And here I thought the Joyce Foundation was bad…


So will someone please explain why the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation dove into promoting coal? So will someone please explain why the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation dove into promoting coal GASIFICATION? So will someone please explain why the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation dove into promoting coal gasification with capture and sequestration when it does not exist and as if it will in the near future? Why jump in, in such a BIG way, when it’s apparaent to the world, even the DOE and Wall Street, that there is no such thing as “clean coal” and that it’s “too risky for private investment.” It’s enough to make me puke! Whatever are they thinking? Having read some about the life and interests of Doris Duke, noting the focus of the Foundation’s grants, reasonable and sound areas like wildlife preservation, Islamic art, medical research… she would be spinning in her grave if she knew what they were doing. Somebody quick channel Doris Duke, get her on a conference call!



WHY COAL? WHY WOULD THEY PUT SO MUCH INTO PROMOTING THIS FOSSIL? It seems they haven’t done the most basic research and noted the… ahem… DOWNWARD TRAJECTORY OF COAL GASIFICATION!!! Maybe they like to throw money away. Maybe they have so much they don’t know what to do with it. Maybe they don’t have the creativity or braincells to conceive of a future without coal. Maybe they are beholden to the coal industry (though I don’t see the kind of coal and IGCC investments that Joyce has but we’ll see when the 2007 IRS 990 is posted). Maybe they haven’t noticed that CO2 capture is not happening and that it isn’t likely to anytime soon, per the DOE, and maybe they didn’t read the New York Times today:

Mounting costs slow the push for clean coal (see below)

What are they doing? Check out this admission on their program page:

Low-emission uses of coal, such as gasification combined with carbon capture and storage technology

Will someone please tell them that “gasification combined with carbon capture and storage technology” DOES NOT EXIST! Wherever do they get the notion that it does? Who are they listening to? Who are their experts? Who is providing them with the $$$ to throw away like this on such a flawed, such a cosmically bad idea?

And look at their grants page, look at the piles of money they threw at coal, OH MY DOG, it’s turning my stomach:

2007 Grants – Deploy & Develop Clean-Energy Technologies

Bipartisan Policy Center
$490,000 over 1.5 years
Washington, DC – To support work by the National Commission on Energy Policy to determine a feasible mix of low-carbon technologies for the U.S. and recommend policy changes to facilitate their development and deployment.

Carnegie Mellon University
$1,850,000 over 2.5 years
Pittsburgh, PA – To enable a team of investigators at Carnegie Mellon, University of Minnesota, Vermont Law School and other institutions to work with a wide range of stakeholders and experts to design a regulatory structure for the capture, transport and deep geological sequestration of carbon dioxide in the United States.

Clean Air Task Force
$845,000 over 1.5 years
Boston, MA – To create a strategy for investing in public and private research, development and demonstration of technologies that use coal for power generation without adding appreciably to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with a focus on innovative gasification and post-combustion capture pathways. A sub-grant to the Climate Policy Center of Clean Air-Cool Planet will enable that organization to develop specific recommendations for implementing ARPA-E, a recently authorized federal agency aimed at accelerating transformational advances in energy technology.

Energy Foundation
$21 million over 3 years
San Francisco, CA – To support the Energy Foundation’s work in four areas: developing efficient building codes and building technologies in the U.S.; transforming U.S. utility regulation to make efficiency profitable and create vibrant markets for renewable energy; greening China’s building boom; and supporting the Energy Foundation’s core U.S. programs to build strategic flexibility.

Harvard University
$1,460,000 over 3 years
Cambridge, MA – To support work by the Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to develop policy recommendations for an expanded U.S. federal energy-technology innovation endeavor; evaluate the U.S. federal energy research, development, and demonstration budget on an annual basis; and assess energy technology innovation activities in the private sector of the United States, as well as in the public and private sectors of China, India, Japan and Europe.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
$1,987,000 over 2 years
Cambridge, MA – To support a comprehensive assessment by the MIT Industrial Performance Center of the energy technology innovation system in the United States, including recommendations for improvements to federal and state research, development and demonstration policies, as well as mechanisms for early adoption and large-scale deployment of supply and demand-side innovations.

