Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anti-Capitalism and Bad Environmental Policy

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Gov. Quinn has okayed the development of a coal gasification plant in Jefferson County, Illinois. While it's true that this may be good news for the people of Mt. Vernon (which could use some economic stimulus), it still seems to be part of a growing trend in the United States. In neighboring Indiana, the same type of coal gasification plant was proposed in the southern town of Edwardsport. However, not only do both projects involve burning fossil fuels to transform one type of fossil fuel needlessly into another fossil fuel, but the deals also involve state mandates that utilities purchase the coal-based natural gas over cheaper naturally occurring natural gas. Oh, and we'll still be fracking. That's still on the table. And mining coal in the Ohio River Valley. Or, moving train-loads of coal from Wyoming.

Back to gasification...

According to the backers of these plants, the only way they are viable is if the utility boards of the states are required to purchase the product of the plant. Somehow, both the Republican Governor of Indiana and the Democratic Governor of Illinois have decided to suspend a fundamental law of capitalism and allowed these deals to go forward with the state's blessing, forcing rate payers of both states to pay for the financial risks of these schemes, instead of the investors. What it brings are jobs to poor areas - dangerous jobs, as these gasifiers have been known to explode. I'm not sure where the upside is. I'd almost wish they would refocus Ohio River Valley energy creation to retrofitting flood control dams with hydroelectric capabilities. Or, increase the number of windmills in the Central Plains. Create some competition in the marketplace. Be pro-business.

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