Coal plant would be 'waste of money'
Jan 10, 2008 - McClatchy-Tribune
Regional News - Dave DeWitte The Gazette, Cedar Rapids,
One of the world's top climate scientists
says a new coal-fired power plant planned for Marshalltown
would be a waste of money because it will soon be
necessary to close such coal-burning facilities to
save the earth's climate.
James Hansen, an Iowa native who heads
NASA's Goddard Space Center in the Manhattan borough
of New York, is expected to testify as a private citizen
before the Iowa Utilities Board next week in opposition
to Alliant Energy's proposed Marshalltown power plant.
"It would be a tremendous waste of
money to put money into coal-fired power plants at
this time, because it has become clear that we're
going to need to phase out coal use where it is not
possible to capture and sequester the carbon dioxide,"
Coal plants being constructed now will
never be able to fill out their useful lives because
the government will be forced to regulate them out
of existence, Hansen said.
Alliant Energy has said that it will
design the 600-megawatt Marshalltown plant so that
carbon sequestration technology can be installed at
a later date. The total cost of the plant, shared
by Alliant and other participants, will be about $1.5
Carbon sequestration separates carbon
gases from the plant's emissions and stores or "sequesters"
them through techniques such as injection into underground
But Hansen said the cost of carbon sequestration
will be so high that it will make the proposed new
Alliant plant economically unfeasible. While utilities
planning coal-fired plants say they will add carbon
sequestration when the technology improves, they would
not build the plants if they were required to fully
commit to begin sequestering carbon at a specific
date, Hansen claimed.
Alliant Energy spokesman Ryan Stensland
said the new power plant's supercritical boiler will
be "perhaps the most efficient coal-fired generating
unit ever built in Iowa." He said Alliant would not
be designing the plant for carbon sequestration if
it had no plans to use that capability.
In addition to those features, Stensland
said the power plant would incorporate hybrid technology
capable of burning renewable fuels such as switch
grass with coal.
Hansen said power companies that are
trying to build new coal generation plants now are
ignoring important scientific findings that will soon
Hansen said he is using his annual leave
time to speak as a private citizen in Iowa at his
own expense. He has been asked to speak by a coalition
including Cedar Rapids-based environmental law center
The impact of global warming on Iowa
will be less than on some regions, Hansen said, but
will still involve increased frequency of flooding
and droughts, and higher temperatures. All states
will bear the costs of coastal flooding and species
extinction elsewhere, he said.
Hansen will speak briefly at 7 p.m.
Jan. 17 at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St., Iowa City,
and will make a longer presentation at 3:30 p.m. Jan.
17 at Room 104 of the Iowa Advanced Technology Labs
next to the Iowa Memorial Union on the University
of Iowa campus.
Contact the writer: (319) 398-8317 or