AAAAAAAAAARGH! Can’t they do the most basic research to see that IGCC is going nowhere? All they have to do is read the record for Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project. Here are the costs, sans the elusive and non-existent carbon capture and sequestration from Dr. Amit’s Rebuttal testimony:

Or look at the emissions analysis by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

MPCA – Excelsior Final Emission Comparison

Or read the ALJ Recommendation of Denial:


And if they looked around or even read what Harvard Business School is doing on IGCC, they’d know that Harvard Business School is the author of the scheme to shift risk and cost to state and federal taxpayers and ratepayers rather than the utilities or developers promoting this nonsense — all you have to do is read pages 1-21, it’s really not that complicated and it’s really that disgusting a scheme:

Harvard I – 3 Party Covenant

Here’s the Delaware PSC staff analysis rejecting coal gasification:

Delaware PSC staff – wind/gas combo!

So do some homework, guys, please!

Mounting costs slow the push for clean coal


WASHINGTON — For years, scientists have had a straightforward idea for taming global warming. They want to take the carbon dioxide that spews from coal-burning power plants and pump it back into the ground.

President Bush is for it, and indeed has spent years talking up the virtues of “clean coal.” All three candidates to succeed him favor the approach. So do many other members of Congress. Coal companies are for it. Many environmentalists favor it. Utility executives are practically begging for the technology.

But it has become clear in recent months that the nation’s effort to develop the technique is lagging badly.

In January, the government canceled its support for what was supposed to be a showcase project, a plant at a carefully chosen site in Illinois where there was coal, access to the power grid, and soil underfoot that backers said could hold the carbon dioxide for eons.

Perhaps worse, in the last few months, utility projects in Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota and Washington State that would have made it easier to capture carbon dioxide have all been canceled or thrown into regulatory limbo.

Coal is abundant and cheap, assuring that it will continue to be used. But the failure to start building, testing, tweaking and perfecting carbon capture and storage means that developing the technology may come too late to make coal compatible with limiting global warming.

“It’s a total mess,” said Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Coal’s had a tough year,” said John Lavelle, head of a business at General Electric that makes equipment for processing coal into a form from which carbon can be captured. Many of these projects were derailed by the short-term pressure of rising construction costs. But scientists say the result, unless the situation can be turned around, will be a long-term disaster.

Plans to combat global warming generally assume that continued use of coal for power plants is unavoidable for at least several decades. Therefore, starting as early as 2020, forecasters assume that carbon dioxide emitted by new power plants will have to be captured and stored underground, to cut down on the amount of global-warming gases in the atmosphere.

Yet, simple as the idea may sound, considerable research is still needed to be certain the technique would be safe, effective and affordable.

Scientists need to figure out which kinds of rock and soil formations are best at holding carbon dioxide. They need to be sure the gas will not bubble back to the surface. They need to find optimal designs for new power plants so as to cut costs. And some complex legal questions need to be resolved, such as who would be liable if such a project polluted the groundwater or caused other damage far from the power plant.

Major corporations sense the possibility of a profitable new business, and G.E. signed a partnership on Wednesday with Schlumberger, the oil field services company, to advance the technology of carbon capture and sequestration.

But only a handful of small projects survive, and the recent cancellations mean that most of this work has come to a halt, raising doubts that the technique can be ready any time in the next few decades. And without it, “we’re not going to have much of a chance for stabilizing the climate,” said John Thompson, who oversees work on the issue for the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group.

The fear is that utilities, lacking proven chemical techniques for capturing carbon dioxide and proven methods for storing it underground by the billions of tons per year, will build the next generation of coal plants using existing technology. That would ensure that vast amounts of global warming gases would be pumped into the atmosphere for decades.

The highest-profile failure involved a project known as FutureGen, which President Bush himself announced in 2003: a utility consortium, with subsidies from the government, was going to build a plant in Mattoon, Ill., testing the most advanced techniques for converting coal to a gas, capturing pollutants, and burning the gas for power.

The carbon dioxide would have been compressed and pumped underground into deep soil layers. Monitoring devices would have tested whether any was escaping to the atmosphere.

About $50 million has been spent on FutureGen, about $40 million in federal money and $10 million in private money, to draw up preliminary designs, find a site that had coal, electric transmission and suitable geology, and complete an Environmental Impact Statement, among other steps.

But in January, the government pulled out after projected costs nearly doubled, to $1.8 billion. The government feared the costs would go even higher. A bipartisan effort is afoot on Capitol Hill to save FutureGen, but the project is on life support.

The government had to change its approach, said Clarence Albright Jr., the undersecretary of the Energy Department, to “limit taxpayer exposure to the escalating cost.”

Trying to recover, the Energy Department is trying to cut a deal with a utility that is already planning a new power plant. The government would offer subsidies to add a segment to the plant dedicated to capturing and injecting carbon dioxide, as long as the utility bore much of the risk of cost overruns.

