Our "Mix" panelists, Bruce Nilles, national coal campaign director for the Sierra Club, and Evan Tracey, senior vice president at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, continue their discussion on the future of coal and CCS technology in the energyNOW! Green Room.
Nilles contends that coal use is dropping in the United States while wind and solar are growing and that the era of coal use is over. But Tracey counters that the growth in the wind and solar industries is because of government subsidies, and he says that as stimulus dollars dry up, so will the use of renewables.
Tracey predicts that with new regulatory hurdles arising for utilities, China will end up taking the lead in carbon capture and storage technology. Nilles counters that deploying CCS technology would double the price of electricity in the United States. But Tracey argues that even switching to natural gas for electricity generation will raise the price at least as much.
Tracey says coal is still an abundant resource in the U.S., but groups like the Sierra Club are slowing efforts to initiate CCS technology. But Nilles says his group has never opposed CCS and actually supported the proposed FutureGen project in Southern Illinois. He questions why the project hasn't begun construction yet. Tracey responds that the uncertain regulatory environment in Washington is keeping that and other CCS projects on the sidelines.
Tracey also contends that without the subsidies that the government is providing to the wind industry, not a lot of utilities would be using it for energy. Nilles argues that the wind industry is creating new jobs, but Tracey says an ACCCE analysis using EPA's own figures shows that more jobs are lost due to higher electricity prices than are being created by the government's green jobs initiative.
Nilles says not a single home today is powered by a plant that uses CCS technology. But Tracey counters that there are no batteries that can store wind energy so it can be used as base load power. Nilles says that wind is in a transition to base load power in places like Iowa, where he says 20 percent of electricity comes from wind.

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