Grim Fairy Tales: Myths That Enable Our Addiction to Coal


Location: 129 DeBartolo Hall

Michael Hogan, Power Programme Director for the European Climate Foundation, will give a lecture for the Energy Center on the myths that fuel our addiction to coal based energy.

There’s too much scientific uncertainty about climate change to justify drastic action. “Business as usual” with “incremental change” is the low-cost option. Coal is plentiful and cheap. Renewables are intermittent and unreliable. “Clean coal” technology will solve coal’s “climate” problem. China won’t act, so it doesn’t matter what we do. For the foreseeable future there is no alternative to coal if we want to maintain our standard of living. These are some of the seductive storylines promoted by the coal industry and by many utilities. Sadly, efforts to promote alternatives have also been plagued by unhelpful myths, such as the belief that if we simply build enough wind farms we won’t need any coal plants, or that if we put a price on carbon the market will deliver the solution. Nearly the entire range of plausible climate outcomes encompasses unprecedented threats to our national security. The remaining debates within the scientific community – over the fact of disruptive climate change, whether we are driving it, and whether we can mitigate it – all now take place within a range of probabilities that puts us well beyond the point where it is also a defining moral challenge. There are alternatives; they are commercially viable now or can be within a decade; they are not cheap but they are surprisingly affordable; they are probably not what you think; and we have no more time to waste.

Mr. Hogan began his career in 1980 with GE’s Power Systems business. Beginning in 1988, he helped build the J. Makowski Co. in Boston into a leading U.S. private power developer. After selling the company in 1994, he and other JMC executives founded private power developer InterGen. He spent the next seven years in London leading the growth of InterGen’s regional business unit, successfully developing, financing and operating 8,000MW of greenfield power plants across the U.K., the Netherlands, Egypt and Turkey. He returned to the U.S. to lead InterGen’s North American business in 2001 and 2002, after which he joined Centrica’s North American affiliate Direct Energy, based in Toronto, as head of its upstream gas and power businesses. He holds an MBA from Harvard and an SM from MIT in Planning, and a BA in Philosophy and a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

Sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Energy Center

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