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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz calls the federally-funded Kemper "gasified-coal" power plant “A look into the future” and insists  "We're going to need not 10, maybe 100 more of these plants across the country,” when he toured the site late last year.

Moniz’s federal Department of Energy (DOE) has poured almost $300 million into the Kemper plant, as part of a program to encourage coal-fired power plants that produce “clean, reliable, and affordable" electricity, and planned to offer loan guarantees. But a closer work at the Kemper powerhouse reveals the facility will be dirtier than other proposed coal-fired plants and will emit more greenhouse gasses than a natural-gas-fired plant.

As for affordable electricity, plant owner Southern Company recently admitted to multi-billion dollar cost overruns on the plant's construction in Mississippi. This formerly $2.4  billion plant will now cost closer to $5 billion, and the meter is still running. The plant has fallen so far behind schedule that it’s forfeited another $135 million in tax credits, a fact Moniz chose not to mention.

For more dirt on this clean coal scheme, continue below the tangled orange transmission lines.

 Southern’s subsidiary, Mississippi Power will be spreading that $5 billion cost onto only 180,000 nervous customers.  The power company already jacked up its rates by a staggering 15-21% in early 2013 to pay for the Kemper plant, even though it’s not yet operating.

That’s fine with Energy Secretary Moniz, who probably never had to choose between paying the rent and paying the electricity bill when he was on the MIT faculty. "We are all concerned about costs," Moniz said, and mistakenly added "The cost overruns have not been passed on to the rate payers.”

Moniz thought the hapless rate payers should be happy it wasn’t worse.
“I think typically you've had even larger rate impacts …the rate impact is certainly nothing unusual for any major new power plant of any technology," he claimed.

The “larger rate impacts” are, in fact, fast approaching.  Energy industry consultants reported that residential electricity rates will skyrocket 60% when Kemper comes on line.  So much for the DOE-funded, coal-generated “affordable” electricity.

The very existence of the plant is a testimony to Haley Barbour’s magical powers.  

Barbour, while Mississippi governor, also headed the BRG lobbying firm whose largest customer was Southern Company. Originally, the DOE had decided to fund a relatively unique “gasified” coal fired power plant in Orlando, Florida.  But the plant would have discharged too much pollution for then-Governor Jeb Bush, who successfully defeated the proposal.  Thank about that.  A plant too dirty for Jeb Bush.

Barbour and BGR’s magical lobbying powers essentially made the power plant “disappear” from Florida, and then re-appear, in northeast Mississippi, 500 miles away, somehow still retaining its federal funding. Barbour then slid from the governorship  back into the saddle at the BGR Group, who have received $2.6 million from Southern Company over the years.

Remember that the Orlando proposal was too dirty for even Jeb Bush?  The redesigned plant, to be sited in Kemper, would spew out far more air pollution than even the dirty Florida plant.  The company claims it will capture one-half to two-thirds of its Greenhouse Gasses. That’s pretty good for a coal-fired plant, but it still means the plant will emit around 2 million tons a year of additional greenhouse gasses, which would still be higher than the emissions rate of a gas-fired power plant.

And the maddening thing is that Mississippi is carpeted with scarcely-used natural gas fired power plants, a legacy of the Enron debacle, when far too many power plants were built in response to Enron’s criminal manipulations of the energy markets.  Southern claimed that natural gas prices were climbing to $12 (per 1000 cubic feet) so burning coal would produce cheaper electricity than $12 gas.  But today natural gas prices are less than $5.

The plant’s most odious feature may be the coal excavation scheme, under the banner of the new “Liberty” mine next to the plant.  The Liberty operation will destroy over 2200 acres of wetlands over 40 years while strip mining 50 square miles of Mississippi farmland and forests, peeling it bare to dig up lignite, which is the poorest grade coal in the planet.  If you want to leave carbon crap in the ground, lignite coal is a good candidate, right there with Tar Sands.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 11:40:07 PM PST

  •  We really need to stop making decisions on (5+ / 0-)

    the basis of cost. Dollars are a good measure of relative value, but not absolute good.

    We really need to stop making decisions on the basis of profitability. Profit is what is exacted by speculators from producers and users for no input from themselves.

    The problem with electric energy is that, while consumption was projected to increase at a rate of 7% a year back in the 1970s, the actual increase has been closer to 2% and in the last two years consumption has decreased, even though real economy has improved. The speculative environment that's focused on profit has prevented the development and maintenance of necessary plant.

    Measuring economic success in terms of dollars is like measuring individual health by the girth of one's stomach.

    by hannah on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:19:22 AM PST

    •  Nice comment - but what is profitability? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I like your measuring economic success in terms of dollars line.

      Profitability doesn't have to be just dollars.  We profit from having a civil and moral society, and we see incredible gains from focusing on community.

