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Posted on on March 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Op-Ed Columnist

A Real Carbon Solution

{please allow for Chutzpah – we tend to put a question mark at the end of the title.  (?) }

Published: March 15, 2013   ///   121 Comments

Sometime this summer, in Odessa, Tex., the Summit Power Group plans to break ground on a $2.5 billion coal gasification power plant. Summit has named this the Texas Clean Energy Project. With good reason.

Part of the promise of this power plant is its use of gasified coal; because the gasification process doesn’t burn the coal, it makes for far cleaner energy than a traditional coal-fired plant.

But another reason this plant — and a handful of similar plants — has such enormous potential is that it will capture some 90 percent of the facility’s already reduced carbon emissions. Some of those carbon emissions will be used to make fertilizer.
The rest will be sold to the oil industry, which will push it into the ground, as part of a process called enhanced oil recovery.

Let us count the potential benefits if plants like this became commonplace. Currently, some 40 percent of carbon emissions come from power plants. The carbon-capture process Summit will employ “is the only technology that can reduce CO2 emissions from existing, stationary sources by up to 90 percent,” said Judi Greenwald of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
To put it another way, this technology could be a climate-saver.

Second: Environmentalists could call off their war against the coal industry, thus saving tens of thousands of jobs, as climate-destroying coal-fired plants were replaced by clean coal gasification plants.

Third: Gas-fired power plants, which already emit 50 percent less carbon than coal-fired plants, could become even cleaner if they included the carbon-capture technology.

Fourth: Using carbon emissions to recover previously ungettable oil has the potential to unlock vast untapped American reserves. Last year, ExxonMobil reported that enhanced oil recovery would allow it to extend the life of a single oil field in West Texas by 20 years.

Fifth: China. Too often, American environmentalists ignore the reality that the Chinese are far more concerned with economic growth than climate change. (And who can blame them? All they want is what we already have.) The Chinese are relentlessly building coal-fired power plants, which Western environmentalists couldn’t stop even if they tried. But if power plants like Summit’s — which will turn CO2 into profitable products — were to gain momentum, that would likely catch China’s attention. A reduction of carbon emissions from Chinese power plants would do far more to help reverse climate change than — dare I say it? — blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Summit executive most closely associated with the Texas Clean Energy Project is Laura Miller. Her environmental credentials are unimpeachable. As the mayor of Dallas in 2006, Miller founded the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition to fight a plan by TXU Energy, a big power company, to build 11 new coal-fired plants. During a trip to Europe, she saw both coal gasification and carbon-capture technologies being used. When she left the mayor’s office, she signed up with Summit and became a passionate advocate of the Odessa plant.

Eric Redman, the president and chief executive of Summit Power, describes her as “the public face of the project.” (As a young man, by the way, Redman wrote one of the classic works about Congress, “The Dance of Legislation.” It’s still worth reading.)

So who could possibly be against coal gasification and carbon capture? Ratepayers, for one, mainly because carbon-capture technology is so expensive. In 2011, American Electric Power, or A.E.P., canceled a big carbon-capture project, in part because it was clear that state regulators were not going to allow the company to pass on the additional costs to its customers.

To help make the project economically viable, the Texas Clean Energy Project is getting a $450 million grant from the Department of Energy. (Absurdly, the Internal Revenue Service is requiring Summit to pay taxes on the federal grant, which means that a third of it will go right back to the government.) But if the plant proves successful — as I believe it will — and others replicate it, the costs will inevitably come down, and federal help won’t likely be needed.

And the other opponent? None other than Bill McKibben, Mr. “Stop Keystone” himself. When I e-mailed him to ask whether he supported carbon-capture for enhanced oil recovery, he replied that if carbon were sent back into the ground “the worst possible thing to do with it is to get more oil above ground.” He continued, “It’s time to keep oil in the earth, not to mention gas and coal.”

To me, at least, his answer suggests that his crusade has blinded him to the real problem. The enemy is not fossil fuels; it is the damage that is done because of the way we use fossil fuels.

If we can find a way to create clean energy from fossil fuels, then they can become (as they used to say) part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Thankfully, Laura Miller and Eric Redman understand that, even if Bill McKibben doesn’t.

Laura Miller (born 1958) served as mayor of Dallas, Texas (U.S.) from 2002 through 2007. She did not run for re-election in the 2007 mayoral race. She was the third woman to serve as mayor of Dallas.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Miller attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison and spent the early part of her career as a journalist. As a journalist, Miller worked as a staff writer for The Miami Herald and The Dallas Morning News and then as a columnist for the New York Daily News and the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald. In 1991, Miller became an investigative reporter for the Dallas Observer and then a columnist for D Magazine.

In 1998, Miller was elected to the Dallas City Council representing Oak Cliff and southwest Dallas. In 1998, Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments which effectively eradicated the cancer.

In 2002, Miller was elected as Mayor of Dallas, replacing Ron Kirk who left the post to run for the United States Senate position vacated by retiring Texas Senator Phil Gramm.

She fought for and won approval of a strengthened smoking ban, an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a revamped public housing system, a $23 million homeless assistance center, major changes to the city’s Trinity River Corridor improvement plan and a taxpayer-funded downtown redevelopment effort.

She participated in an agreement between American Airlines, the City of Fort Worth, DFW Airport and Southwest Airlines to revise the federal flight restrictions at Love Field Airport, which involved: replacing geographic limitations on Love Field service with: flight caps determined by a limitation on the number of gates allowed at Love Field, restrictions on the rights of any new air carrier to service North Texas via any airport other than DFW Airport, and banning international commercial air travel at Love Field. The unique agreement and resulting oligopoly required an exemption from federal antitrust laws, which Miller also successfully helped obtain.