It is unclear whether any utility will agree to such a deal. The power companies, in fact, have been busy pulling back from coal-burning power plants of all types, amid rising costs and political pressure. Utility executives say they do not know of a plant that would qualify for an Energy Department grant as the project is now structured.

Most worrisome to experts on global warming, the utilities have recently been canceling their commitments to a type of plant long seen as a helpful intermediate step toward cleaner coal.

In plants of this type, coal would be gasified and pollutants like mercury, sulfur and soot removed before burning. The plants would be highly efficient, and would therefore emit less carbon dioxide for a given volume of electricity produced, but they would not inject the carbon dioxide into the ground.

But the situation is not hopeless. One new gasification proposal survives in the United States, by Duke Energy for a plant in Edwardsport, Ind.

In Wisconsin, engineers are testing a method that may allow them to bolt machinery for capturing carbon dioxide onto the back of old-style power plants; Sweden, Australia and Denmark are planning similar tests. And German engineers are exploring another approach, one that involves burning coal in pure oxygen, which would produce a clean stream of exhaust gases that could be injected into the ground.

But no project is very far along, and it remains an open question whether techniques for capturing and storing carbon dioxide will be available by the time they are critically needed.

The Electric Power Research Institute, a utility consortium, estimated that it would take as long as 15 years to go from starting a pilot plant to proving the technology will work. The institute has set a goal of having large-scale tests completed by 2020.

“A year ago, that was an aggressive target,” said Steven R. Specker, the president of the institute. “A year has gone by, and now it’s a very aggressive target.”

Enough… I can’t stand it… time to go out in the back yard and clean up the piles and piles of building supplies, lumber, parts, whatnot, work off some of this angst. As my anti-condo-development in Lake City T-shirt says” HOW DENSE CAN WE BE?

Well, there goes OtterTail… they signed a Stipulation and Consent Agreement and have to cough up $546,832 + interest!  Here’s the agreement:

FERC-OtterTail Power Stipulation and Consent Agreement

What did they do?

(1) the improper use of network service to import energy that was used to facilitate off-system sales, and

(2) the improper use of transmission service that provided a superior curtailment priority than appropriate in certain instances.

What does it mean?  They made a bunch of dough by violating FERC rules… oh, nevermind, they said they “neither admitted nor denied that the acts constituted violations of the tariff,” but they’ll cough up the dough.  And here’s an interesting point — FERC let them off on at least one point:

10. Enforcement identified over 64 days during which Otter Tail scheduled delivery of 10,882 MWhs of energy from off-system non-designated short-term purchases, improperly using firm network transmission service instead of secondary network service. However, the advantage this gave Otter Tail is not readily quantifiable, and Enforcement therefore did not seek reimbursement for this violation.

Yup, this was my lucky day, it just appeared in the inbox, a little birdie sent me this Press Release from the Federal Energy Regulatory CommissionFERC:

FERC Approves Two Enforcement Settlements: Duquesne Light, Otter Tail Power

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today approved two stipulation and consent agreements that involve separate investigations by the Office of Enforcement into actions by Duquesne Light Company and Otter Tail Power Company.

The Otter Tail order (IN08-6-000) resolves alleged network transmission service violations by Otter Tail of the Open Access Transmission and Energy Markets Tariff (OATT) of the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (Midwest ISO). Otter Tail admitted it committed the acts in question, which pre-dated the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but neither admitted nor denied that the acts constituted violations of the tariff.  However, it has agreed to disgorge $546,832 in profits, plus interest. Enforcement staff did not seek to impose a compliance monitoring plan on Otter Tail because now that the Midwest ISO’s Day 2 market is operational, its member utilities no longer schedule transmission within the system.

“This package of orders is important,” FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher said. “The Duquesne order shows that the Commission is prepared to allow settlement funds to be used to strengthen corporate compliance programs. The Otter Tail order is a reminder to the regulated community that compliance with the open access transmission tariff is a core regulatory requirement.”

Thank you, little birdie!

OOOOOH, it’s getting HOTTER in here! Citizens Against the Mesaba Project has done a great job of getting the attention of the Legislative Auditor to focus on Iron Range Resources funding of Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba project – a necessary painstaking tedious but none-the-less exciting job well done!

