Ameren is Asked to Press Fight on Global Warming
Environmental and consumer groups turned up the heat on Ameren Corp. on Tuesday in a bid to persuade the utility to do more to combat global warming.
St. Louis-based Ameren is the seventh-largest source of carbon-dioxide emissions among electric utilities, according to an analysis of government data by Clear the Air, a coalition of environmental groups. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
"Ameren is one of the nation's biggest contributors to global warming, and that means the company bears a special responsibility to help address the issue," Rebecca Stanfield, an environmental lawyer with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement.
The groups want Ameren to follow the lead of utilities such as Cinergy Corp. of Cincinnati that support some national restriction on carbon-dioxide emissions. Currently, the gas isn't a regulated pollutant. Several bills pending in Congress would create a cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions over time.
Daniel Cole, senior vice president of administration for Ameren, said the company is taking a measured approach to the climate-change issue.
"There are some who are in the 'just-say-no' camp" when it comes to addressing global warming, Cole said. "They don't believe it, and they don't accept it. We don't think that's reasonable. Others are in the 'hard-constraints' camp. We don't think that's reasonable either."
Ameren supports voluntary measures to reduce carbon dioxide, such as a proposal by President George W. Bush's administration to reduce "carbon intensity" by 18 percent by 2012.
Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each dollar of the gross domestic product. The measure would allow overall carbon-dioxide emissions to increase as the economy grows.
Ameren is working on increasing power generated from nuclear, hydropower and renewable sources and on making coal-fired power more efficient, Cole said. The company also contributes to planting trees, which store excess carbon from the atmosphere.
Kathy Andria, president of the American Bottom Conservancy in East St. Louis, said it was laughable that a company with billions of dollars of assets would be proud of spending $100,000 to plant trees.
The environmental groups released their statement on the same day as the Ameren shareholders' annual meeting, saying shareholders ultimately will pay the price if the company fails to address climate change.
At the meeting at the St. Louis Art Museum, Ameren's shareholders overwhelmingly defeated an unrelated proposal by several groups of Catholic nuns who've tried for years to force the utility to prepare a report detailing the risks of storing spent fuel rods at its Callaway County nuclear power plant.
Ameren had recommended that shareholders reject the proposal. The utility said risks outlined by the nuns are not well grounded, and the report would be an unnecessary expense.
Jeffrey Tomich of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
TOP 10 CARBON-DIOXIDE-EMITTING UTILITIES, 2003
1. American Electric Power -- 219 million tons
2. Southern Co. -- 169 million tons
3. Xcel Energy -- 107 million tons
4. Tennessee Valley Authority -- 104 million tons
5. Cinergy -- 64 million tons
6. Progress Energy -- 59 million tons
7. Ameren -- 58 million tons
8. Reliant Resources -- 57 million tons
9. Edison International -- 57 million tons
10. ScottishPower -- 51 million tons
Source: Analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data by Clear the Air, a coalition of environmental groups
HOW ENVIRO GROUPS WANT AMEREN TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE:
1. Support federal legislation to cap and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.
2. Support development of cleaner power-generation technology.
3. Reduce demand through energy efficiency.
4. Develop new technologies to absorb carbon dioxide.
WHAT AMEREN IS DOING TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE:
1. Backing voluntary programs to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.
2. Increasing generation at nuclear and hydropower plants, which create less air pollution.
3. Developing renewable energy sources, such as biomass.
4. Planting trees and considering other carbon-sequestration projects.
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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News