Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Southern Company CEO Slams Gas

Thomas Fanning is less well known than Josh Fox, despite heading the largest by some measures electric utility in the USA, the Southern Company. Fanning and Fox both don't much like gas, though Josh is opposed to using all fossil fuels and that would include the large amounts of coal that Southern Company burns in some plants with poor pollution controls.

Despite operating some of the biggest, dirtiest coal fired power plants that emit pollution that can sicken and kill many, Fanning thinks environmental concerns about shale gas could stall gas production. Fanning is also aggressively lobbying to delay the proposed EPA Air Toxic Rule and other EPA rules that require a clean up of his dirty plants and would save up to 34,000 lives.

Fanning knows that natural gas plants meet the EPA rules and are much cleaner than his coal units, but anything goes in the world of lobbying and spin.

Fanning also warns about the USA increasing the use of natural gas for electricity from its current 25% level, while coal provides 43%. He worries about gas price shocks ahead and suggests insufficient pipeline capacity will prevent gas from reaching markets.

Fanning made his views known in an interview in the Financial Times. Fortunately Fanning does not speak for the entire electricity industry. Indeed Exelon and Calpine are just two major power producers that are defending the EPA Proposed Air Toxic Rule.

In the face of attacks like those launched by Mr. Fanning and others in some coal companies, the near total silence from the gas industry about the proposed EPA Air Toxic Rule remains bewildering.

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