In this climate fight will Big Fossil Fuel, it is hard and rare to have a clear-cut victory. The last time we did a podcast episode with Mike on 7/12/22, his group was fighting to prevent a closing coal-based power plant in Farmington, New Mexico from reinventing itself to keep open using the questionable technology of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). This was described a June 29, 2022 High Country News article. A company named Enchant led this effort with the backing of financial groups to force this unproven technology through to keep the highly polluting plant open. Once they could not raise enough money privately, they were trying to get federal money to keep the plant going. However, this did not work out and the activists like Mike kept pushing to stop it. Last month, Enchant abandoned its efforts. We wanted to have Mike back on the program to explain what led to the closing of this plant for good and to explore and celebrate the loss of one less coal power plant.
Mike points out that this project was billed as a “demonstration project”, intended to show the potential of carbon capture and sequestration as an approach to combatting climate change. Back in December of 2021, the General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report titled, “Carbon Capture and Storage: Actions Needed to Improve DOE Management of Demonstration Projects” which showed essentially no success among demonstration projects. Of eight projects, for which we, as taxpayers, paid $684 million, only one achieved operational status. That one plant operated for only three years, closing due to economic infeasibility.
Eisenfeld questioned when DOE and companies promoting these projects will be held accountable for this poor track record. Within the aforementioned report, DOE was described as addressing this by creating a dedicated Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations. After waiting nearly a year, the Biden administration appointed David Crane, the CEO of NRG, the company in charge of Petra Nova, one of the failed carbon capture projects described in the GAO report.
Climate Money Watchdog will be following up on this and other appointments relevant to environmental spending.