Sierra Club

Obama vs. Reality

Even blue-sky goals fall short.

Obama has set high expectations for his administration. But as the president acknowledged in his inaugural address, fulfilling those expectations won’t be easy. For the U.S. power and gas industry, the specific questions are whether Obama really means what he says about energy policy; whether his policy priorities are sufficient to accomplish the goals he’s set; and whether his “Yes we can!” strategy can survive in the real world, with all its practical constraints and party politics, after the “change” buzz subsides.

Securitization, Mach II

Green investments require bulletproof financing.

Originally developed to compensate U.S. electric utilities for regulatory assets rendered uneconomic by deregulation, so-called “stranded-cost” securitization techniques are finding new applications. To date, utilities have issued approximately $40 billion of stranded-cost securitizations. That number could increase dramatically if the industry applies well-tested securitization techniques to the extraordinary costs it faces in the future.

Iatan 2: A New Coal Model

KCP&L breaks ground on a novel structure for billion-dollar plant investments.

To the casual observer, the Iatan 2 power plant under construction in Platte County. Mo., is simply another coal-fired facility. However, when viewed by a utility executive facing seemingly non-stop global-warming headlines and news broadcasts, the 850 MW Iatan 2 looks more like a new regulatory and business model for building coal burners.

2007 CEO Forum: Greenhouse Gauntlet

Tackling climate change is a monumental challenge. Power-company CEOs discuss long-range plans for a climate-friendly energy economy.

Seven CEOs—from Exelon, Great Plains Energy, National Grid, NRG Energy, Duke Energy, FPL Group, Great River Energy—explain how global warming is affecting their customers, shareholders, and employees.

Double Dealing on Carbon

Will the environmental lobby be even-handed with utilities?

They were heralded as “landmark” or “watershed” moments in the industry—a series of deals completed during the last few months in which utilities sat down and negotiated with environmentalists on coal-plant development. While many in the industry had hoped this was the start of a positive new trend, some environmentalists have double-dealt across state lines, arguing against coal plants in one state and then negotiating for their development in the other.

Wind and the Environment: The EPA's Tech Divide

Does the Clean Air Act require the agency to consider the most low-emission coal plant technologies in permitting new plants?

Why doesn’t its interpretation of the Clean Air Act consider the most low-emission coal plant technologies?


ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, THREE WEEKS AFTER I wrote this column, California voters narrowly defeated Proposition 9. In case you missed it, that was the ballot initiative that would have cut off funding for nuclear power in California through securitization or any other fancy financing for stranded costs. A "yes" vote would have told utilities, in effect, to "take these bonds and shove it."

But the voters said "no," however, and I'll tell you why - even before the first ballot was cast.

In the end, Prop 9 failed for the same reason that George McGovern lost to Richard Nixon in 1972.

Assuring Compliance With Air Emissions Limits

THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY HAD A novel idea: For power plants and sources relying on devices to control air emissions, rather than attempt to monitor the actual physical emissions to determine compliance with federal law, it simply would require inspections and tests of the performance of the control device. %n1%n

This strategy was formalized in the EPA's compliance assurance monitoring (CAM) rule signed Oct. 17, 1997. The EPA's theory is that if the control device is working properly, it is likely pollutant emissions fall within the required limits.

Looking Back on SO2 Trading: What's Good for the Environment Is Good for the Market

The overwhelming impression is one of growth (em in volume and in the number of participants.

The early 1990s was an anxious period for advocates of emissions trading. Concerns about whether the sulfur dioxide allowance market would ever develop tempered the heady success of the first national emissions trading program implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, Title IV. These concerns were heightened when in May 1992, Wisconsin Power & Light traded 10,000 allowances to the Tennessee Valley Authority.