Monday, September 29, 2008

Clean Coal: Oxymoron or a Dirty Lie

Oklahoma's Grand Riverkeeper, Earl Hatley, signs his emails with the statement that Clean Coal is a Dirty Lie. In this weeks edition of High Country News, Greg Gordon says that it is an oxymoron. Take your pick.

Here is what I just do not understand. Politicians toss off the term "clean coal" is if it were just another grade, like anthracite or bituminous. However, the idea is much more than that. Mostly, they are talking about finding a way to sequester the carbon dioxide that comes from the combustion of coal.

So far, there are no power plants in existence that sequester the CO2. It would be an expensive process and the costs would have to be passed on to the customers, mostly utility rate payers. The Federal Government had a project called FutureGen run out of the Dept of Energy. Federal funding of that project was killed because it was costing too much money (needed for the Bush Wars).
FutureGen is a public-private partnership to build a first-of-its-kind coal-fueled, near-zero emissions power plant. The FutureGen plant will cost approximately US $1.5 billion to develop. It will use cutting-edge technologies to generate electricity while capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide deep beneath the earth. The plant will also produce hydrogen and byproducts for possible use by other industries.

When politicians, like McCain, stand up and talk about the future of renewable energy needing large government subsidies, for which there is no money, they have already made decisions about Coal. The fact that the tentative site for this first of its kind plant is Matoon, IL probably has something to do with the favor that seems to have with Obama.

Even if they can meet the Alliance's schedule, this is still very for out when compared with the overriding need to halt the increase in emissions now.


Anonymous said...

We need better science education so that politicians will not be able to get votes with industry marketing slogans like "clean coal". We also need a stable civil service layer that survives political administrations, staffed with bureaucrats that have advanced degrees, and to which the politicians defer.

There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to burn energy of all kinds until we can't afford it anymore. This might take a few more generations, but when it is over, all the carbon in our recoverable oil and coal reserves will be in the atmosphere. Perhaps we will revert to a more pre-historic climate. Those ugly strip mines will be repopulated with pioneering species and the earth will recover.

We could direct our technology towards sustainable living and medical research and develop a future society that was solar based and disease free. More likely we will slowly revert back to subsistence living (perhaps 100 years from now) like we saw a hundred years ago -- burning wood, outhouses, rural living and the like. The era of cheap energy is over.

As for "Dirty Lie", it certainly is a cynical ploy on the part of the politicians and the coal industry to exploit the ignorance of Americans. Maybe "healthy nuclear", and "mountain grooming" for strip mines are next.

Wes said...

I like the euphemisms you suggest. That goes along with the Clean Air proposals from the Bush Admin and his Healthy Forests Initiative.