Friday, May 25, 2007

Capitol Power Plant Not The Only Source of Carbon Dioxide

The Washington Post reported what we already know: the Capitol Power Plant uses coal but produces no electricity. It should be a cogenerator and should produce electricity. That would be the best carbon dioxide offset for the facility regardless of the fuel source. Of course, when we toured the facility about 15 years ago we were told it was cheaper to buy the electricity from PEPCO. Yet those Mirant-owned plants (sold by PEPCO) use coal too. Coal seems to be an important fuel source for powering the U.S. Capitol and the rest of America. Cogenerate. Use super critical boilers. It is ironic that the Capitol Power Plant began providing electricity in 1910; but today, it only provides steam for heating and chilled water for cooling buildings within the Capitol Complex.
Congress approved a huge expansion of the Capitol Power Plant (see our photos--new cooling section on the right in each picture) to accomodate the Capitol Visitor Center that is behind schedule and way over budget. Why is the House even talking about doing anything without agreement from the Senate and the Executive Branch? The article stated that the Senate used about 316,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal 2006 (equivalent to 57,455 cars) while the daily House operations generated 91,000 tons of greenhouse gases in 2006 (equal to 17,200 cars).

The 3 million vehicles in the Washington Metropolitan Area (WMA) should also be on Congress' radar screen if they are serious about reducing carbon dioxide in this region. About a million of those vehicles travel into the District every day. What about legislation to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards? The WMA is still a Clean Air Act nonattainment area and it has been 35 years since that bill passed. And what about the homes. They spew carbon dioxide too. So coal and the Capitol Power Plant are not the global warming problem.

Maximum utilization of innovative technologies and techniques combined with a mix of energy sources can mitigate global warming without harming our economy. Switching from coal to natural gas would only save 50% on carbon dioxide and would cost much more. Congress should be positioning the U.S. to partner with India and China to utilize technology to mitigate global warming. A symbolic fuel switch will do nothing about the problem. But the Senate voted 95-0, including Senator Kerry, against even considering the Kyoto Protocol (a bad idea anyway). Either Congress should get serious about global warming or it should stop contributing to it by blowing more hot air.

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