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Letter: Replace Dunkirk plant with renewable energy

Replace Dunkirk plant with renewable energy

The July 18 News editorial favors the switch from coal to natural gas (methane) at the Dunkirk power plant. Methane would be cleaner because less sulfur dioxide and “other pollutants” are produced during its combustion.

While burning cleaner than coal, methane has huge problems. Cornell’s Tony Ingraffea and colleagues point out that methane has greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide because unburned methane escaping to the atmosphere (fugitive methane) at various points in the production process acts as a very powerful greenhouse gas. Methane has about a 90-fold greater global warming potential than coal-derived carbon dioxide.

Much of the methane used at Dunkirk will come from hydrofracked shale. In a recent interview on, Cooperstown resident Louis W. Allstadt – a former vice president of Mobil Oil overseeing Mobil’s oil/gas production in the United States and Latin America and its integration with Exxon – agrees with Ingraffea’s findings.

Allstadt also warns the structural integrity of hydrofracking wells will fail over time and release fugitive methane into the atmosphere. It’s not a question of if, but when. Allstadt continues, “I think we have wasted a lot of time that should have gone into seriously looking into and developing alternative energies. And we need to stop wasting that time and get going on it.”

President Obama recognized the problem of fugitive methane in his speech on climate change.

Let the Public Service Commission heed Ingraffea, Allstadt and President Obama and consider replacing the Dunkirk coal plant generating capacity with renewable sources of energy. Such a conversion would help limit climate change and provide many long-term jobs and a tax base for Dunkirk.

Charley Bowman

Interim Executive Director

Western NY Peace Center