Wiscasset voters considered their options and made the correct decision.
The editorial “Coal plant conversation shouldn’t be cut short” (Nov. 9) relies on unwarranted conclusions and sells the voters of Wiscasset short.
The proposed legislation to which it refers would require new coal facilities to capture and store 90 percent of their carbon emissions.
This is not an “arbitrary” standard. According to carbon sequestration expert Howard Herzog of MIT, the 90-percent standard enables the maximum capture and storage of CO2 at the lowest price.
Without carbon capture and storage, coal will not survive as a viable source of energy in a carbon-constrained world. As carbon cap-and-trade systems proliferate, like New England’s RGGI or new carbon taxes, it is clear that CO2 is becoming an expensive waste product of fossil fuel combustion.
As the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, coal will soon pay a hefty price in the marketplace for its CO2 as a cost of doing business.
Evidence of this truth is emerging as at least 10 states have recently shelved plans for “integrated gasification combined cycle” coal plants due to fears about high costs, technological uncertainties and global warming pollution.
Nuon, the Netherlands’s largest utility, just scuttled its plan to build a second generation IGCC plant — the facility upon which Point East based its design for the Wiscasset plant — because it was unable to justify the project’s financial and planning risks.
The likelihood of sequestering CO2 in Maine is like skipping down the yellow brick road. At a recent Chewonki Foundation seminar on carbon capture and storage, Dr. Jay Braitsch from the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy explained that the geology of Maine and New England precludes successful carbon sequestration.
Thus, any CO2 emissions captured would have to be shipped off site at additional cost.
Similarly, since Maine doesn’t have any coal, it would have to be imported. The consequences to the lobster fishery, not to mention other businesses and human health, from barge traffic and pollution would likely have been severe.
But these are not just Maine issues. Coal gasification is stalled virtually everywhere due to high costs, unresolved technological hurdles and global warming concerns.
Traditional coal combustion is suffering the same problems, with 16 new power plants recently cancelled or blocked by regulators. Given these new realities, North America and Europe will likely continue to rely on combined cycle gas turbines, renewable power and energy efficiency to meet capacity needs.
Increasingly attractive, these alternative technologies often provide far cleaner power at lower cost than coal. Despite the national advertising campaigns, big coal has yet to deliver a cost-effective, technologically proven, and truly “clean” coal power plant.
The conversation about the future of coal is robust and ongoing, as the debate in Wiscasset has shown. Maine should be proud that it has the ability to delve deeply into a highly sophisticated and thoughtful conversation about the pros and cons of building an IGCC facility in the town of Wiscasset.
It is hard to believe that Point East and the Press Herald do not appreciate just how well-informed Wiscasset voters were.
Regarding LR 3033, Rep. Bruce MacDonald, D-Boothbay, should be commended for his vision, both in bolstering the emergence of a new technology and in protecting Maine residents from future coal facilities that will undoubtedly be burdened by an increasing carbon tax and will put the economic and ecological future of our children at risk.
In the end, Wiscasset voters rightly denied an unfeasible, uneconomic facility that, if built, would have turned “Maine’s prettiest town” into “Maine’s grittiest town.”