The U.S. should use more natural gas to generate electricity and shun new “clean-energy” subsidies given for nuclear reactors, wind turbines, solar panels and coal-fired plants that capture carbon dioxide, Exelon Corp. CEO John Rowe said in prepared remarks for a speech today, according to a Bloomberg News report.
Higher U.S. production of natural gas “has already jump-started the transition to clean energy” and there is “no need for expensive mandates and subsidies” to support other technologies, Rowe said in remarks for a talk at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Chicago-based Exelon is the largest U.S. nuclear-power producer. The company says on its website that its owned power generation breaks down this way: nuclear, 93 percent; coal, 5 percent; oil, 1 percent; natural gas, 1 percent; and renewables (wind, solar, hydro), 1 percent.
While natural gas is a tiny part of Exelon's generation portfolio, the company has two natural gas-fired generation plants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area--the Handley plant in east Fort Worth, on the north edge of Lake Arlington, and the Mountain Creek plant in southwest Dallas.
Exelon previously applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a site for a new nuclear power generation plant near Victoria in South Texas. But the company later said it would not build on the site unless business conditions change. Exelon said that, with low prices for natural gas and the lack of a policy putting a charge on carbon dioxide emissions, it does not want to build a reactor there, according to a Dec. 25 New York Times report published in the Star-Telegram.
Natural gas futures have fallen to less than $4 per million British thermal units from about $13.50 in July 2008. At current prices, expanding gas-fired electricity generation costs $69 to $82 a megawatt-hour, compared with more than $100 a megawatt-hour for newly built wind, nuclear, solar and “clean coal,” Rowe said.
Rowe, who also supported cap-and-trade legislation, said new energy legislation isn’t needed to cut carbon emissions now that the U.S. has access to “cheap” natural gas, according to the Bloomberg report.
Power plants fueled with natural gas produce about 55 percent less carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity than coal-fired generators, Rowe said. Many older coal plants will probably close due to tougher Environmental Protection Agency rules for pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and mercury, Rowe said. Gas-fired generation can be increased to replace the retired coal plants, he said.
--Jack Z. Smith