Monday, February 26, 2007

Texas coal giant bought out by green-minded investors

Environmentalists don't know what to protest anymore

The New York Times reports that TXU, the Texas coal power generation company that has been the subject of so much controversy of late due to their plan to build 11 new coal-fired power plants in Texas, has come under new management. The plant was the subject of a number of creative protests organized by environmentalists (who opposed the company's plans because the role coal power plays in global warming, air pollution, and other problems of environmental degradation) and local citizens who don't want a coal plant in their backyard.

The new owners plan to turn the company into a leader in the clean(er) energy sector; appropriately, the president of Environmental Defense (a group that organized and inspired all kinds of protest against the company's plans) was brought in to advise on the deal. Some notable moves in that direction were eliminating 8 of the proposed plants, joining the US Climate Action partnership in calling for a nationwide cap on CO2 emissions, pledging to reduce their own emissions to 1990s levels by 2020, and promising to stop building new plants outside of Texas. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that the the new owners have even more initiatives up their sleeves. Among them:

  • To "explore" different clean(er) coal technologies, such as integrated combined cycle gasification and various modes of carbon capture.
  • To start a campaign to bring about a "demand-side" reduction of need for power in Texas.
  • To invest in sustainable power generation -- wind and solar, for example.
  • To increase efficiency of TXU power plants.
All this comes as welcome news to many environmentalists. However, there are some caveats. The first question out of your mouth while reading this should have been "How do we know these aren't just empty promises?" Well, Environmental Defense notes that the deal contains provisions linking executive compensation to performance on these environmental issues, so barring any loopholes that's hopefully guaranteed. There are other points of contention with the good news, though. For example, TXU's new image may or may not influence other companies to adopt similar strategies. Also, the NYT article cites the Dallas mayor as being somewhat critical of the idea; she points out that one of the remaining proposed plants is still opposed by locals. However, despite these criticisms, it must be said that this move is at least a step in the right direction.

A Buyout Deal That Has Many Shades of Green (NYT)
Victory in Texas: Energy Giant Scraps Plans for 8 Coal Plants (Environmental Defense)
Record TXU Buyout Includes Unprecedented Global Warming, Emissions Plan (NRDC)

(NB: The tag "re-" indicates that this isn't exactly my original work. Of course I'm looking at a lot of sources to get this information, and it's in my own words as far as I can tell, but it's all already out there if you look hard enough. I'm just compiling and summarizing, not expanding.)

1 comment:

Susie said...

Hey Sam!! So gld you blogged.. I just happened to read this in th NYT todyay! Love,Mom