Monday, December 12, 2005

Schwarzenegger's many positions on coal

Environmentalist Santa Claus may be leaving a lump of coal for the Governor...or maybe not. The future is uncertain.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the environmentalist, hates the pollution caused when coal is burned to make electricity.

But Schwarzenegger, the businessman, likes the low-cost, plentiful electrons produced by coal-fired generators from Wyoming to Nevada.

Over the last year, the governor has enthusiastically embraced both positions, issuing seemingly contradictory executive decrees, legal agreements and statements. Now he's getting pressure from pro- and anti-coal factions in his administration and across the West to reconcile his stances. All the vying parties hope to influence energy policy in California, the region's biggest electricity market.

The governor, like others in the state, has a split personality on coal, said Gary Ackerman, executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum, an industry group for electricity sellers. "They want the cheap power and they also want renewables" such as wind and solar energy, which are more expensive.

The Schwarzenegger administration's mixed message on whether to support Western coal has at varying times worried and buoyed environmentalists, California businesses and officials in coal-rich neighboring states. All have hefty stakes in what the governor decides.