Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 30, 2013

SHADES OF GREEN: Hoosiers are smart enough to have energy options


— I’ve been honored to join the executive committee of the Hoosier Sierra Club. Their mission is to: Explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth, practice and promote responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources, and educate humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.

Currently Indiana’s electricity is created primarily from coal. According to the National Mining Association, coal provides 95.2 percent of Indiana’s electricity. One of Sierra Club’s goals is to end our dependence on coal. Why?

Greenenergyhelpfiles.com says, “Statistics alone should tell us all how bad coal is. Producing about 23 percent of the world’s energy needs, coal is now sold cheaply. However, the impact of this fossil fuel on our health and our atmosphere is one dirty, expensive proposition. Coal emits more carbon per unit of energy than oil, and 80 percent more than natural gas. It accounts for 43 percent of global emissions (2.7 billion tons of it every year).”

Scarily they continue, “The two main ingredients of coal are particulate and sulphur dioxide. In addition to causing millions of new cases of respiratory disease every year, it causes 500,000 cases of premature death.”

Maybe we in Goshen can’t see that affect but go to Michigan City or go down in southern Indiana to Rockport, where there is currently a coal-fired power plant, and plans to create a new one, and you hear about sickness.

We as good Goshen News readers/citizens cannot say NIMBY (Not In Your Back Yard)! We are not an anarchy where we can only think about ourselves. We are told in the Bible to think about our neighbors, which also means their air quality!

SourceWatch.org tells us “Leucadia National Corp. is developing plans for a facility that would convert 3 million tons per year of Indiana coal into substitute natural gas (SNG). Leucadia is a New York city-based holding company with subsidiaries in energy, telecommunications, health care services, manufacturing, banking and lending, real estate activities, winery operations, mining and property and casualty reinsurance.”

The state chair of the Hoosier Sierra Club, Steve Francis, says the Leucadia Project is “All risk, no reward. That’s the only way you can describe what Hoosier ratepayers and families across our state currently face from the proposed coal gasification plant and financing scheme in southern Indiana unless our elected leaders act to protect us from this bad deal before the end of the month.”

He goes on to say “A few years ago, Leucadia Corp. — an out-of-state Wall Street stock and hedge fund — decided that it wanted to construct a coal gasification plant in Rockport. Unlike the massive coal-fired power plant that currently operates in Rockport, coal gasification is a virtually untested technology that converts coal into a synthetic natural gas. Essentially, it takes one dirty and expensive fossil fuel and converts it into a dirty and even more expensive fuel.”

On the Indiana Chapter of the Sierra Club web page it warns us “In 2009, the Indiana Legislature quietly passed a bill which would force Indiana natural gas consumers to assume all the financial risks for an expensive new coal gasification plant proposed by New York-based Leucadia National Corp.

But there are some problems with the gasification method because it uses a complicated technology and high-temperature chemistry to turn coal into a synthetic natural gas. However, the synthetic gas it produces can’t compete with the price of natural gas.  

Leucadia is a private business, not an electric utility. Yet Indiana ratepayers will cover the losses, and potentially be stuck with a polluted, worn-out coal gasification plant as our reward. Under the contract between Leucadia and the state, Hoosier gas utility customers will pay 100 percent of any losses during the 30-year startup period for the plant.  

This is something that I think is something we should all talk about — we don’t want to raise taxes to help out social causes but we are willing to pay for Leucadia’s losses?

A new excise tax will be placed on utility bills for Indiana gas customers, except for industry and large businesses. If the project is such a good deal, why are industrial and large commercial customers excluded from paying for it?

New jobs in coal mining and syngas production will come at the expense of jobs elsewhere in the state. According to the IU study: “The winners are workers in coal mining and (syngas) production. The losers are workers predominately in retail and manufacturing. In broad strokes, one might say that mining and synthetic natural gas production jobs come at the expense of jobs in other sectors.”

In fact, IU estimates 1,800 jobs will be lost, on average, each year if the plant is built as planned.

I love to see wind and solar installations in the state of Indiana because:

1 — I think they truly are a beautiful alternative energy source;

2 — They don’t produce harmful emissions that will affect our future, and

3 — We are smart enough to know we have more than our one option that powers Indiana’s energy production — and intelligent enough to think about our future generations.