Friday, December 18, 2009

Recent correspondence

Just before the holidays I received a letter from Gerard Mestrallet, head of GDF Suez, in response to my request that the company switch from coal to solar at Mount Tom. Here is an excerpt of Mr. Mestrallet's letter:

"Because... equipment to control the emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) only exists today in R&D environments and not of the size of an industrial plant, GDF SUEZ instead participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a ten-state market-based effort aimed at reducing CO2. The company purchases allowances to account for any CO2 emitted at Mt. Tom through an auction, proceeds from which are then invested in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency, and other clean technologies."

Yes, cap-and-trade; the darling of the fossil-fuel peddlers and their apologists on Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill alike.

As I've mentioned before, relying on cap-and-trade to fix the climate is like relying on subprime lending to fix the meltdown. This video from the Story of Stuff Project and Climate Justice Now! (which I found via the Institute for Policy Studies) explains why cap-and-trade schemes like RGGI do nothing to ameliorate climate change.

In addition to the letter from Gerard Mestrallet, I received an email from Ingrid Nestle, a Green member of the German parliament. I had written to Ms. Nestle about anti-coal activism in Brunsbuettel, where GDF Suez is planning a new coal-burning power station. Although the issue has not been the deciding factor in parliamentary elections, Ingrid Nestle said, the candidates and parties that oppose coal happen to have been successful. And, she explained, the grassroots movement behind the anti-coal candidates is on a winning streak:

In all existing locations that are home to coal power plants in Germany there is heavy resistance towards new coal power plants. The protests are supported by several political parties, citizens initiatives, environmental organizations, churches and trade unions. These protests have in the past resulted in repeated successes; the construction of several power plants fell through. Most recently, the new construction of a hard coal power plant in Lubmin (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) was effectively prevented. The Danish energy company, Dong Energy, pulled back all of its development plans after it failed to successfully negotiate licensing procedures, among other factors.
Our counterparts in Germany are winning! This is welcome news, and an inspiring note on which to start 2010. So let's keep the pressure on GDF Suez and its major shareholder, i.e. the French government, to switch Mount Tom from coal to solar.

1 comment:

MaryB said...

Mount Tom isn’t going away anytime soon. They’ve just invested over $50 million in new emissions control equipment. And when GDF Suez says they’re trying to do more renewables, what that really means is that they’re considering burning biomass in coal plants – something that’s been discussed for the Mount Tom plant. Under the current carbon accounting rules of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), CO2 emitted from tree-burning isn’t even reported and in fact, each kilowatt-hour of power generated from trees creates a renewable energy credit that the plant can sell. This travesty of an idea is on hold pending completion of the new sustainabilty study of biomass burning, but we don’t expect an amazingly lucrative scam like RECs for biomass burning to die an easy death.

Converting Mount Tom to solar is a nice idea but I can’t imagine the scale of solar panels that would be required to produce the approximately 135 MW of power the plant represents. The only thing that’s going to make Mount Tom and other plants like it “greener” is if they produce less energy, and that means we all have to get serious about conservation and efficiency.

Mary Booth
Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance