Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ya Gotta Believe

January 28th, 2009

Ya Gotta Believe!
It is midnight Friday the 23rd and have I got news for you. I wish this was a daily paper and you could read this the first thing in the morning, but since this is a weekly paper, you heard it from me first. There is a project going on in the northeastern part of the state called the Big Stone II power plant. It is a 600 megawatt power station that is to be added to the current plant owned and operated by Otter Tail Power Company. I mean this thing is huge, and a very good friend of mine named Mary Jo Steuve, with an organization called Clean Water Action has been leading the fight on this construction project for over three years much as we have been fighting the Hyperion refinery issue. The big concern is pollution. Carbon Dioxide, sulfuric acid, acid rain, water pollution you name it and Clean Water Action has been fighting it. Anyway, the State of South Dakota approved the air quality permit for them to begin construction. Does this sound familiar? DENR approved their application with hardly a word and the state thought it was all said and done. Today, the EPA overturned the State of South Dakota decision and this virtually stops Big Stone II in its tracks. . DENR and Otter Tail Power have 60-90 days to respond to the EPA actions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has overturned the State of South Dakota's approval of the massive Big Stone II coal-fired power plant. The EPA's decision comes after the state failed to require state-of-the-art pollution controls for the coal plant that would address concerns about harmful soot, smog and global warming pollution. This decision likely spells the end of Otter Tail Power's Big Stone II coal plant. At a minimum, Otter Tail Power will have to go back to the drawing board and redesign the project to incorporate the best and maximum available control technology for pollution like soot and smog.
Read carefully again the part of the above paragraph where it says the state failed to require state-of-the-art pollution controls for the coal plant that would address harmful soot, smog and global warming pollution. This is the very point we have been arguing with the DENR about Hyperion since the beginning of the application process. The only difference is that we were asking the DENR to require Hyperion to use what is called LAER technology. (Least Available Emission Reduction) which is one step above what Hyperion was proposing. DENR in its infinite wisdom said that BACT technology would suffice. The EPA wants Big Stone to be Maximum available control technology. By requiring Otter Tail to go back and completely redesign their system virtually stops them in their tracks.
Do you think Hyperion is hearing footsteps? Obama has only been President for 3 days and look what he is doing. As the first major coal plant decision by the EPA since President Obama took office, this decision signals that the dozens of other coal plant proposals currently in permitting processes nationwide will face a new level of federal scrutiny. Sierra Club and Clean Water Action have been working to stop the Big Stone II project and ramp up clean energy investments for more than three years.
This action by the EPA is nothing short of putting the last nail in the coffin for Hyperion. I don’t see how DENR can possible approve their application after the action taken today by the EPA. If you will remember a remark by DENR when they were open for public comment, EPA sent a 23 page document to DENR and said this application was tragically flawed and needed much corrective action. DENR’s response was thank you very much but we don’t need your approval. I think they might have to retool their thinking and try again, this time within the guidelines of the EPA. That includes an Environmental Impact Study. Glory, Glory, Glory Hallelujah!
"Today EPA took the first step toward restoring science and integrity to its work and recognizing the very real need to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants," said Darrell Gerber, Clean Water Action Program Coordinator. "Downwind residents and the region's natural resources will be better protected." This decision likely spells the end of Otter Tail Power's Big Stone II coal plant. While for the past eight years the Bush Administration has refused to regulate global warming pollution, even after being ordered to do so by the US Supreme Court, President Obama has pledged that the US will cut global warming pollution and do its part to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. With coal-fired power plants accounting for almost 30% of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions, burning less coal and investing in clean energy such as wind and solar instead is a common sense approach to helping meet global warming pollution reduction goals.
Remember folks, one part of the Hyperion refinery is to be a coal fired power plant that produces 200 megawatts of energy. Hyperion says it will use IGCC technology, but will only build it to BACT (Best Available Control Technology). That is not good enough. Maximum is the key word here. I’m here to tell you this refinery doesn’t stand a chance of happening.
"Otter Tail Power will now have to be responsible for the cost of its pollution," said Nilles. "We hope that this increasing cost of coal will encourage Otter Tail Power, along with Governors Pawlenty and Rounds, to harness the clean and affordable wind resources available in the region. Minnesota and South Dakota should be leaders on the path to renewable energy independence, not laggards proposing 19th century coal plants." Sweeter words were never spoken were they?
