Citing the need for a national clean energy standard, NRG Energy Inc. CEO David Crane lashed out (again) Wednesday at what he calls the "tyranny of natural gas" as part of his pitch for Congress to consider not only a national renewable energy standard, but a clean energy standard including all zero-emission options, such as nuclear generating plants.

Crane made his gas remarks as part of the question-and-answer period on a conference call in which he announced that NRG was taking a lead equity, $300 million interest in the $2 billion BrightSource Energy Ivanpah solar thermal project in the Southern California desert region about 250 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Saying he was misquoted on the subject in the past, Crane nevertheless proceeded to repeat his lament on the "tyranny of gas," meaning that industry experts left to their own devices might believe that wholesale prices are going to stay at their current depressed levels forever.

"We emphatically do not believe that at NRG," Crane said. "Like a lot of people do in the power industry, if you think prices won't rise, then you wouldn't be able to build anything but natural gas-fired plants.

"From our perspective that would be huge mistake for our country, both in terms of fuel diversity and in term of the environment. While natural gas is a lot cleaner than coal, it still emits carbon into the atmosphere."

Crane said the need for state and federal renewable standards is "more pressing than ever," and this has to be a key motivator for the renewable sector.

"The one point about the California renewable portfolio standard [RPS] that is so important, and that will become relevant as we move into the next Congress as we move into another discussion about the need for a national and state RPS standards, is the fact that the current state of natural gas prices cannot forever stay at current low levels."

NRG would like to see a national clean energy standard in which new nuclear plants could be included and win government subsidies. There is a crying need to "carve out a market" away from natural gas," Crane said. "Otherwise we are going to repeat the same mistake this country made from 1998 to 2002 where when we expanded the nation's generation capacity by 25% it was mostly through new gas-fired generation, building nothing but gas-fired power plants."

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