      A big part of the solution may be to exert a tremendous amount of social pressure on people to do good instead of evil - and to make sure that people profit from being net contributors to the common good.

      •  I think of "profit" as being left-overs, the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        surplus people generate by manipulating and transforming our natural environment. The financial profiteers contribute nothing when they behave like the highwaymen of old, albeit under cover of law.

        Perhaps because our economists have segmented trade and exchange into two parts, by producers and consumers, those sitting at the mid-point, the middlemen have been left out of their calculations. The middlemen could be seen as parasites, who have taken over the system--sort of like the little organisms in our gut turning on the host.

        by hannah on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 05:26:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maybe that's part of the problem (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          We profit by getting what we need, and then by getting what we want.  Most of us want to be respected and loved.  We want to be able to contribute and add value in our jobs and community.  At a certain point, more money becomes less important than good health and more friends.  

          There is something perverted in our current society, where it's "ok" to benefit from the work of others, and then to treat them like sh*t.

      •  Hi VoteWisdom (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VoteWisdom, JeffW

        To my surprise, Mississippi's utility regulators are elected  to their posts. This means that ordinary folks there can exert the types of social pressure you are suggesting, simply by voting the rascals out.  

        In fact one of the three commissioners is screaming bloody murder over the whole Kemper situation.  Local activists including the Sierra Club and its members have been holding periodic rallies, filing legal challenges, and court suits, also.

        “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

        by 6412093 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 08:15:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hi. It's good there's push back (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          6412093, JeffW

          It makes me wonder if anyone really thinks the plant is a good idea.  


          The utility says it underestimated labor costs and the amount of steel pipe, concrete and other materials it would need for so big a plant.
          It sounds like "I had no idea it would take so much flour and so many eggs to bake such a big cake".
    •  We need to stop doing single-factor analysis (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unfangus, VoteWisdom, 6412093

      of any kind on multi-variate problems. Just like More Democrats cannot supplant Better Democrats, and vice versa, and it is not enough to have More and Better Democrats only in Congress or only in the voting population. Having more Democrats in the non-voting population, or allowing Republicans to gerrymander voting Democrats out of control, are equally problematic.

      And so it is in Political Economy. The whole point of Adam Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations is that wealth is not money, but productivity and fairness.

      The Spanish Empire is the worst example of that, a fact that Smith made a point of. The Empire had all of the gold and jewels of South America, but made a rule that none of that money could be spent outside the Empire. Thus everybody who could went money-grubbing, and nobody thought about making or growing anything. The result was centuries of incomprehensible inflation and then economic and political collapse. The results are still being felt.

      Smith demonstrated that wealth has two essential components. One is the ability to make what people need, and the other is to get what people need to the people. But in order to do that, one must control the greed of the business class that seeks favors from government in such forms as subsidies, preferences, protective tariffs, restrictions on labor, privileges of corporations, immunity from prosecution and private lawsuits, and so on, all of which plague us to this day.

      The theory of regulated competitive markets greatly expands on what Smith worked out. To maximize competition, various sorts of regulation are required, including financial disclosure and preventing companies from gaining too much economic and political power, and imposing externalities on the public. Maximizing competition then increases production while decreasing prices to an equilibrium level. Profits are then generally adequate to inspire hard work, development and adoption of technology, and so on, plus funding, through taxes, of what business cannot adequately do itself, such as infrastructure, health, scientific research, and education.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 08:01:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hannah that's a penetrating analysis (0+ / 0-)

      of what's eroding our ability to co exist with our own earth.

      While consumption patterns are changing and need to change more, utilities are generally rewarded for spending more money on power production.

      Since utilities are the biggest producers of greenhouse gasses, this rewards structure ultimately threatens our climate.

      Part of the problem is that each state regulates their own utilities, so you have 50 different regulatory bodies crafting 50 different policies.  Some of those policies encourage alternative methods of energy production.  Others just give the utility what they ask for.

      “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

      by 6412093 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 08:08:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this diary! ;) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    •  Thanks for reading, 90. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

      by 6412093 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 08:08:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, 90, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You get some of the credit/blame for this diary, by providing me, the other day, with those excellent links to the blog covering the Kemper debacle.  Thanks again.

      “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

      by 6412093 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 08:26:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You realize that it is heresy as well as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093, JeffW

    far hard left extremist envirofascism to criticise "clean coal" or any other aspect of "all of the above", don't you?

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 10:11:42 AM PST

    •  It is, enhydra? OMG (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unfangus, enhydra lutris, JeffW

      Where's the delete diary button?

      Truth be told, I'd always hoped that advanced technology could clean up fossil fuels and help rescue us from climate change.

      It hurts to write another diary about how the 1% has botched up that science, too.

      Instead, adaptations to 800-year-old windmill technology may be our best bet.

      “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

      by 6412093 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 10:40:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Clean coal ain't... n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 08:13:58 PM PST

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