The news quotes come from articles printed in the Clean water Action website on January 23rd, 2009. The article was written by Darrell Gerber, Program Coordinator, Clean Water Action. I want to thank Clean Water Action and the Sierra club from the bottom of my heart and I’m sure you all feel the same way don’t you?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The new shell game

Years ago when carnivals hit the countryside in the summer, there was always a carney that had a shell game. He has 3 shells and puts a pea under one of the shells, shuffles them around and has you pick the one the pea is under. He always won. Now let’s fast forward to 2009. The shell game now is being run by the oil companies and congress is the dummy. There is a coalition that is in Washington D.C. lobbying congress to use what is called a cap-and-trade system. I don’t have a clue how this will work but the coalition says the way it works ultimately will lower greenhouse gas emissions to the federal standard by allowing oil companies to buy and sell allowances to release pollutants blamed for global warming. The Obama administration is in favor of this type of control because, hopefully, it will get the oil companies and the coal companies in line. The Democratic leaders have said they are going to fast- track this thing. Polluters would have to meet new limits for greenhouse gas emissions, which would be capped at 58 percent of 2005 levels by 2030 and 20 percent of 2005 levels by 2050. I don’t know about you but I don’t consider taking 40 years to do something fast-tracking. Why can’t they just come out, make a decision and go with it. They always have to put new spin on something.
Now what part of this is going to be enforced? What I really don’t understand is why they are giving them 40 years to do this? Don’t jack people around. There hasn’t been a refinery built in the last 35 years, but Congress is going to give these guys 40 years to come up with something that works. DUH! . I’m sorry to say this, but we don’t have 40 years to solve our energy problems. Are we the only ones that can see this?
They always say that necessity is the mother of invention. Somebody will come up with a way to do this. This isn’t something that is confined to the United States, this is a worldwide event. They tried to control exhaust emissions with automobiles and the auto companies said they couldn’t meet those standards so they relaxed the standards. What makes you think the oil companies could meet these standards by the year 2050? That is 41 years from now. We will all be dead and buried by then so I guess it won’t make any difference to you and me, but what about the next generation, and the one after that? I am about to the point where it doesn’t make any difference what the “little people” do or say, big money is going to do what they want to do and we can’t do a damned thing about it.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, said the companies face a dilemma. “They are reluctant to invest in old, polluting technologies because they know that tougher regulations are inevitable, but they can’t invest in new, cleaner technologies until they know what Congress is going to require.” Waxman said. What the heck did he just say?
Let’s take a look at what he just said. He is talking to the Big Boys now, Conoco Phillips, British Petroleum, Shell and Exxon Mobile. These companies are not going to expand or build new industries because they are worried what Congress is going to require them to do. I’m telling you, we are being flim flammed here. On one hand Congress says this, and on the other hand the oil companies are doing that. We, the taxpayers, get left holding the bag. I think they are looking at this as some sort of game and no matter what the outcome is we get screwed.
The following information was obtained from the Financial Post on January 14th. - BA Energy Inc, developer of a $4 Billion Heartland Upgrader near Edmonton Canada is the first oil company in Canada to file for bankruptcy protection, fearing its parent company’s major lender, Credit Suisse, will recall a $507 million loan. I think this is the tip of the iceberg friends. Or should I say this is the first domino that is falling. They blamed the credit crisis for their need to file for court protection. Yeah right! The oil company has the audacity to say “Who could have foreseen this recession and the oil price going to $30 a barrel. I’m no genius, but we have been headed for recession for a couple of years haven’t we. They said all the equity and debt markets are totally frozen and they are in the middle of a major project that needs money. As oil prices fell BA Energy became one of a long list of oil sands companies that deferred projects. I’ve always said this is a boom or bust industry. Now it is going B U S T !
Wouldn’t it be better to expend our energies on something more useful like wind power? Wouldn’t you much rather spend your time and energy on something that is positive that will benefit all of us? I don’t have the desire or the inclination to spend all my time defending myself against progress. Oil is not progress. Alternative energy is. Oil unfortunately is the easy way out. In my lifetime we have always had access to cheap oil. But times have changed and we need to change with it. Why is it that we are always playing catch-up in things like this? We are the most powerful country in the world so why aren’t we leading the world in search of alternative energy sources. I think it is because we are just plain lazy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oh Woe is Me!

