Green Group Distances Itself From 'Coal is Dirty' Claim

By Payton Hoegh | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Amid a renewed focus on global warming, an environmental group was alarmed this week to see its name attached to an advertising campaign asserting that "coal is filthy" when the group does not hold such a clear-cut position on the issue.

The ads by the newly formed Clean Skies Coalition (CSC) used statistics and analyses from the national non-profit group Environmental Defense (ED) along with images of soot-covered faces to oppose a proposal by TXU, Texas' largest retail electricity provider, to build 11 new coal-driven energy plants.

But ED representative Jim Marston said he did not want the public to think that his organization had funded or helped release the ads.

Although ED opposes the TXU plan, Marston said in a statement the ad campaign "could be interpreted as a complete rejection of any coal technology." That does not reflect the views of ED, which supports the use of "clean coal" technology that minimizes "greenhouse gas" emissions from coal plants.

Marston said ED was not informed that its research would be used in the advertisements.

Despite balking at ED's association with the ads, Marston said the group was "encouraged that another loud voice is joining the chorus against TXU's dirty coal plants."

Marston told Cybercast News Service Tuesday that ED opposes the planned coal plants for different reasons than those of the CSC.

Despite TXU's recent claims that they were using the most advanced technology available, he said, ED believes the utility is not using "the cleanest technology that can be used for coal right now."

Marston said Texas should base its energy policy "on what Texas needs not what TXU wants."

"That's the fundamental problem with this plan. It is being dictated by one independent utility," he said.

Marston argued that the plants could cause more damage to the environment than help the state. "There are other ways for [Texas] to deal with the growing electricity demand that does not involve coal."

He suggested that the state look into all available sources in order "to make sure that we are making energy choices that are responsible and cost-effective that will take into account real world problems like global warming."

Marston also said the proposal to build new plants were being "fast tracked" by the TXU because it would be good for the business, yet "no one has established that it is necessary."

However, TXU representative Tom Kleckner told Cybercast News Service that there is a high demand for energy in Texas right now, and it will only increase over the next five to 10 years with the estimated population increase of six million people. (Texas currently has the second-largest population of any U.S. state, 23.5 million.)

Kleckner said the state is over-reliant on natural gas services, which provide up to 70 percent of Texas' energy at a high price.

"We are looking at answering that [issue] with these 11 coal plants," he said. "What they will do is provide the state with reliable energy and provide [it] with affordable energy."

Responding to the dirty energy charge, Kleckner said TXU is "using the best available control technology to reduce our emissions."

"For every new emission we bring online we will take those same emissions out of the mix either through retrofits or changing fuel mixes or other practices in our current fleet," he said.

ED says the new plants will double TXU's unregulated carbon dioxide emissions - from 55 million tons to 133 million tons a year. It is also skeptical that TXU can keep overall emissions under government regulation figures.

Kleckner said, however, that TXU is "committed to meeting or exceeding all requirements placed on us by federal or by state governments or by regulatory agencies."

"We have a 15-year vision of reducing the rate at which carbon or CO2 is released when power is generated from coal so it will compare favorably to modern gas units," he added.

Critics of the TXU plan are organizing a "Stop the Coal Rush Rally" Saturday at the Texas capitol building.

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