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Q & A With Paul Hanrahan, CEO of AES

Glenn, The Oil Drum: NYC
This morning’s NY Times Business section features a very interesting Q & A with AES (a major, worldwide power company) CEO Paul Hanrahan about the future of power generation. He talks about a wide variety of subjects, from renewable energy sources like wind, to building new LNG plants on the East Coast to different ideas on carbon sequestration. One of the most amazing facts was that to offset the emissions from a new power plant, AES planted 50 million trees in Guatemala. At the end of the interview, there was a question about coal:

Q. In July, AES announced the installation of clean coal technology at your power plant in Dresden, N.Y. With future oil supplies so problematical, what do you see as coal’s future?

A. For countries with coal as an indigenous resource, coal has a lot of potential because you can do a lot to reduce the particulate emissions and the sulfur nitrogen emissions which cause acid rain. You can reduce the carbon emissions from a power plant very cheaply, so we think there is a lot of potential to produce electricity in an environmentally responsible way.

Sounds great…clean cheap coal. It almost makes you almost think that everything is very doable, just leave the private sector alone and let them innovate…But it would be a mistake to not regulate this area.
(7 Jan 2007)

The greening of the oil sands

David Ebner, The Globe & Mail
…a sense of urgency about global warming has pushed the environment into a tie with health care as the biggest issue in the minds of Canadians, according to new numbers this week from a quarterly poll by Environics Research. The issue could define the next federal election and has left the Alberta energy industry, particularly the oil sands, worried about the heat.

Greenhouse gases in Canada spew out from disparate sources across the country – vehicles on the roads are as guilty as industry – but massive growth in the oil sands is drawing the most attention with the rising prominence of the environment and the containing of carbon dioxide emissions. The oil sands region is already home to two of the four single biggest emitters in the country and is set for incredible growth, with $100-billion of projects planned over the next decade. The use of fresh water and the destruction of several thousand square kilometres of delicate boreal forest through surface mining are also key concerns.

All this attention has raised fear in the energy industry, which in 2002 fought noisily against the Kyoto Protocol, with oil sands operators threatening to shut down planned projects or process the raw output in the United States. New threats from energy firms have not yet emerged but industry leaders speak with fretful words like “concern” and “nervous.”

Sludge is pumped into a settling pond at Fort McMurray, Alta. Oil sands projects are drawing attention because of growing CO2 emissions.

To [Robert Mansell of the University of Calgary], the answer is clear, though it sounds like an oxymoron: A green oil sands – a future that marries what he calls the 3 Es, energy, environment and economy, using technology to increase recovery, reduce emissions and capture carbon dioxide.

But the key, he insists, is the government taking charge, making hard and clear rules, instead of waiting and hoping industry will make the full push.

“If governments aren’t going to lead, it won’t happen,” Mr. Mansell says. “We’re a nation that’s never achieved our potential. We’ve done okay but we’ve never reached the next level.”
(6 Jan 2007)

Interview with Paul Gipe, Wind Energy Pioneer

Hassan Masum, WorldChanging
Paul Gipe has been involved with wind energy for 30 years. He has authored several books in the field, and was instrumental in the successful campaign for Ontario’s 2006 implementation of Advanced Renewable Tariffs to promote distributed renewable energy supply.

Hassan Masum: …what first motivated you to start working in the renewable energy field, and what changes in this field do you most notice when you look back at your career?

Paul Gipe: How did I get started? I claim that it’s a genetic disease and as soon as they find a cure, I’ll be first in line. Seriously, I started pushing renewables in college while working on what became the Surface Mining Act that regulates the strip mining of coal. Before we started anyone could just rip a hole in the ground, take the coal, and walk away. Many mining companies did just that. As part of our campaign, I argued that we should be developing other sources of energy so we wouldn’t need so much coal. An old pol challenged me in a public hearing saying, “Son, that solar stuff just doesn’t exist.” Well, it was embarrassing, but he was right. So I set out to put my career where my mouth was and I’ve been doing that ever since. That was in the early 70s.

The biggest change since then? That it’s happening. There were very dark days in the late 80s and early 90s for anyone working in renewables on this continent. Anyone in North America who survived that period and still works in renewables should get a medal. There was a time when even we diehards didn’t think it was going to take off. Thankfully, the Europeans didn’t give up and they kept the dream alive. Fortunately, all the signs say that renewables are now here to stay. Wind may not have developed in the way we envisioned 30 years ago, but it’s working, and growing at a near exponential pace.

…My emphasis now is explaining what’s the most successful way to develop the massive amounts of renewables that we need. That mechanism is what the Europeans call electricity feed laws, or what I call Advanced Renewable Tariffs- – ARTs for short. Not only are feed laws more successful than any other renewable policy mechanism, they are also more equitable.

The challenge I face is defeatism. Environmentalists and renewable advocates here in the States just shake their heads sadly and say, “We’re Americans, it can’t be done here.” That’s baloney. Of course it can be done here. We were the first to do it. We have a track record. There’s 1,500 MW of wind operating in California that was built as a result of an early feed law. And it was built 20 years ago!
(4 Jan 2007)