Used to an industry, coal mining, in which canaries were exploited for their sensitivity to dangerous air, it might be a little ironic to suggest that American Electric Power has become the canary in the most gaseous, noxious, and foul environment of all: climate debate.
Last week AEP announced it will abandon plans to capture carbon dioxide emitted from its relatively new (31 year-old) Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in West Virginia. Having already sunk $100 million private dollars into the CCS project, and expecting $334m more federal dollars, it was a surprise, and yet it wasn't a surprise that AEP backed off. The reason is that it gave up on a childish Congress coming up with any climate plan to price carbon, which CCS needs desperately to be economical.
AEP CEO Michael Morris, originally a lawyer, is one of the most forward-thinking power chiefs in the world. To turn around the biggest carbon dioxide-emitting firm in the world and make it approach the next century as if it will be a carbon-limited one, is like turning an aircraft carrier around on a dime. For the head of the company that could absorb the largest cost of all from carbon pricing to call for carbon pricing, is not just forward-thinking, it is, incredibly, the right thing. A puerile Congress could use someone like Morris.