Greenwashing Big Coal

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Updated below

A reader sent in these ads pimping the White Stallion coal plant. They’re running in the local newspapers in and around Bay City.

White Stallion ad

White Stallion ad

This is typical Big Coal propaganda, trying to spin a polluting project as some sort-of economic and environmental godsend.

In addition to preying on people’s desperation while mangling the King’s English (“Matagorda County has seen tough times before but you may not have seen better times than those ahead”) the ads contain two ridiculous assertions.

1) White Stallion will “lower electric bills to Matagorda County businesses and residents.”

If you buy that, I’ve got some beachfront property in Lubbock to sell you too.

A power plant isn’t like a new Walmart Supercenter selling cheap goods locally.

If built, White Stallion will be putting electricity into a state-wide electric grid and selling power in a fully-deregulated market. Given the scope of Texas’ power sector, a new coal plant, even a big one like White Stallion, is likely to have a negligible effect on people’s utility bills anywhere in the state, much less in Bay City.

2) White Stallion “will generate electricity cleaner than all other coal plants in Texas.”

Um, no. As I reported previously:

The estimated emissions put White Stallion in the middle of the pack compared with Texas’ 11 other proposed coal plants—better in some respects, worse in others, but still much dirtier than natural gas, wind, solar, or nuclear energy sources.

And as TexasVox notes, White Stallion is so clean that it will increase Matagorda County’s NOx emissions (the key ingredient in smog) by only one-third.

Update: It turns out that Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald will only support White Stallion if it’s “the cleanest coal plant there is” and does “no harm to our environment and air quality.”

I don’t know about you but a 1,200-megawatt coal plant that’s expected to annually emit about 10 million tons of carbon dioxide, 5,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 4,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, 1,600 tons of particulate matter and 100 pounds of mercury doesn’t sound zero-impact to me.

Nonetheless, McDonald has some ugly words for Matagorda County rice farmers who’ve teamed up with Public Citizen to oppose White Stallion and the South Texas Project’s nuclear expansion.

I do hope that our rice farmers understand that they have aligned themselves with a professional group of protestors in Public Citizen, who oppose anything they are paid enough to argue against. 

Smitty Smith has made a career of protesting against anything and everything that does not fit his Austin group’s views.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.