What’s happening? Once again, we see that IGCC is not what it’s cracked up to be. Coal gasification by any other name is as putrid. And what they’ll do to keep the myth going, the money they’ll sink into promoting it, the spin, the hype… the house of cards has yet another card pulled out from under it. It’s everywhere, confirmed in an AP article, it’s showing up all across the state, and by tomorrow nationally??? We can hope. And once again, Tom Micheletti is not having a good day…

(photo – Fair Use stolen from MPR – their report on this is HERE)

Aaron Brown is at it:

You say “review,” I say “audit,” either way, the Iron Range is getting bamboozeled

And it’s hit the STrib:

Minn. auditor investigating Iron Range board complaint

Associated Press

May 28, 2008

HIBBING, Minn. – The Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s office is looking into a complaint about money loaned by Iron Range Resources to Excelsior Energy.

The company is seeking regulatory approval to build a high-tech coal-gasification power plant on the Iron Range.

Brad White with the auditor’s office says investigators are doing a preliminary assessment of the complaint and if it finds something a formal probe could follow.

White did not reveal the source of the complaint, but a resident’s group called Citizens Against the Mesaba Project has issued a press release claiming credit.

The group is working to stop the Excelsior plant. It complains about the processes under which the Iron Range economic group loaned the company millions of dollars.

It also questions how Excelsior has handled public money, including spending on lobbying and undocumented claims for expenses.

Top Excelsior executive Tom Micheletti calls the complaint another fishing expedition by the group, but says his company with cooperate with the auditors.

Another fishing expedition by the group? Naaaah, CAMP did their research a while back, and did theirs back in 2005-2006, and now it’s the Legislative Auditor’s investigation, not fishing expedition.

It’s in the Duluth News Tribune:

Auditor looks at IRR loan to Excelsior

Here’s from the Hibbing paper:

Auditor’s office will review loans
Citizens’ group questions IRR’s oversight

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 9:15 AM CDT
Mike Jennings

ST.PAUL — The Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s office is looking into a complaint raised about money loaned by Iron Range Resources (IRR) to Excelsior Energy, which is seeking regulatory approval to build a coal-gasification power plant on the Iron Range.

The records review is apparently based on questions and concerns raised earlier this year by Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP), a citizens’ group that is working to defeat Excelsior’s proposed Mesaba Energy Project. The project would initially produce 603 megawatts of power, and the company’s preferred site for it is near Taconite.

Brad White, a manager of financial audits for the auditor’s office said, Tuesday that his division is conducting “a preliminary assessment of a complaint” but would not proceed to a formal investigation unless it finds some “point of financial concern.” White said his office had requested records from the IRR and would inform both the IRR and the Legislative Audit Commission, probably by late July or early August, whether it would proceed to a formal investigation.

White did not disclose the source of the complaint, but CAMP issued a news release yesterday saying it had “referred questions and concerns” about IRR loans for the project to the auditor’s office earlier this year. Charlotte Neigh, co-chair of CAMP, said in an interview that CAMP sent “a large package” of information to the auditor’s office in January and was informed by White in March that an audit would be conducted.

White’s statement Tuesday that the auditor’s office is not yet committed to a full investigation “is a change of plan since he wrote to me in March,” Neigh said.

CAMP says that in 2004, IRR excused the company from a requirement that it obtain additional funds from other investors before money from a $1.5 loan the agency approved in 2001 could be disbursed. CAMP also says that in 2004, IRR approved a second loan of $8 million, apparently without having seen any audited financial statements from the company.

In its news release, CAMP says it also raised questions about Excelsior’s lobbying expenditures, invoices reimbursed by IRR that were also reimbursed in part by the federal Department of Energy, undocumented claims for expenses, Excelsior’s classification of workers as independent contractors and consultants and extensions of the due date for an interest payment by the company.

Rep. Tom Anzelc, who joined the IRR board after the loan terms that CAMP is challenging were already in place, said he has questioned the wisdom of granting the loans to Excelsior in the first place and opposes extending the time for Excelsior to make payments on them.

But “I don’t see realistically a payback, unless there is a power plant producing power and making money,” said Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township.

Tom Micheletti, Excelsior’s co-chief executive officer, called the complaint and the response to it by the auditor’s office “another fishing expedition” by CAMP.“ He said his company would help the auditor’s office in any way it could

He also said CAMP’s tactics could prove costly to Minnesota taxpayers.

“And it just seems to me that we’re coming close to a time when they’ve turned over every rock that they can think of to find some dirt on us,” Micheletti said.

“There’s nothing to hide, and I’m sure that the auditor’s going to find that there’s nothing in this,” he said.

This is a good time to remember that quote from Micheletti a while back:

We’ve been straightforward. If we were a bunch of liars we’d have never got this project to where it is today.