January 14th, 2009
Oh Woe is Me!
There were 2 articles in the Southern Union County Leader courier last week that just about says it all. First of all, the city council is shouting hosannas from the rooftops because the state is going to help the city redo Main Street. The problem is the city has to find financing. The state engineer starts talking about adding improvements to allow for Hyperion. WHAT? (I like writing in capital letters – really adds emphasis to what I’m writing about) WHAT?
Let me get this straight. The state is going to help Elk Point redo Main Street, but to add in allowances for Hyperion to do what? You mean to tell me that Hyperion (should they decide to come) is going to increase the traffic so much in Elk Point that they have to add more reinforcement to the streets to handle the load? Just what kind of traffic are we talking about here? TRUCKS MAN, BIG DAMN TRUCKS! (Don’t you just love it when I’m shouting?) Evidently these trucks aren’t going to go down the old 77 on the north side of town, or down the interstate, they are going to go right down Main Street. It has to be trucks, because you don’t need to reinforce streets just to handle car traffic do you? In fact, it is probably going to be LOTSA TRUCKS! Oh woe is me! Maybe they will be the BIG SMELLY oil tankers. Maybe they will be hauling TOXIC stuff. Maybe they will be hauling STINKY SULFUR. Oh woe is me!
The 2nd article that was in the EP paper was minutes from the Dakota Valley Business Council. Part of their agenda was reading a resolution endorsing Hyperion and hoping this “hearing process” will soon be over and they can get on with building the refinery. OMG! (That’s texting on a cell phone for OH MY GOD!) I think people around here are going nutty. Let me list a few facts as to why I believe this refinery is never going to happen. See if you don’t agree with me.
1. The country is in a recession and there isn’t any money available to build anything let alone a refinery.
2. Practically all oil refineries in the world have either stopped or put on hold any expansion or building on refineries
3. The Tar Sands Companies in Canada are going broke, shutting down their operations and laying off people.
4. The price of crude oil is down to $40 a barrel and it needs to be between $70-90 to be profitable
5. The TransCanada pipeline has shut down some of the lines hauling Tar Sands
6. Venture capital is nonexistent
7. Governor rounds was on TV saying that there isn’t any money in the state for any road projects and that he is redoing or going to have to redo the budget.
Do you think those are enough reasons or should I look for some more. These that I’ve listed I just pulled out of the top of my head, but I’m sure I could find more. In fact, let me list one more reason and it is a good one. The Dakota farm show just ended over in Vermillion. I was over there on Tuesday and just happened to walk by the East River Electric booth. I struck up a conversation with one of the guys there from North Dakota. (Of course I handed out my PickensPlan business card at the same time.) Anyway he was telling me that they are in the process of building a coal fired power plant in Gillette, Wyoming. They started getting permits in 2000 and are just now getting around to the building. I said REALLY! He said Yep and they still have a few permits to go before it is a done deal. So I told him about the Hyperion situation and he said it ain’t gonna happen. The normal timing criteria for getting permits to start of construction is 10 years. I asked him if they had to do an environmental impact study. He said absolutely. There is no way you can get around it. So I told him they should have built in South Dakota. We don’t require impact statements. He could not believe it. “That’s impossible.” Well, that is what is happening with Hyperion so it must be a fact.
Let’s change the subject. I visited a wind energy plant last week in Crystal Lake IA. This is a windmill farm owned by Florida Power and Light. The field covers about 40 square miles and has 180 windmills. This was an awesome sight. Originally, I was going to be able to go to the top, but because of liability issues they wouldn’t let me up. Anyway what I did see was that the farmers were farming right up to the edge of the windmills. FPL (Florida Power and Light) pays the farmer $5000 a year for a perpetual easement to build the windmill on their property. This beats the heck out of a onetime payment of $5000 for an acre of land doesn’t it? The farmer still owns the land and still farms right up to the tower. In addition, the farmer has the option of using the service roads to get into and out of their fields for planting and harvesting. The people around the area don’t seem to have a problem other than getting a little bit jealous when the site selection for the towers might go to the neighbor instead of their land. The area was clean, quiet and still beautiful. What more can I say. This bears looking in to. In the meantime, why not join the PickensPlan and give it some support. Go to and sign up. Or call me, email me at I will be more than happy to add your name to the growing list of supporters. Alternative energy is going to happen guys. It’s going to happen.