Friday, July 21, 2006

 

TXU plans massive crimes against humanity

Burning Debate
As Emission Restrictions Loom,
Texas Utility Bets Big on Coal
Planned TXU Plants Raise Global-Warming Concerns; Rivals Try New Technology Mr. Wilder Cites Demand
By REBECCA SMITH
July 21, 2006; Page A1
Top executives at many utility companies have reluctantly accepted that coal-fired power plants contribute to global warming, and they have begun planning for a more restrictive future.

Then there is C. John Wilder, chief executive of TXU Corp. The Dallas-based utility company is racing to build 11 big power plants in Texas that will burn pulverized coal. That process releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide, the most worrisome of several heat-trapping gases widely blamed for global warming.

TXU contends Texas needs a lot more power, and it wants to be the company to provide it. Critics of its $11 billion construction program see another motivation: The federal government may slap limits on carbon-dioxide emissions. If it does, plants completed sooner may have a distinct advantage. That's because the government may dole out "allowances" to release carbon dioxide, and plants up and running when regulations go into effect may qualify for more of them than those built at a later date. . . .

In his public appearances, Mr. Wilder maintains that more power generation is urgently needed. At TXU's annual meeting on May 19, he displayed a chart on infant mortality, arguing that countries with high per-capita electricity usage have a lower incidence of early death than countries with little electricity. He argued that Texas' electricity surplus is "literally melting away" and that the state needs TXU's new plants to buttress its standard of living.

"We know what we do is a valuable thing to society," he told shareholders. "And part of the debate of this new build program that we have...with some of our opponents...is [that] you have to look at the whole system of benefits and cost to society. There's not a form of electricity today that can be generated without some society harm." . . .

In its written response, TXU said it opposes regulation because it would "stunt economic growth" and because "there would not be any real environmental benefits." The U.S. should take no action on mandatory carbon-dioxide reductions, TXU wrote, "unless all nations adopt similar programs."

TXU executives contend that the current Congress is unlikely to act. "It's easier to stop a bill than pass a bill," says TXU's Mr. McCall. "It will only take 40 senators to block carbon regulation." . . .

TXU's decision to build pulverized-coal plants -- and to build them quickly -- may stem in part from the way the federal government has instituted pollution regulations in the past. A 1990 federal program to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain, employed a "cap and trade" system. Existing polluters were given "allowances" -- essentially, rights to pollute -- which they could use themselves or sell to others.

The allowances were intended to soften the blow for companies that had made investment decisions without knowing they would later face antipollution measures -- to "grandfather" them. Over time, the number of annual allowances handed out was reduced. That drove up their resale value and provided companies with an incentive to install pollution-control equipment.

Many believe the government eventually will adopt a similar system to control carbon-dioxide emissions. In late 2004, TXU consultants advised the company against trying to cut such emissions in anticipation of federal action. In a written report, the consultants said that such "early actions" could reduce the allowances that TXU receives in the future.


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