– Tom Micheletti, Grand Rapids Herald Review, Nov. 20, 2006.

Coal gasification, IGCC, whatever you call it, it’s under a lot of scrutiny.  But Excelsior Energy’s dealings with Iron Range Resources is even hotter than that!

You’ve read about this before on this blog, years ago (hard to believe) and so It’s coming much later rather than sooner, but ever since sent a Subpoena to Iron Range Resources about Excelsior Energy and the Mesaba Project and got a big BIG box of papers and papers and papers, as well it should, because from the IRR, Excelsior got $9.5 million, and what did they spend it on? Inquiring minds want to know. As a little birdie said long ago, “somebody’s going to jail.” Hmmmmm, perhaps he has a point! What’s going on? Well, the IRR loaned Excelsior a ton of money, with specific ways it could be spent, and specific limitations as to how it could NOT be spent. Here’s the agreement:

MCGP Exhibit 5023 – IRR & Excelsior Convertible Debenture Agreement

A few interesting points from that Agreement that jumped out to me:

  • Have you ever heard of a contract for a $9.5 million loan with 20% interest? See p. 12

Read it and see for yourself. Anyway, wanted to dig around in the IRR’s records, so we started in filing this and that…

Subpoena Request IRR September 7, 2006

Or was it a Data Practices Act request?

IRRB Data Practices Act Request

Letter to IRRRB June 19, 2006

Letter to IRRRB July 26, 2006

Anyway, we got this HUGE box and Ron Gustafson and Linda Castagneri spent a coon’s age putting together this spread sheet wtih a few choice items found in their spending reports. Certain things have always stuck in Ron’s craw, particularly that he never got one of the golf balls… Here’s the spread sheet, and keep in mind that this is not all inclusive of the stuff in that box:

IRR Receipts – Final Review

Back then, the Duluth News Tribune was also digging:

Duluth News Tribune Info Request

So now what? Hee hee hee hee hee hee hee hee

The Legislative Auditor’s office has confirmed that they’re investigating!

Aaron Brown’s Minnesota Brown blog – Confirmed: Complaint prompts legislative auditor to assess Iron Range coal gas project loan

CAMP News Release May 27, 2008

OOOOOOH, it’s getting hot in here…

And then there’s IRR Commissioner Sandy Layman’s penchant for unilateral decisions, like deciding that it was OK if Excelsior Energy didn’t pay their first loan installment…

She’s done that before. Remember that she alone declared that Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project, as proposed for the Taconite site, met the statutory criteria:

(3) that is designated by the commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board as a project that is located in the taconite tax relief area on a site that has substantial real property with adequate infrastructure to support new or expanded development and that has received prior financial and other support from the board.

And unilaterally, Commissioner Sandy Layman declares that both sites meet the criteria!

IRRRB November 7, 2005

Remember this photo from the DOE site trek, where they rode to the site on ATVs as far as they could and hiked the rest of the distance:

Here’s another later site visit, the county:

Yup, dig that infrastructure… challenged Layman’s determination and the PUC backed away from that one real quick, and from the IRR documents we received, we learned Xcel had too:

MCGP Exhibit 5056 – IRR Letter to Xcel\’s Clark 1/26/06

MCGP Exhibit 5057 – IRR Letter to Xcel\’s Clark 3/22/06

So what’s with this Iron Range Resources? Will it continue to be a leading source of corporate welfare? Stay tuned…

EEEEEEEEEE-HA! The Kandioyhi Midtown Eco-Crapper is DEAD!  Well, maybe not dead, but it’s got a stake, a big silver cross, stuck in its ugly slimy heart.

Hot off the press from Barbara Bridgeman, Executive Assistant to David Sparby, CEO & President of NSP-Minnesota (that’s him up there singing praises of his company), some real good and long awaited (dare I say expected?) news:

Northern States Power Company has ended negotiations with Midtown-Eco Energy, LLC, in connection with a proposed biomass plant in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. NSP’s decision was based on a number of factors including its assessment of ongoing system portfolio needs.

It’s about time, but like they say, they have to “negotiate” with everyone, even Excelsior Energy, and Kandiyohi Development is no different.

And of course I sent a jubilant thank you note to Mr. Sparby. Poor guy had to joust with moi and Mr. Muller at the Red Wing Xcel lovefest a couple weeks ago, and we greatly appreciated his willingness to listen.

EEEEEEEEEE-HA! The Kandioyhi Midtown Eco-Crapper is DEAD!