New coalition touts clean coal in primary states, supports emissions reduction legislation

With all eyes on Pennsylvania and the remaining primary states, clean coal has emerged as an issue of focus in several key states. Throughout primary season, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) has tried to influence voters in coal states through a $40 million ad campaign touting clean coal. ABEC is now part of a new, larger group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). During today's OnPoint, Stephen Miller, president of ACCCE and the former president of ABEC, outlines the goals of the new coalition and discusses his group's ad strategy for this year's elections. Miller says ACCCE will support some form of an emissions reduction policy but expresses concern over several provisions of the Lieberman-Warner climate bill.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Steve Miller, resident of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Steve is also the former president of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, which is now part of The Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Steve, thanks for coming on the show.

Stephen Miller: Monica, thanks so much for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: Steve, so the Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, or ACE, has just launched. What are its primary goals and who's involved in this coalition?

Stephen Miller: Well, our members come, there are about 40 of them, leading companies from across the country, from the electricity generation sector or the transportation sector, coal producers and other manufacturers and vendors. So, it's a very broad-based coalition of folks. And I guess the news of the day are kind of three points. Number one, organizationally, ACE, as we're calling it, is the combination of two organizations that have been around for years. One of them is the Center for Energy and Economic Development, called CEED. And CEED did work since 1992 at the state level on energy and environmental issues. The other organization is Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, which is really the communications campaign, which had been around since 2000. So, we've merged those two organizations, changed the name, and then added on another dimension, which is federal lobbying on climate change legislation. So, it is a new organization combining two former organizations and a new challenge in this federal lobbying mission.

Monica Trauzzi: So why now?

Stephen Miller: Now is a great time to do this and for a couple of reasons. Number one, Congress is really getting focused on this. Some members have been intimately involved and educated more about a very complicated issue, climate change, the most complicated environmental issue of our time. But more and more members are now getting educated and want to know industry's position on this. So, from a timing standpoint with Congress, this is an excellent time. Also, the technology is evolving and we're confident that we're going to be able to deal with the issue of climate change going forward and that coal will continue to be a major force in America's energy future because technology will make it so. So, it's the meshing of technological possibilities and congressional interests at this time that makes the formation of ACE very timely.

Monica Trauzzi: Okay and we're going to talk about that more specifically in just one moment. I want to find out where your funding comes from.

Stephen Miller: Funding comes from the member companies, from those industry groups, coal producers, transporters, generators, and the manufacturing groups. And they pay dues to us and that's how we get our money.

Monica Trauzzi: And the press release for ACE says that the coalition will lobby federal policymakers on policies designed to reduce man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Does that mean that you support a cap-and-trade bill?

Stephen Miller: It means that we support federal carbon management legislation and a mandatory cap-and-trade program could be one of the components that we support. We've gone to great lengths and much debate over the last three months to develop 12 legislative principles and gone beyond the principles with some supporting language to further clarify what we would support. And whatever the vehicle might be, a mandatory cap-and-trade bill or other forms of legislation, it's really not important what the particular vehicle would be, but that those 12 principles are met. And if they're met, whatever the form of the bill might be, then we can support it.

Monica Trauzzi: The Lieberman-Warner bill is being taken up in the Senate in June. What are your thoughts on that specific bill?

Stephen Miller: We've not taken a public position on it yet. We, I'm sure, will in the next few weeks. There are some concerns about that particular bill in two or three categories. Number one, whatever legislation passes here needs to have reasonable compliance dates and cap levels, because if we push too far too fast and then we will force fuel switching away from coal to other energy sources and the cost will be driven up and reliability will be questioned. So, we have some concerns about the Lieberman-Warner bill's timing and cap levels, also the cost containment issues here. This is a very profound piece of legislation that's under consideration in the whole regulation of greenhouse gases. We have to make sure that the millions of American families, who are living on low and fixed incomes particularly, are able to deal with this change to a carbon constrained world. And that we don't force jobs offshore unnecessarily in all of this. So, the Lieberman-Warner bill's deficiencies, at least at this point, are a concern, but we also think that it's responsible for any party who's engaged in lobbying on this to propose your alternatives. So, if you don't like what's in the bill, you need to talk about how you want to fix it. And we'll be talking to members of Congress about that in coming weeks.

Monica Trauzzi: ACE is a 501(c)(6) organization and ABEC has certainly been involved in the presidential campaigns and putting ads out about clean coal. How is this new coalition going to be involved in the campaigns as we head to the general election?

Stephen Miller: The ABEC campaign sponsored something called the America's Power Campaign in the last year and our members really stepped up the funding for that significantly. Someone once said that in a democracy you get the kind of government you deserve. And so we felt very strongly that way through the years, that if we had a message, a positive message, a story to tell, then we need to take that to the American people. And so we've really ramped up that effort and I'm very proud of that. And we've taken it to a number of the early primary and caucus states, particularly Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, because that's where the candidates have gone to do their retail politics. So we wanted the people in those states to hear the message about the importance of coal and for energy security, for costs, and the environmental record and the need for investments in advanced clean coal technology. We also want the candidates, in their campaigns, to draw real-life stories from people that they've heard from in those states. And we've been very pleased that a number of rallies and town hall meetings that candidates have made reference to the fact that they've just seen folks out in the hall with their clean coal technology shirts and hats and those are folks from those states and those localities. So, we think that is a very important thing for us to do so that the next president fully recognizes the importance of coal in America's energy future.

