A sharp-eyed friend saw a promoted post for Scott Newman For Attorney General on Facebook, clicked through and read a charming post titled Getting the Iron Range Moving Again in which he stressed the need to protect clean coal on the Range.
We found this take quite fascinating for several reasons, the least of which is the recent idling of four Minnesota Power coal plants on the range because rail congestion is making it difficult to stockpile coal for winter.
The next curious thing is this "clean coal" that Newman fancies exists. He writes:
Unfortunately, some in Washington and right here in Minnesota would like to eliminate coal production all together. Most energy experts believe clean coal and natural gas are the best options available in the near term for low cost, environmentally friendly energy production. Destroying the clean coal industry will hurt all Minnesotans, and especially those in Northeastern Minnesota, where coal production not only keeps energy costs down, but provides good jobs. Do not be fooled. You cannot call yourself an advocate for the middle class, while at the same time supporting policies that will disproportionately harm middle and lower income individuals and families.
That's energy production from coal that he's talking about, since coal isn't mined in Northeastern Minnesota.
How clean is the coal that's shipped in and the power plants that produce electricity in Northeastern Minnesota? From what we read, those plants are going to get cleaner. In July, Minnesota Public Radio reported in Minnesota Power reaches deal on coal-fired plants:
. . . A decade ago the utility relied almost completely on coal to provide cheap electric power to the region's iron mines and paper mills. Today, Minnesota Power derives 20 percent of its electricity from wind, and plans to eventually have a resource mix made up of roughly one-third coal, one-third natural gas and one-third renewables.
Last year the company announced plans to retire one of its three, smaller, less efficient coal fired generators at its Taconite Harbor plant in Schroeder along the North Shore of Lake Superior. It also plans to convert two units at the Laskin plant in Hoyt Lakes to natural gas.
The utility is also investing $350 million in pollution control upgrades at the state's second largest coal fired plant, its Boswell facility in Cohasset. When that's completed next year, the plant's emission rates "will be among some of the lowest in the country" for sulfur and nitrogen dioxide, according to the EPA.
Still up in the air is the future of the two smaller generators at Boswell. The EPA settlement calls on Minnesota Power to either refuel or retire those units, or scrub still more pollutants from the smokestacks.
That's cleaner coal, but the term "clean coal"? Smithsonian looked at the question in Could ‘Clean Coal’ Finally Live up to Its Name?:
Burning coal is responsible for producing about 40 percent of the world’s electricity, but it produces three-fourths of the more than 12 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted during electricity and heat generation. To make coal nonpolluting, that carbon dioxide would have to be captured before it’s emitted and permanently locked away under the earth. But despite years of research, not one of the coal-fired power plants in the United States does this.
Nevertheless, coal-fired power plants still supply much of the world’s electricity, and coal reserves in the U.S. and elsewhere remain plentiful and affordable. For these reasons--and because of the coal industry’s political clout--the DOE has invested more than $3.4 billion toward carbon-capture and storage technologies.
Today’s most advanced carbon-capture technology, called amine scrubbing, is effective and mature, but it’s too expensive. . . .
Or perhaps Newman was thinking of Excelsior Energy, the Failed Minnesota clean-coal project [that got] help with its debts, as the Star Tribune reported in May 2013:
Excelsior Energy, the Minneapolis-based company that never delivered on its promise to produce electricity with clean-coal technology, is getting government help to clean up its debts.
A development agency for the Iron Range, where the company’s ill-fated coal-gasification project was to be located, on Monday approved the outline of a deal that will allow the company to skip further payments on $9.5 million in state loans dating back to 2002.
The Mesaba Energy Project, which was to have been built by 2011, never got off the ground as the recession cut electrical demand, no utility wanted the power and the fracking boom cut the price of natural gas, leaving clean-coal projects unable to compete. . . .
If elected Attorney General, Newman will fight for clean coal, regardless of what bills the state legislature passes.
Such brilliant understanding of energy policy and the job description of the state attorney general has attracted some of the finest comments Bluestem's friend had ever read on Facebook. Don Evanson, a real person from the Winona area, commented:
Don Evanson So-called renewable mandates have driven up the energy portion of our utility bills by 30%, and that is nothing to say of the taxpayer-funded subsidies.
Further, solar needs to be backed up with a spinning steam-driven turbine, an standby to go on-line when the sun isn't shining.
Is the diminished heat of the sunshine, robbed by solar, and the diminished wind power, robbed by wind turbines affecting our weather patterns?
Burning fossil fuels? Not a problem. But those solar panel and wind turbine are depleting the sun and the wind. For the Newman base, this causes weather to change.
It's not an original thought on Evanson's part. In 2009, Texas Congressman Joe Barton earned national attention for claiming that wind turbines diminished the wind.
As for solar panels robbing us of our sunshine, that notion turned up four months ago in the National Report's Solar Panels Drain the Sun’s Energy, Experts Say.
Evanson didn't get the joke--but like Newman, he'd love him some "clean coal."
The sponsored post:
Images: The MNGOP Solutions Center banner (above) and Evanson's comment (middle).
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