May 29, 2014 – According to Forbes Magazine in an article appearing yesterday they are: American Electric Power Company (AEP) and Duke Energy. AEP is the fifth largest U.S. electricity producer in the United States. Duke is number one. But AEP produced 141,226,882 tons of carbon in 2012 while Duke emitted 134,277,330 tons. Why is this the case? Because both of these companies heavily rely on coal-fired power plants for electricity generation and although they are phasing some of these plants out they still remain wedded to coal with 73% of their generating capacity coming from this fossil fuel.
AEP supplies power to customers in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Texas and the District of Columbia. The company’s sustainability plans state a goal to reduce reliance on coal to 49% by 2026. If you take into consideration that AEP intends to increase its power generating capacity during the next 12 years you can bet that carbon emissions aren’t about to decline and probably will continue to rise.
Duke Energy admits as the largest electric utility company that carbon emissions represent a significant challenge. In their statement on sustainability and climate change the company talks about reducing GHG emissions from generating electricity by 50% by 2030. How? The Vision 2030 Plan which talks about reduced emissions through the retirement of inefficient coal-fired power plants, developing carbon sequestration technology, introducing integrated coal gasification combined cycle technology to create synthetic gas (a technology developed by Germany in the 1930s under the Nazis and one that South Africa relied on under apartheid), and increasing the use of natural gas to generate electricity.
It is interesting that neither company talks about conservation in their vision to address carbon emissions. That is a topic that is sent downstream to the customer who is encouraged to conserve energy. Meanwhile both companies continue to build capacity for anticipated increases in America’s energy needs.
These are just two of many energy producing companies that in their vision show a lack thereof. But on Monday of the coming week President Obama intends to announce rules to curb carbon emissions from the energy generators in the United States. You can bet that the rules will focus on coal-fired power generators largely to restrict the building of any new plants. But will the rules put in place address the 275 million tons of carbon AEP and Duke emitted in 2012 and are probably still emitting annually? And who will police the coal-fired plants? The federal government? The state governments? You can bet that whatever is announced will not change the behavior of AEP or Duke, or impact them in any significant way. These companies will continue to pollute and contribute GHGs to the atmosphere on an enormous scale.
Take a look at the map below. The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States has its work cut out for it if it hopes to address carbon emissions now and in the future. And with the type of initiatives and regulations the President plans to announce on Monday, reducing CO2 produced by the power companies won’t be easy. In fact I strongly believe they won’t work but the sound bites will resonate.