Leader Blues

Friday, October 10, 2008

EDITORIAL >>Global warming and Arkansas

Study commissions in Arkansas have a long and dreary history of fostering government assistance to any kind of business development. So it was refreshing to read that the Governor’s Commission on Global Warming, a creature of the 2007 legislature, chose the broader public interest over investor profits.

The commission recommended that Arkansas build no more coal-fired generating plants until the power industry develops ways to burn coal cleanly. “Clean coal” is the advertising mantra of the coal and power industries, but coal is not clean. It is the dirtiest of all fuels. It is the biggest producer of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the world, and the United States is the biggest producer. We do our share in Arkansas. The three coal plants pump 58 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, and a molecule of CO2 hangs around for 50 to 200 years.

Another 6 million tons of the poison a year will be lofted into the atmosphere when Southwestern Electric Power Co. opens its power plant at McNab for business. That is more than the exhausts from all the cars, trucks and tractors in the state.
One day, the industry will perfect the technology of sequestering carbon dioxide emissions deep underground, but that day is not at hand.

Some members of the commission and the industry say the commission was meddling by addressing the issue of coal plants.

But as the chairman, state Rep. Kathy Webb of Little Rock said, how can you have a commission on global warming and not address the biggest contributor to climate change in the world?

Gov. Beebe has taken no position on the coal plant at McNab, at least outwardly, declining to use his bully pulpit to influence either of the state agencies under his command that must provide permits for the plant. The state Public Service Commission granted a permit but the Department of Environmental Quality continues to sit on it. But it seems clear enough that it will follow suit. Its commission overwhelmingly scotched a rule change to begin to regulate carbon dioxide. The environmental commission is stacked with industry backers and environmental concerns always take a back seat to development.

Gov. Beebe could say the word, as governors in other states have done, and Arkansas and the world would be saved from another 6 million tons of carbon poisoning a year. His Commission on Global Warming has given him the cover to do it. Let’s hope he takes it.