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After Michael Morris met with the West Virginia Coal Association's directors at The Greenbrier last Thursday, I asked him what his message was.

"Collectively we have an educational challenge to help the body politic understand that coal has to play in the message for cost-effective electricity necessary to fuel economic growth," said Morris, who is American Electric Power's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "It's probably the same message President Bush made" at the association's meeting earlier the same day, he said.

Charleston Daily Mail: August 7, 2008-- After Michael Morris met with the West Virginia Coal Association's directors at The Greenbrier last Thursday, I asked him what his message was.

"Collectively we have an educational challenge to help the body politic understand that coal has to play in the message for cost-effective electricity necessary to fuel economic growth," said Morris, who is American Electric Power's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "It's probably the same message President Bush made" at the association's meeting earlier the same day, he said.

"I think the Democratic leadership in Washington is much more inclined to believe there's an easy answer here," Morris said. "I carve out Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and some others. He's probably the most informed member of the House. He understands the challenge and is working diligently to prepare the nation for a cap-and-trade program and carbon capture and storage."

"I would argue Sen. (Jeff) Bingaman (D-N.M.) understands," Morris said. "But Sen. (Harry) Reid (D-Nev., the Senate Majority Leader) believes we can do this (meet the nation's energy needs) by improving efficiency and using solar energy. House Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi (D-Calif.) thinks it can be done magically and by efficiency and other things. The truth is we need to do all these things. But more importantly, we need an energy policy that is based on the reality that coal is going to play a role in 2010, 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050. Coal is clearly going to be burned in the world."

Morris has staked AEP's plans for future generating capacity on Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle or IGCC technology.

"There is no question we continue to believe that is the most cost efficient, environmentally responsible way to build a new coal power plant," he said Thursday.

But the Virginia State Corporation Commission turned down a request to have AEP's Virginia customers share the construction cost of the company's proposed IGCC plant in Mason County. The commission said AEP's $2.23 billion cost estimate dates back to 2006 and is not credible.

Asked about the plant's status, Morris said: "We're still hoping to find the answer. We need a constructive answer from the Virginia State Corporation Commission. We've not given up but we don't know how you get that."

Morris said he doesn't want to stir a controversy but the federal Department of Energy made an "absolutely silly decision" in January when it scrapped FutureGen, a next-generation, coal-fired plant that was to have near-zero emissions.

The department's Jeffrey Kupfer said last week that the agency scrapped FutureGen because it was a single lab-type project.

"It was not a lab project," Morris said. "It was a serious scaled project that was moving forward." There was some unawareness that the cost had escalated "but you'd have had to be asleep not to realize construction costs went up from 2000 to the present," he said.

Instead of FutureGen, the Department of Energy is seeking proposals for several carbon capture and storage projects. Morris said AEP has applied to conduct one of those projects. 


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