Monday, November 5, 2007

Dominion's Latest Global Warming Smokescreen

Dominion Virginia Power has a simple profit strategy -- sell Virginians as much cheap power as they'll consume, providing that power through risky nuclear power or environmentally disastrous mountaintop-removed coal-fired power.

I don't blame Dominion for that as much as I blame our elected officials, who've sold out our health and environment for a few thousand short-term coal mining jobs. If our legislators and governor were serious about protecting our environment and securing our energy future, they'd decouple Dominion's profits from the amount of power it sells and promote net metering to turn every roof into a power generator.

So why am I rehashing all of the above today? Because Dominion is hoping to make you forget all that:

RICHMOND, Va., -- Dominion (NYSE: D), one of the nation’s largest energy producers, will provide $500,000 to the Virginia Center for Coal & Energy Research at Virginia Tech to help the center find a way to keep carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
$500,000 sounds like a lot, until you remember Dominion brought in $1.4 billion in profit last year on $16.5 billion in revenue.

What will Dominion get for its investment in carbon capture and storage technology? According to Virginia's Commitment, not much:
Those who have looked seriously into carbon sequestration say it will be decades to never before we find a way for the concept to work. In his book, “The Weathermakers”, Tim Flannery says that the special power plants required, if ever brought on line, would use about 25 percent of the energy they made just to keep them running. Another 20 percent would be wasted turning the gas into liquid. Untold amounts of energy would be used to transport the liquid gas to locations remote from the power plant locations where no underground chambers exist.

Flannery says: "All indications suggest that building them on a commercial scale will be expensive and that it will take decades to make a significant contribution to power production.”

Still, research into carbon sequestration makes for a significant contribution to power production … of a different sort. For $500,000, less than Dominion Power contributed to Virginia political candidates of each political party this year alone, it makes for a feel-good press release.
Even the most optimistic guesses say carbon capture and storage technology won't be ready for rollout until 2020 at the earliest. So what are we better off doing? Investing in cabron sequestration or in already-existing solar technology that could provide limitless, carbon-neutral power at a competitive price?

If we leave it up to Dominion, we'll be helping ourselves to a nice, big slice of globally-warmed pie in the sky.
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