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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Texas Fold 'Em?

Air Date: Week of

Jennifer Krill is the Program Director for the Rainforest Action Network. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

Many environmentalists have hailed the recent buyout of Texas power company TXU as good for the future of green energy. But some groups are skeptical of the transaction. Host Bruce Gellerman speaks with Rainforest Action Network's Jennifer Krill about the TXU deal.


GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Bruce Gellerman. In the spirit of”if you can’t beat em join em” increasingly, large U.S. companies are cooperating with environmental groups on controversial projects.

The latest is the 38 billion dollar deal to acquire Texas energy company TXU. The firms mounting the buyout have teamed up with Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense and agreed to cut back on the number of coal burning power plants the company wants to build from eleven to three. But not all environmental groups are buying into the deal. Jennifer Krill is director of Rainforest Action Network’s climate change campaign and she joins us from the studios of KQED in San Francisco.

Jennifer, glad you’re here.

KRILL: Thanks so much.

GELLERMAN: So what’s your problem with the TXU deal?

KRILL: Well we think honestly that three plants are three coal fired power plants too many. We're thrilled, believe me, we're thrilled to see that eight plants are now off the table. The challenge for all of us now is to get rid of those remaining three power plants.

Jennifer Krill is the Program Director for the Rainforest Action Network. (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

GELLERMAN: Mmm Hmm and how would you propose doing that? I mean these other environmental groups seem satisfied with the three.

KRILL: Our primary focus at Rainforest Action Network is to get Wall Street to stop funding these proposals. The original TXU plant included an 11 billion dollar syndicated loan from a number of Wall Street firms. And the message that we're sending to Wall Street investors now, you know banks like Citigroup and Goldman Sacks and J P Morgan Chase, these banks hold the purse strings for the coal fired power plants that are being proposed in the United States today. We're telling Wall Street no new coal. It's time for Wall Street to write a new plan for America's energy future.

GELLERMAN: What does Rainforest Action Network plan to do if they do in fact get these three coal fired power plants built?

KRILL: Well, there's going to be a lot of campaigning that’s gonna take place between now and that happening and I think we've got a good chance of stopping those three power plants. Our focus is Wall Street. What we need is a transition to investments in energy efficiency, solar, and wind power. Ironically TXU is one of the top wind retailers in Texas and in fact in the entire country. So here with TXU you have a company that is both the problem and the solution. We need a little bit more of that solution. This is the twenty first century. We can't afford to keep building big boxes of coal to meet our energy needs. It's time to transition towards meeting our future energy needs with energy efficiency and renewables.

GELLERMAN: You know, Jennifer, wind is not without its opponents and not without its problems. There's what 5,000 megawatts of installed wind power in Texas. This Oak Grove coal plant will produce 1750 megawatts. You're going to need thousands of more wind turbines to replace that.

KRILL: The alternative to wind to be clear is 22 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, tons of annual emissions of mercury, local air pollutants, SOx, NOx, health problems for the people who live around those coal power plants. If you were to add all of the externalized costs of these coal fired power plants it would make wind seem much more appealing, and in Texas in particular it has been noted by energy experts from all around the world, there is a tremendous amount of untapped wind power potential. There's also untapped solar potential. And what's more there is a tremendous opportunity for energy efficiency. And you know what? Energy efficiency saves ratepayers money. And that's part of the reason that so many Texans are opposing these coal fired power plants. And in fact so many Texans oppose new coal in general.

GELLERMAN: Jennifer, this seems to be a water shed both in, um, the environmental movement and in the Wall Street finance backing of companies.

KRILL: We think it is a watershed moment. We think that in 2007 we're seeing the first nail in big coal's coffin.

GELLERMAN: Jennifer thank you very much.

KRILL: Thank you very much.

GELLERMAN: Jennifer Krill directs Rainforest Action Network’s climate change campaign. We also spoke with the Sierra Club about the TXU deal. You can hear their perspective. Go to our website l-o-e dot org.

[MUSIC: Thomas Leeb “The Winds Are Changing” from ‘Riddle’ (Thomas Leeb - 2005)]



Rainforest Action Network

To hear an interview with David Hamilton, Director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program, click here.


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