the program should apply economy-wide, resisting the urge to focus solely on the electric sector; and start a cap now, and gradually reduce that cap so that technologies have time to develop and deploy. He also said that areas of the country facing the largest increases in electricity rates due to climate change policy also represent the nation’s industrial heartland; he said the program must actively support the development and deployment of low-carbon baseload generation technologies (including coal with carbon capture and sequestration) and must address and remove barriers associated with nuclear energy production. He said, "We will need all five fuels – nuclear, coal, natural gas, renewables and the 'fifth fuel,' energy efficiency."

NRDC testified that if all 3000 of the next wave of coal plants are built with no CO2 controls, their lifetime emissions will impose an enormous pollution lien on our children and grandchildren. Over a projected 60-year life these plants would likely emit 750 billion tons of CO2, a total, from just 25 years of investment decisions, that is 30% greater than the total CO2 emissions from all previous human use of coal. They said given the power sector’s large contribution to annual and cumulative CO2 emissions, "it will be necessary to achieve large reductions in total power sector emissions if we are to achieve reductions in total emissions on the order of 80% by 2050... A robust portfolio of energy efficiency, major expansion of renewable generating resources and deployment of CO2 capture and geologic disposal (CCD) at fossil generating plants can achieve these targets in our view..."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast (
click here). [*Climate]