Politicians Prefer Coal Smokestacks

State Democrats are behind the push for NRG’s clean coal gasification plant currently under review by the PSC. Their backbone, the deep pockets of labor organizations, is firmly behind the NRG proposal. Currently the Delaware Democratic party is the party of dominance of the moment, having most of the statewide offices firmly in their grasp, and possessing a majority of the state senate as well.

That may change if the NRG proposal goes through. Republicans, quiet now, are salivating over the real possibility they have of seizing the high ground on a issue supported by over 90% of Delaware voters. Their hope is that Democrats will remain too myopic to sense the greater picture, and in attempting to pay back Labor, their long time supporters, they will antagonize an electorate electrified by the idea of going green.

Those of you who think this cannot happen, do not understand Delaware nor its politics.

If one could imagine a dear friend or next door neighbor, always supporting you in times of need, bringing food while you were too depressed to cook, offering to watch your children so you could sneak a few hours rest, or shoveling your snow and then refusing payment, actually coming to you and asking for a favor,…….. you begin to understand Delaware politics. The favor is not a big one, really, it is just a small favor. At least it was a small favor when they initially asked it……..

This scenario describes the emotional bond between organized labor and Delawarean Democrats. These are the folks who carried Biden over Boggs……These are also those guys who drove those pickups plaquered with bumper stickers calling for the “Impeachment of Carper.” (yeah, it was sort of a joke, but it sent the message: don’t mess with labor.) These are the reasons Castle continues his sole Republican reign as the single Congressman of this great state. ( See it does cross both ways.) They are responsible for Coons, and most of New Castle County Council. Those males handing out campaign literature at the polls every election, are often piped in from Jersey and Pennsylvania, and if you ask them about their candidate, they’ll tell you, they don’t know……….Yes, the Dem’s definitely owe Labor…..

Labor sees the coal plant as the means to employ many in the building trades who are slowly being laid off as the housing building boom wanes. They have a valid point. People need jobs.

But a more important issue to those of us still working is our family’s future health. As energy requirements take larger and larger bites out of business’ and family’s incomes, one of the areas from which these dollar amounts can be recouped, is medical expenses. But Delaware leads the nation in cancer. Breathing NRG power plant fumes certainly does not increase our healthiness.

This is the dilemma facing long term Democrats. Which is the stronger force: the economic well being of their strongest supporters within the building trades, or the health and well being of every voter in the state…………………………………….?

Bluewater Wind which has support from ninety percent of the electorate, still faces strong internal political opposition to their wind proposal.

Katherine Ellison in a piece titled Gone with the Wind, writes:

Last June, six months before power-plant bids were officially due, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and NRG Energy, based in New Jersey, released a joint statement announcing NRG would “move forward” with a “state of the art” 630-megawatt coal plant for approximately $1.5 billion. The plant would use “clean coal” technology, also known as IGCC, or integrated gasification combined cycle, which converts coal to gas before burning it. ”

In fairness, wind generation was not an available option to be considered at that time. Clean coal still had favorable buzz at the time.

Minner, a Democrat, is on record as being convinced that human-caused carbon emissions are contributing to climate change. Under her leadership, Delaware in 2005 joined a multistate effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What makes her embrace of “clean coal” rather odd is that her own administration calculates that the IGCC plant would emit 475 tons an hour of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas.

Two other factors make it less odd. First, NRG already owns a coal plant on southern Delaware’s Indian River — a facility, dating back to the 1950s, that is one of the state’s leading sources of pollution, belching acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions. NRG has been fighting state regulators’ recent orders to clean it up, but as part of the deal with Minner, it has promised to patch things up and close the oldest part of the plant. Nor, most likely, did it hurt that NRG’s lobbyist, Mike Houghton, has been a major fundraiser for Minner and other state Democrats — so major that he was given a special award at the party’s annual dinner last year.

Perhaps you are more politically savvy than moi but I have no idea where Mike Houghton could have possibly found that money. But the bottom line is this: the more one learns of local politics, the worse it looks for wind.

For not only does NRG seem to have an inside track with the Governor of the second smallest state, but of the four commissions that will be making the energy decision, three of the four heads are appointed by Minner.

Again according to Katherine Ellison, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author:

Her press department and chief of staff declined or ignored repeated requests for an interview. Houghton also declined comment, other than to say he saw no conflict in his dual role.

Minner isn’t alone in paving the way for coal. Also in June, Delaware’s two U.S. Senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper — both Democrats, and Rep. Mike Castle, a Republican, wrote to the U.S. Department of Energy to support federal tax breaks for the proposed new coal plant.

Is Delaware getting sold out from underneath 90% of its citizens. Republicans certainly hope so………….

But again in fairness one needs to respect the time line. Notice all the events happened in June of last year.

Things changed.

Like Minner, all three pols are on record as concerned about climate change. But it took Willett Kempton, (an associate professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware) — who bristles with impatience over what he calls “a lack of policy response wildly out of sync with what scientists are saying” — to do something to make climate change an issue in the state’s choice of power. Last summer, he and his university colleague, Jeremy Firestone, took the unusual step of personally calling offshore wind developers to invite them to compete.

Among a half dozen entrepreneurs they called, Mandelstam of BlueWater Wind took up the challenge, rushing to prepare his bid in time for the December deadline. He’s been “educating” ever since.

Due to the excitement surrounding the proposed wind farm. the electorate has become “pro Wind”. This caught incumbent Democrats by surprise. Only one, the far sighted Jack Markell, has jumped on the bandwagon for clean energy. This has put him, at least among Progressives, far ahead in the polls over Carney for the next potential governor.

It is interesting that bloggers and forums have contributed much of the research that now supports both the economical and environmental benefits of BlueWater Wind’s turbines. This has caused serious concern within the backwaters of Legislative Hall and the Governors office, and although not one of the staffers has yet opposed their boss by recommending the obvious, that the NRG proposal is dead in the water, they are all thinking it.

There are few issues that “electrify an electorate.” like energy. Perhaps we are all jumpy because of the recent political energy decision that cost us dearly last May. But ANYONE, who continues to support a policy that is 1) dangerously more expensive to its citizens, and 2) extremely damaging to the environment, will be wearing the political equivalent of a cross hairs on their chest, with ninety percent of the electorate’s fingers slowly squeezing upon the trigger……………………….

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