David Levey, executive vice president for Forest City Enterprises, credited Miller for reviving a $250 million deal to renovate downtown’s long vacant Mercantile National Bank Building.

During her term, the Dallas Cowboys announced plans to build Cowboys Stadium and many citizens hoped it would be built in Dallas. The city and the Dallas Cowboys, however, failed to reach a deal and the stadium was built in Arlington.

She announced parade plans for the Dallas Mavericks championship in 2006, prior to the Mavericks losing four straight games and ultimately the NBA championship to the Miami Heat in six games.

Miller was succeeded in office by Republican Tom Leppert.

Laura Miller serves as Director of Projects, Texas,[3] for Summit Power Group, a Seattle-based developer of wind, solar and gas-fired power plants. Summit was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive a $350 million cost-sharing award to build the world’s first IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) clean-coal power plant located near Odessa, Texas. The low-emissions project, called the Texas Clean Energy Project, is projected to capture just under 3 million tons a year of carbon dioxide, which will be used for enhanced oil recovery in the West Texas Permian Basin.[4]

Miller’s other environmental accomplishments included the formation and co-leading (with former Houston mayor Bill White) of the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition, made up of 36 cities, counties and school districts in Texas that opposed the construction of 11 coal plants (which would have used older technology) by TXU, a Dallas-based energy company. Ultimately, TXU (now called Energy Future Holdings) officially suspended its plans to build eight of the eleven plants.[5] As a result of these efforts, Miller won a 2008 Climate Protection Award from the Environmental Protection Agency for this nationally-recognized effort,[6] which has been memorialized in a documentary film, produced and narrated by Robert Redford, and entitled “Fighting Goliath: The Texas Coal Wars.”

Miller is married to Dallas attorney and former Texas State Representative Steven D. Wolens, is Principal at McKool Smith, Dallas,  TX  U.S.A., and was described by Texas Monthly as the “House’s most dreaded foe, and most welcome ally,” He was best known for ushering in Senate Bill 7, deregulating Texas energy markets.  His legal practice areas are given as “Government/Cities/Municipalities (70%), Business Litigation (30%)” which seem to have overlapped his wife’s activities – but surely – in Texas everything is possible.

He is one of the Texas “Super-Lawyers” and was called one of the ten best legislators in Texas. They have two daughters, Alex and Lily, and a son, Max.


Eric Redman, (born 1948, Palo Alto, California), is an a businessman with experience on Capitol Hill.

Redman was legislative assistant to the late Senator Warren G. Magnuson, Democrat of Washington State, who was with the Senate Commerce Committe, and served most of his years in the Senate along with Senator Henry Jackson, his friend, and fellow American Nationalist. Redman worked with Magnuson for two years circa 1971.[1]  He wrote then the book “The Dance of Legislation”, a descriptive account of a single bill establishing the National Health Service Corps along its two-year trip through Congress.[2]

The book was initially published in 1973, with a second edition in 2001. Redman has also written for a variety of other publications such as the New York Times,[3] the Washington Post,[4][5] Open Spaces,[6] and others,  and was once a Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone.[7] His article on the climate effects of soot, “A Dirty Little Secret,” appeared in the May–June 2005 issue of Legal Affairs.[


His interest in the effects of SOOT – which he called A Dirty Secret, are a give away when the issue is man caused Climate Change – it seems he was eager finding other reasons for global warming like the speakers for the Heartland Institute used to do. No, the issue is not that black particles of man caused soot are not a source of global warming, but that they are the reason to displace CO2 emissions as a suspect, are the reason for our comment.

Redman studied at Harvard College (1966–1970), was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and studied at Oxford University (1970–1971),[1] then he experienced work on Capitol Hill, after which he and obtained a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1975.[9] He joined the law firm Heller Ehrman LLP in 1983, and founded the firm’s Energy Practice Group.[10]

Redman left the legal practice  for business after specializing in public policy and energy law for more than 30 years. He is currently President of Summit Power Group Inc,[11][12] a Seattle-based developer of wind, solar, gas-fired, and carbon-capture power plants. Summit is currently developing the Texas Clean Energy Project in Odessa, Texas. That is obviously the reason of his present advocacy.


Joseph “Joe” Nocera ( 1952 in Providence, Rhode Island)  is a sterling American business journalist and author. He became a business columnist for The New York Times in April 2005. In March 2011, Nocera became a regular opinion columnist for The Times’ Op-Ed page, writing on Tuesdays and Saturdays.[2] Nocera is also a business commentator for NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon.

Prior to joining The New York Times, Nocera worked at Fortune from 1995 to 2005, in a variety of positions, finally as editorial director.

Nocera was the “Profit Motive” columnist at GQ from 1990 to 1995, and wrote the same column for Esquire from 1988 to 1990.

In the 1980s, Nocera was an editor at Newsweek; an executive editor of New England Monthly; and a senior editor at Texas Monthly. In the late 1970s he was an editor at The Washington Monthly.

Go to Columnist Page »    ///     Joe Nocera’s Blog »    ///   Related in Opinion:  More on the Environment »    ///    Read All Comments (121) »

Mr. Nocera is a clear profit motive journalist with connections to Texas – we do not doubt his writing skills, but we wonder if the subject at hand got the full investigative scrutiny it deserves.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 16, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: A Real Carbon Solution.
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