Opinion Columns & Blogs

Another View: Americans find climate policy confusing because of muddled messaging

Peter Miller of the Natural Resources Defense Council was wrong in his op-ed (“Methane offsets for coal mines are a bad fit for this state and clean energy law,” Oct. 25). The mine methane offset protocol does not benefit coal mines. Coal mine owners want to steer clear of any regulatory carbon policies, and that includes offset projects.

Specialized, small, independent project developers – not mines – develop and own these projects. To date, coal mines have not implemented a single mine methane capture (MMC) offset project, and they are unlikely to do so. In fact, project developers have to persuade very reluctant mine owners to let these efforts go forward.

Coal mine owners are not naturally inclined to be project developers because the core business of coal companies is mining coal.

Consequently, offset revenue goes to developers who assume the risk of developing projects – not mines. Developers are entrepreneurs with technological and carbon project expertise.

I am an MMC developer based in California. And a highly specialized MMC project component is manufactured exclusively in California. Some of the funds from these projects will be used to develop new materials, new skills, and new equipment, which will find its way into other pollution controls benefiting California.

Miller incorrectly writes that this offset protocol will provide a new revenue stream to mines. Even at extremely gassy mines, 100 tons of coal might produce just one offset, which equals $10. Likewise, the same 100 tons of coal would produce $5,000 for the mine. Consequently, there is no incentive for the mine to develop offset technologies for that additional $10.

Given all this, it is surprising that Miller is objecting to the very mine methane offset protocol he supported as a Climate Action Reserve board member.

We surmise that this is a not-too-thinly veiled ploy on NRDC’s part to encourage federal regulation of mine methane emission rather than allow California to create an offset protocol. However, President Barack Obama recently made clear that his administration does not intend to regulate coal mine methane any time soon.

Would Miller rather let this potent greenhouse gas escape into the atmosphere unabated? This kind of muddled messaging on the part of some misguided members of the movement helps to explain why so many Americans find climate policy so confusing.