OPPONENTS of a proposed power plant near Luther spread the word to area residents that acid rain and “ancillary health issues” would result if the facility were built. This fear-mongering, back in 2001, overlooked the fact that the plant would make power with natural gas, not coal.
The source of fuel is the center of controversy today for the continued existence of coal-fired power plants at Red Rock and Muskogee owned by OG&E. Today's fear-mongering is based on pollution and ancillary health issues. This time the opposition is more urbane and sophisticated — just what you'd expect from a group with wealthy donors, a sympathetic U.S. president and a war on coal that will quickly become a war on natural gas.
The Sierra Club says the two plants are releasing more pollutants than will be allowed under future federal regulations. That's like complaining that in 2010 George Soros wasn't paying taxes at the rate he would be expected to pay in 2013. Or that the gas mileage your car gets today won't meet federal standards in 2016. The more future standards are changed, the more out of compliance with those standards you are today.
Lost in the Sierra Club's latest horse-and-buggy show is that OG&E is operating the plants within allowable emission limits. The Club for Ungrowth admits that the two plants aren't out of compliance “and that is exactly our point,” a spokeswoman said. No, madam, the point is that the U.S. economy remains out of compliance with past standards of performance and Barack Obama continues to look the other way.
The administration is pushing the American coal industry to the margins. Their product won't stay underground. It will increasingly go to countries that look the other way when it comes to environmental issues. Better to work with America's coal producers and power companies to gradually and responsibly make less power with fossil fuels and more from renewable sources — all the while encouraging what OG&E has been doing for years, which is to stress reduced demand for electricity.
We agree with OG&E that the economy and consumers are best served when power doesn't all come from the same basket. Balance — a concept that repels the Sierra Club — will keep power plentiful and affordable. Spikes in electrical rates will hurt American manufacturing. Exporting coal to China will help Asian manufacturing. Cutting coal out of the mix will hurt lower-income consumers through sharply higher electricity rates.
Thus, the constituency for which Obama considers himself a champion will be most affected. Perhaps, having won the battle against Big Coal, the Sierra Club's fat cat donors (which have included natural gas producers in the past) will send their cash instead to the poor.
The Sierra Club plans a direct mail campaign to further its fear-mongering. These pieces of mail will be printed using electricity and delivered in vehicles burning fossil fuel. Most of it will end up in landfills. Much of the information will be based on modeling analysis. Much of climate change claims are based on that.
Some modeling analysis was also seen back in 2001 when the Luther power plant was protested. In those halcyon days, the biggest concern was whether a gas-fired power plant could compete with the coal-fired plants because gas was so expensive. The plant got built and was later bought by a public utility as a part of its effort to get more power from a cleaner source of fuel.
The utility was Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co.