Patti Gettinger: Proposed EMC coal plant neither risky nor dirty
by Patti Gettinger
Guest Columnist
February 16, 2011 12:00 AM | 2792 views | 12 12 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Citizens should be applauding Cobb EMC's decision to build a coal-fired electric plant instead of getting a Chris Matthews frisson when talking about green energy. Coal-fired plants use proven technology, with a small land footprint, to provide an efficient, reliable source of power using an abundant and inexpensive domestic fuel.

That's why half of all electricity in the U.S., and in Georgia, comes from coal-based power plants. The U.S. holds 25 percent of the world's supply of coal, so no dependence on foreign coal supply. The average household uses 1 megawatt hour of electricity per month. The cost of 1 megawatt hour of electricity from coal is only about $100, while wind is about $150, and solar thermal about $250.

Not only are solar and wind expensive, they're land intensive, unreliable, and risky. If you converted every inch of land in the entire Southeast into wind-powered electricity production, you still wouldn't have enough capacity to match what was generated in Georgia in 2009. More than a fourth of Georgia's land mass would have to be converted to solar to match current electrical capacity.

Unlike other types of electrical plants, you can't count on wind and solar plants to be producing energy all the time because the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. Even worse, most of the components used to build U.S. solar and wind plants aren't produced in the U.S., making us dependent on foreign sources of supply.

You'll hear coal called "dirty," but my rough estimate shows that the annual CO2 likely to be generated by Plant Washington is equivalent to what 2,000 citizens of Cobb County exhale in a year. And, if every Cobb household used only compact fluorescent light bulbs, that's twice as much mercury as what Plant Washington's air permit allows.

The only reason that EPA regulations pose a risk to Plant Washington is because citizens have allowed unelected federal bureaucrats to violate Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution by circumventing the power vested in Congress to legislate.

The Department of Energy has introduced risk into nuclear power by failing to complete the construction of the Yucca Mountain national nuclear waste disposal site. The real toxic waste is the billions of dollars paid by nuclear utilities to the government for the last 30 years to fund construction of waste disposal sites, like Yucca Mountain, that have never materialized.

About one-fourth of Georgia's electricity is generated by nuclear power plants. While the cost per megawatt hour of nuclear is very low, nuclear plant construction costs are very high. Construction of the two Vogtle plants will cost $5.8 million per megawatt compared to Plant Washington's bargain price of $2.4 million.

Our government loves squandering our money. Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been wasted in funding risky green energy projects like solar companies Solyndra and Evergreen Solar which have closed factories, laid off workers, and even moved production overseas. Remember the corn ethanol hoopla? Three major ethanol producers (Verasun, Aventine and Pacific Ethanol) went bankrupt within six years despite heavy subsidies. What do we have to show for those tax dollars?

So don't be suckered into this "risky" investment and "dirty" energy crapola about coal. The government wouldn't know a good investment if it zapped them. Plant Washington is a good decision by Cobb EMC because it's good for Cobb EMC customers. However, we'll still hear lots of glowing praise for renewable energy.

Liberals never let facts interfere with their utopian fantasies.

Patti Gettinger is marketing manager for a major packaging company and the vice chair of the Georgia Tea Party.
Comments
(12)
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Hartmut Ramm
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February 21, 2011
The only thing keeping coal competitive is the actions(subsidies) and inaction( condoning massive pollution)of the governament that tea partiers love to hate. A study by the Harvard Center for Health and Global Environment calculates that " Accounting for the many external costs over the life cycle for coal-derived electricity conservatively doubles to triples the price of coal per kWh of electricity generated." Meanwhile, a February 16 Reuters report sees wind and solare closing in on coal, despite these advantages: "...wind and solar are now competitive in niche markets after prices of turbines fell by a fifth and solar panels by a half since 2007. New markets are emerging as they fall further."

