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Last night was the meeting of the Progressive DFL Caucus in Grand Rapids, and Tom Micheletti, of Excelsior Energy, presented on the Mesaba project. For more details on the project, see Micheletti was introduced by Sen. Tom Saxhaug, who, for the record, noted that coal plants are poisoning our atmosphere.

Sen. Tom Saxhaug

Micheletti started out with five primary DEBATABLE points:

1) Mesaba IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) is the least cost resource baseload — that we have to consider the life cycle basis, the long term, when we make this determination.

2) Mesaba IGCC provides long term economic benefits

3) Mesaba IGCC provides future flexibility

4) Mesaba IGCC provides significant economic impacts — it’s unique nature lends to promotion of other developments in IGCC

5) Mesaba IGCC is the only coal based technology that affords us opportunities to deal with greenhouse gasses

6) Mesaba IGCC offers consumers the biggest bang for their buck due to emissions reductions and other capabilities

Of course Mesaba’s $2 billion dollar price tag was not addressed; nor the cost/benefit analysis taking into account the extreme costs of this project; flexibility was touted when there is no plan to capture and sequester CO2 or forge the hydrogen economy; there was no distinction between “potential” and “opportunity to realize” and actually doing something; or recognition that the “big bang for the buck” requires far beyond what this project offers.

After this six point introduction, Micheletti sprang into “Bush league” fearmongering straight out of the Karl Rove playbook, citing the Iraq war, our oil crisis, and that four major oil fields are nearing the end of production. “I don’t mean to scare you, but we have to pay attention!” We have an addiction to oil.

Sure, but will someone please explain exactly what an oil addiction has to do with producing electricity using coal gasification? This is a demonstration project for production of electricity, not synfuels for burning, and Micheletti’s equity in this project is based on a Power Purchase Agreement for electricity, not any promise of intervention or treatment of our oil addiction. Utter conflatulance…

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He noted that no new electric infrastructure had been built for decades, but he neglected to address the big line in the MISO queue of 16,712MW of generation in the MISO queue waiting for interconnection. Once more with feeling, we “need” 6,300MW of new generation by 2020 in the REGION and have 16,712MW of new generation waiting for interconnection in the MISO queue. That’s 10,000 to spare, and though some projects are dropping off, new ones are added daily. That’s nearly three times what we need. Micheletti says that there is a “significant need for generation, an increase by 20%” but did not address all the new generation in line. Again, here’s that great map found in the CapX2020 study, p. 7:

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Look at the new additions at the bottom of the MISO queue, 38740-01 and 38740-02, the two GRE 800MW coal plants in St. Louis County, and remember the words of a former GRE exec who said, “If you let us have transmission, we’ll build coal, if not, we’ll build distributed generation.” Suprise, suprise, they’re building coal.

Micheletti noted that mercury is causing health problems and even worse, particulate matter — he cited a recent article about deaths directly attributable to particulate matter in the atmosphere.

There’s no argument from me on the reductions of emissions that can be achieved with coal gasification, it is significant and it is real. But the noxious toxins show up elsewhere (in coal gasification, it’s in the water).

His comments about sequestration were odd, saying that “We’re looking at piping into North Dakota” and that “lots of money is being spent on this,” but a reading of all submissions note that this Mesaba project only has “capability” of capture, and no where does it plant to capture carbon dioxide, much less do anything with it.

Micheletti kept referring to other things to do with syngas, such as powering engines, or making plastics, but nowhere in any of the Excelsior submissions is there any plan to do anything other than generate electricity.

About transmission, he said that Mesaba is designed to have as little impact as possible, and that for the most part, at least 50% and maybe 80% of the transmission necessary would utilize existing rights of way. He said that Mesaba would connect at Blackberry, and then go to Riverton, and NOT Forbes as previously stated. Riverton? That’s news. And of course there was not mention that in the G-477 MISO interconnection study, only 90MW of the 1,200MW modeled was deliverable to load. THE MISO REPORT HAS BEEN DISAPPEARED. Good thing I saved it, eh? To verify that it’s missing, go to the MISO queue and search for “Itasca” and “St Louis” for the 531MW listings , when you find them, go all the way to right for “X2 Report” and click and…. NADA!!! (This disappearing act is happening all too often on this project).

When asked Mesaba’s cost per MW hour, Micheletti said, “I can’t tell.” I believe he meant that he cannot disclose what it is, as opposed to not being able to ascertain the cost. He said that “with the federal benefits” it’s close if not equal to least cost generation. Well, considering the federal benefits… instead, let’s compare apples to apples.

There was a very odd and difficult to follow/pinpoint discussion about water drainage and usage from Canisteo, and I couldn’t tell if he was saying that they were going to pump it out and then pump it back in, or if it was to be pumped in somewhere else — and of course he wouldn’t take questions from little ol’ moi!

Rep. Loren Solberg

Rep. Loren Solberg
had some interesting comments, because for some reason he’d just been out to Big Stone, and said that we have to go forward with Mesaba, because otherwise we’re going to have coal plants going up, but DUH, Big Stone II is happening and is expected to be licensed in South Dakota next summer. This is not binary, build Mesaba or build something else, because the something else will be permitted long before Mesaba gets off the ground. Then what??? And he also said that “We can’t fight Big Stone.” HUH? He can indeed fight Big Stone, we can indeed fight Big Stone — the proceeding is open to Intervention until 3/16/06.

There were other great questions about the market for Mesaba power since it was exempt from Certificate of Need and a Power Purchase Agreement was an “entitlement,” and someone else asked about use of other resources and why this is not paired with renewables and why there is not a push for renewable distributed generation in the area. That was when Solberg said that there wasn’t sufficient wind in the area. HUH? Here’s the state’s wind map == compare Grand Rapids and various sites on the range with Northfield, where St. Olaf is putting up a turbine, and where Carleton’s is spinning as we speak! That’s just as goofy as the people who say we have to generate wind energy and ship it over long transmission lines to Illiniois where they don’t have wind!

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