Monica Trauzzi: And the idea of clean coal is certainly being touted by all of the presidential candidates. The technology is still a ways away for carbon capture and sequestration. Implementation of that technology probably wouldn't happen until after let's say two terms of the next president being in office. So, are they making sort of false promises or stretching it a bit in terms of clean coal in order to get those votes in those states?

Stephen Miller: Well, I'm sure all candidates want to deliver votes. That's why they're in the campaign. But then they have to govern. And so while the widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage technology may be years away, we're already making some real progress right now. American Electric Power, for example, is one of our members. They've committed to retrofit some of their existing coal fuel power plants with carbon capture and storage technology. We Energies in Wisconsin is involved right now with some of the emerging technologies as well. IGCC plants we need to get built. And the next president and the next Congress, as well as the current ones, have a role to play to make sure that the public sector is a real partner in funding these kinds of very significant technology investments. We can't wait years and decades to make these investments, because China, India, other countries are going to continue to increase their use of coal and America has a great chance to exert international leadership here by developing that technology and working to transfer it around the world. So, we think it's vital for the political leaders, particularly at the federal level, to take that leadership role right now so we can accelerate the pace of technology deployment around the world.

Monica Trauzzi: And all eyes are on Pennsylvania right now. In terms of campaigning and ads there, what is your group going to be doing?

Stephen Miller: We have all kinds of things going on. We've had advertising in Pennsylvania at kind of a low-grade level. But our citizen army, and we have about 150,000 people who don't work for the industry, they're just regular community leaders who have signed on to become members of the ABEC campaign through the years and will be part of what we're doing within ACE. And they take time and they go to rallies. They wear shirts. We have vans that are wrapped, painted with clean coal technology messages which we take to the rallies. Senator Obama made reference to this in Scranton just a few days ago about seeing all the folks there in the audience with the clean coal technology paraphernalia. And he talked very positively about the ability for America to use technology to deal with the challenge of climate change. And that's a very encouraging message, not only from him, but from Senator Clinton and we believe from Senator McCain as well.

Monica Trauzzi: Is carbon capture and sequestration technology economically viable? We even saw DOE step back from the large-scale FutureGen project and now it's being divided into smaller projects. Is it economically viable?

Stephen Miller: Well, DOE stepped back from one project, but they didn't step back from the importance of carbon capture and storage technology. They just want to do it in multiple locations. We happen to disagree with that. We would very much prefer that they would go forward with FutureGen and other projects here. This is a small investment for a very big payoff down the road. But there are a number of experts in the public and private sector who absolutely believe that carbon capture and storage technology, deployed widely, is going to happen. We've been capturing and using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery in this country for years. We just have to do it on a much bigger scale. It's an engineering feat here as well as a technological feat, but we're very confident that we'll get that job done.

Monica Trauzzi: There are many people out there, including Nassau scientist James Hansen, who say that we're at a tipping point in terms of emissions and we should not be building any new coal-fired power plants that are pushing emissions into the atmosphere. So, should all new power plants be required to meet more stringent emission standards?

Stephen Miller: We're going to be in a transitional period here over the next 10 to 15 years as that technology is developed for wide scale commercial deployment. And our position is we need to continue building coal plants that are carbon capture ready, so that the plants are being designed so that as this technology comes online it can be quickly put on, retrofitted to the plant, but that we need to continue building coal plants so that we don't become overly dependent on other, more expensive forms of energy. So, that's our position and we are aggressively out there supporting new coal-fired power plants. And despite some of the news stories that none are being built, more new coal-fired power plants have been built in the last two years than any comparable time in the last 20 years. So, from Iowa to Kentucky to Indiana to North Carolina, all across the country, new coal plants are being cited as well as some where the developers have decided not to go forward.

Monica Trauzzi: And environmentalists are fighting each and every one of those new coal-fired power plants that's being built, because they don't think that we need them.

Stephen Miller: Right and we do need them because we have a growing demand for electricity here. And our position at ACE is that we support every domestic fuel source. We need them all. We need renewables and nuclear. We need gas. We need energy efficiency and conservation. We're going to need all of those. So, we don't want to take any fuel option off the table. We want to keep them all. And that's a fundamental premise that ACE will be supporting.

Monica Trauzzi: What about putting more of an emphasis on renewables?

Stephen Miller: We do. We absolutely need to grow renewables. We need to do more in terms of energy efficiency and conservation. It's part of the American ethic that parents go behind their children and turn off the lights in the house. And we need to be doing all that. We're excited about some of the things we see, the lights out programs in San Francisco and Chicago and Atlanta, where they're turning out the lights in big downtown cities to show that it's a symbol and a practical application here of the importance of energy efficiency. And we need to do that. And even if it means less coal being produced, less being hauled, less being used at the power plants, it's still the right thing to do and we're very supportive of that.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. We're going to end it right there on that note. Thank you for coming on the show.

Stephen Miller: Glad to be here. Thank you so much.

Monica Trauzzi: This is OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Thanks for watching.

[End of Audio]



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