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Troubled Indiana gasification plant begins operation

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A new coal-gasification power plant in southern Indiana that's been hounded by cost overruns and ethical scandals has started commercial operation, Duke Energy said Monday.

Duke Energy said that its $3.5 billion, high-tech 618-megawatt plant near Vincennes will produce 10 times as much power as a former plant but emit about 70 percent less pollution, The Indianapolis Star reported.

While Duke boasts the plant is one of the largest, cleanest coal-fired power generating facilities in the world, the project has drawn strong criticism as its price tag ballooned from its original 2007 cost estimate of $1.9 billion.

It has also been the focus of an ethical flap after company officials and regulators were found to be discussing the cost overruns in secret meetings, prompting several firings and resignations. Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels fired the state utility commission's chairman amid the fallout.

"Coal has powered Indiana for more than a century," said Duke Energy Indiana President Doug Esamann. "But today's air quality standards require us to use that fuel in a cleaner, more efficient way. Edwardsport turns coal into a cleaner-burning fuel and enables us to continue using an abundant local resource."

The plant is expected to build up to its long-term level of production over the next 15 months. It is expected to employ about 140 full-time workers. About 3,500 workers took part in the plant's construction.

Duke's 790,000 Indiana electricity consumers are expected to see an increase in their monthly bills of 14 percent to 16 percent by early next year, 9 percent of which has already occurred.

Duke is Indiana's largest electric utility, operating in 69 of the state's 92 counties. Duke has 4 million electric customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, along with 500,000 natural gas customers in Ohio and Kentucky.

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  1. You are correct that Obamacare requires health insurance policies to include richer benefits and protects patients who get sick. That's what I was getting at when I wrote above, "That’s because Obamacare required insurers to take all customers, regardless of their health status, and also established a floor on how skimpy the benefits paid for by health plans could be." I think it's vital to know exactly how much the essential health benefits are costing over previous policies. Unless we know the cost of the law, we can't do a cost-benefit analysis. Taxes were raised in order to offset a 31% rise in health insurance premiums, an increase that paid for richer benefits. Are those richer benefits worth that much or not? That's the question we need to answer. This study at least gets us started on doing so.

  2. *5 employees per floor. Either way its ridiculous.

  3. Jim, thanks for always ready my stuff and providing thoughtful comments. I am sure that someone more familiar with research design and methods could take issue with Kowalski's study. I thought it was of considerable value, however, because so far we have been crediting Obamacare for all the gains in coverage and all price increases, neither of which is entirely fair. This is at least a rigorous attempt to sort things out. Maybe a quixotic attempt, but it's one of the first ones I've seen try to do it in a sophisticated way.

  4. In addition to rewriting history, the paper (or at least your summary of it) ignores that Obamacare policies now must provide "essential health benefits". Maybe Mr Wall has always been insured in a group plan but even group plans had holes you could drive a truck through, like the Colts defensive line last night. Individual plans were even worse. So, when you come up with a study that factors that in, let me know, otherwise the numbers are garbage.

  5. You guys are absolutely right: Cummins should build a massive 80-story high rise, and give each employee 5 floors. Or, I suppose they could always rent out the top floors if they wanted, since downtown office space is bursting at the seams (http://www.ibj.com/article?articleId=49481).

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