Let Mesaba go…

December 19th, 2009


Jorgensen’s got to get over it — Mesaba is done, ain’t happening, dead, dead dead, yet she’s spinning those tales and hype about Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba IGCC Project.  From the first words in the title, it’s lies, lies and more lies, oh, and misrepresentations and falsehoods and exaggerations and utter bullshit too!  Why does the St. Paul Pioneer Press give her space forthis advertising of the nonsensical kind?

Here’s what Citizens Against the Mesaba Projet’s Charlotte Neigh had to say about it:

Julie Jorgensen is using the opportune hook of the Copenhagen conference to repeat Excelsior Energy’s same old, self-serving promotional claims about the “clean coal” technology of its Mesaba Energy Project. One must wonder why the Press unquestioningly allots opinion space to the promoter of a precarious for-profit venture, financed almost exclusively by $40 million in public funds, which have been benefiting the author and her co-founder husband, Tom Micheletti.

What Jorgensen didn’t say:

• The U.N. negotiators in Copenhagen decided to leave carbon capture and storage, the prime objective of the IGCC technology touted by Excelsior Energy, off the list of clean-energy projects eligible for the Clean Development Mechanism; the 12/17/09 Wall Street Journal reported that “clean coal seems to be getting the cold shoulder at the climate summit”, and  “. . .  clean coal is anything but viable right now”.

• Mesaba’s Unit I would emit 5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year and the Department of Energy has acknowledged that capturing and sequestering the CO2 from the proposed Taconite plant is not feasible.

• The claimed economic benefit has been rejected by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which found the project too expensive and risky and not in the public interest.

• The need for this Project has never been proven; no utility is willing to buy its output; Xcel Energy successfully resisted efforts to force it into a power purchase agreement; and the MPUC has declined to require other utilities in the state to include Mesaba’s output in their resource plans.

• The environmental claims are yet to be adjudicated as the MPUC considers the route and siting permits and other government agencies pursue their concerns related to air, water and waste permits.

Is Jorgensen’s piece really that bad?  See for yourself:

Julie Jorgensen: We need baseload power. Coal’s plentiful. Let’s clean it up

By Julie Jorgensen
Updated: 12/17/2009 05:54:25 PM CST

As heads of government gather in my ancestral home of Denmark, the world considers its energy options.

The challenge for Copenhagen is that commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions are at odds with the plans of developing nations to rely on inexpensive fossil energy to fuel economic growth and improve their standard of living. Developed nations, meanwhile, fear that mandated greenhouse gas reductions will tax economic recovery and prolong global recession. Diplomacy is the art of the achievable, and these realities will be balanced against concerns about the effect of man-made carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on Earth’s climate.

On the home front, there are plenty of competing concerns to consider as we address our energy needs. But there are two things our local energy experts agree on: Minnesota has an impending need for more baseload power, and renewables can’t do the job alone.

For baseload — that is, the steady supply of electricity for everything from factories to home outlets — Minnesotans must take a long, hard look at the most abundant resource in our own backyard: coal. Not old-fashioned, dirty, polluting coal, but coal used to fuel a new technology called IGCC, which stands for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle. In addition to producing clean, affordable energy, such plants would allow us to transform America’s 250-year supply of coal into ultra-clean fuels like synthetic natural gas, transportation fuels, and hydrogen.

I’m the co-founder of Excelsior Energy, which is developing the Mesaba Energy Project, an IGCC power plant near the town of Taconite on Minnesota’s Iron Range. From my point of view, IGCC offers economic and environmental benefits to Minnesota. The Midwest is poised be a leader in the delivery of this technology. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature have supported the development of Minnesota’s IGCC plant, the Mesaba Energy Project, since 2003, and the project has been exempted from a statewide prohibition against new coal plants. Eleven Midwest governors established a collective goal to spur construction of at least five commercial-scale IGCC plants by 2015, and President Obama announced a goal to build five such “first-of-a-kind” clean coal plants. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has provided significant funding and incentives to the Mesaba Project to offset the costs of needed innovation.

Adoption of IGCC technology is essential to cleaning up coal and mitigating climate change.

IGCC plants use less water, use less land, create less waste, and emit two-thirds less air pollution than the cleanest of the traditional coal plants that currently deliver most of our electricity. In addition, IGCC plants clean a volume of gas that is a mere 1/100th of the stream pouring out of the smokestacks at the Sherco coal plant in Becker and the Boswell coal plant in Cohasset. This makes it easier and cheaper to prevent the release of carbon dioxide, which is essential in the face of potential climate change regulation.

As fears mount about global warming, environmental advocates like the Clean Air Task Force and the Natural Resources Defense Council support the timely and widespread commercialization of IGCC technology. From a global perspective, the importance of commercializing a cleaner way to use coal cannot be understated: both India and China have vast coal reserves, which they will inevitably use in the cheapest and easiest possible ways to fuel their growing economies.

Nuclear power faces major obstacles. Plans for a federal nuclear waste repository have been scrapped. The Obama Administration stopped the DOE’s development of the Yucca Mountain repository, originally slated to begin accepting waste in 1998, without providing an alternative storage plan. As a result, we will store nuclear waste on the banks of the Mississippi River for the foreseeable future.

Additionally, the costs of new nuclear facilities may put them out of reach.

Even if the Legislature lifts Minnesota’s ban on new nuclear plants, it will be at least 20 years before a new plant could be licensed and built in Minnesota, given the long and costly lead-times. Simply put, new nuclear capacity cannot meet our current needs.

While the eyes of the world are on Copenhagen, it’s appropriate for Minnesotans to ponder our own impending energy crisis. Since renewables and conservation can’t meet all of our new energy needs, we must make some difficult choices that ultimately will involve coal-fired, natural gas-fired, and nuclear energy sources. Marrying new IGCC technology with the abundance of U.S. coal makes clean coal the most rational choice for our state.

Julie Jorgensen is the former CEO of CogenAmerica, a publicly traded independent power company, and a former executive of NRG Energy, a global energy development company. She’s a co-founder of Excelsior Energy Inc., which is developing a coal gasification plant near Taconite on Minnesota’s Iron Range. Her e-mail address is JulieJorgensen@ExcelsiorEnergy.com.


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