Mark S
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February 20, 2011
If every household used compact floresent light bulbs we wouldn't need any more power plants period.
Sara R
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February 19, 2011
Patti, You may want cheap fuel this moment in time, but what happens down the road when new, and less expensive sources for electricty is developed and here you are stuck with an archaic power plant. Why don't you research a little bit more and you will eventually see we are a country still sitting on the sidelines of cutting edge technology. Not only is solar power and wind power cleaner, but it is safer in the long run. Most new technologies are expensive, but over a period of time the prices do come down. Take computers for an example. When they were first introduced into the household, they were thousands of dollars, but now a days you can get get a top of the line computer for under 500 dollars. And talking about money, think of the jobs created by industries to make the solar panels and wind turbines to create electricty, not to mention all the jobs created by these industries. We need to be pioneers like the Fords, the Flagers, the Carnagies and so on. These men had dreams and built on those dreams to create the industries we have today. Those dreams have gone overseas and made better through technologies we should be creating and using.
Tim Leech
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February 19, 2011
We don't like to admit it, but coal is just plain unhealthy: For people, for the local environments where it is mined and burned, and for the global atmosphere. Through greater efficiency we can do just fine without needing to build extra power plants. Some may think efficiency means personal suffering, but what it really means is jobs right here in Georgia, as homes, businesses, and transport systems are reconfigured to use less energy.
Mystified
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February 18, 2011
The reason half the electricity in GA and the US comes from coal is due to massive government subsidies and lobbying by the coal industry, along with the Southern Company. There are so many reasons coal is a bad investment. The horrible health impacts (carbon and mercury are just the beginning of the list of deadly toxins) scare me the most. But I am also mystified that more conservative/free marketers don't question the subsidies and preferential treatment given to coal. There are smarter and cleaner alternatives including energy efficiencies that could (given a level playing field) create more jobs and economic development than continued reliance on coal.
Missing the Obvious
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February 17, 2011
There are 12,000 MW of natural gas fired power plants in this state that are 10 years old or less and are vastly under utilized. Oglethorpe Power picked up two for ONE SIXTH the cost per kilowatt hour of the proposed Plant Washington. Doesn't that sound like a better deal, Tea Partiers?
tell_the_truth
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February 17, 2011
Ms. Gettinger is certainly right about nuclear - it's way too expensive. But coal is (1) also subsidized by the government, and (2) also very expensive.

The $2.1 billion pricetag boils down to roughly $5000 per member (of all participating EMCs), not including interest. Times two, because they're also proposing a twin, Plant Ben Hill. Cobb EMC has already spent an average of $55 per EMC member on these plants ($11 million reported in the annual report, divide by 200,000 members).

Plant Washington is just another expensive project Cobb EMC's CEO and Board think they can force down members' throats. Smart utilities are not only canceling new coal projects, but RETIRING old ones (TVA, Duke), not because they care so much about the earth, but because it's the right choice for the companies' bottom line. Oglethorpe Power just bought new natural gas plant for 1/6 the cost of Plant Washington, per unit of energy.

EMC members should be asking why a subsidiary of Cobb Energy (the company Dwight Brown allegedly used to steal EMC member funds) got a no-bid contract to build Plant Washington, and why they're being asked to pay for it. Oh wait, they're not even being *asked*...what happened to fair representation in CO-OP governance?
Wash EMC member
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February 17, 2011
Patti-

As a Washington County resident whose only source of drinking water is drawn from a well approximately eight miles from the proposed plant site, locals have every reason to be concerned about adequate clean drinking water and clean air. The coal ash waste (filled with heavy metals and other toxins)which will be piled up in a liner the EPD has already told us will leak, is a good enough reason to oppose the plant.

The air emissions, and subsequent impact on our health, gives all of us here yet another good reason to oppose the plant.

The financial dealings of Cobb EMC, Dean Alford, and others leading this project are also more than sufficient reasons to oppose the plant.

We don't want the plant, don't need the electricity, and we sure don't want to be stuck with all the pollution just to benefit a few people's bank accounts and the energy demands of Atlanta.

Whatmatters
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February 17, 2011
You go girl. Someone needs to finally speak up. What hits our pocetbooks does matter to most of us. For many, their power bill is their single largest expense. Taking coal out of the equation will raise prices beyond many,many peoples' ability to pay. Pollution equipment now being applied to coal plants, especialy new ones, controls the risks so much more thoroughly than ever before.

Cobb EMC leadership may have been corrupted, and in need of replacement, but the concept of new coal plants and the need for them makes sense to those of us who are struggling to provide for our families and their futures.
tron
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February 16, 2011
Agreed. Very good column!
Cobb EMC Hostage
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February 16, 2011
Patti,

You totally miss the reason for most EMC member's opposition to the coal plant. Admittedly there are some that are objecting for environment concerns. Most are objecting for financial concerns. I am concerned because of the people behind the coal plant. These people have a track record for expensive expenditures which typically end up costing the EMC members millions and only enriching people like Dwight Brown and Dean Alford. Let's be real. I know that these people would love to turn the argument into an environmental argument so they can continue stealing Cobb EMC's assets.
Being Reasonable
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February 16, 2011
Thanks Patti -

This is one of first well thought out, factual commentaries on the plant we have heard in the media. The facts are that certainly we should strive for clean energy, but when people are out of jobs we need to go for proven cheap power(which looks clean too). Consider the case of the now-defunct biomass plant in Georgia .... more "green solutions" where the technology sounds good, but when it came time to do it, it was not ready. Let's do what works now.
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