Clean Coal. Everyone’s talking about it. Well, every politician in America is talking about it, at least. And I can’t blame them. Being able to clean up and fully utilize North America’s most abundant energy resource is very enticing. But is it possible?
You may have seen commercials recently for ThisIsReality.org that poke fun at the coal industry for being in ‘denial’ about coal. “There’s no such thing as clean coal”.
Listen, I’m as liberal as they come. ThisIsReality.org has the planet’s best interests at heart, but have really lowered themselves by bending facts and making generalizations. They have a page devoted to the “Facts” of clean coal; little one-liners from various groups that make coal seem awful.
I was originally planning to write about PurGen, a new CCS power plant being proposed for Linden, NJ. After visiting ThisIsReality.org, however, I feel compelled to respond to their “facts” about clean coal.
Burning coal is a leading source of global warming pollution.
Coal is a leading source of global warming pollution, but also generates over half of the electricity in the US. It is also consumed more than any other energy source internationally. (www.eia.doe.gov)
Burning coal is the dirtiest way we produce electricity.
This is true. Everyone knows that coal is dirty now. Coal contains more carbon per unit energy than any other fuel. When energy is released from coal, CO2 is formed. This is unavoidable. Clean coal, in concept, takes this CO2, captures it, and stores it somewhere. CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) is completely novel at the scale necessary to make a dent into coal CO2 emissions.
There are no homes in America powered by “clean” coal.
This is the equivalent of saying that NASA should never have developed a space program because “not a single human being has ever been to the moon”. As I just mentioned, CCS and clean coal technologies are new and have not been implemented in the United States yet. Several projects do exist internationally, however.
CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-based electricity are greater than emissions from all the cars and trucks in America.
I really hate baseless comparisons like this. Cow farts release more greenhouse gasses than all the cars and trucks in America.
The coal industry is spending millions advertising “clean” coal, but not a single “clean” coal power plant exists in the U.S. today.
In no small part due to close-minded organizations like ThisIsReality.org.
While you might have heard the phrase ‘clean’ coal during the presidential campaign, it’s actually an oxymoron.
This is a quote from Brian Williams on NBC news. Oh! Well if Brian Williams says so…. it must be true!
There are roughly 600 coal plants producing electricity in the U.S. Not one of them captures and stores its global warming pollution.
You already said this.
‘Clean’ coal is like a healthy cigarette.
Nice analogy, but the quote is from an environmental law attorney from South Carolina. He’s probably won a lot of lawsuits saying things like this.
There is not a single large-scale demonstration “clean” coal plant in the U.S. today.
Third time saying this.
Virtually all the new coal plants that have been proposed will, just like their predecessors, release 100 percent of the CO2 they produce into the atmosphere, where it will linger—and contribute to global warming.
This one might be the worst. Its taken from a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists about coal power and it’s future. The exact quote is taken from the section of the report discussing NON-CCS plants. The report actually RECOMMENDS that CCS demonstration projects be implemented throughout the United States.
Although carbon sequestration has been the subject of considerable research and analysis, it has yet to be demonstrated in the form of commercial-scale, fully integrated projects at coal-fired power plants.
Same source as the last “fact”. This is not a defeatist statement. This is a hopeful statement. They want these projects to be demonstrated. In fact, several CCS projects already exist internationally (although admittedly not at the scale we need).
An investment in wind power produces nearly four times as many jobs as the same investment in coal power. And an investment in solar PV power produces almost twice as many jobs, and building retrofits, more than seven times as many jobs as coal power.
The first “fact” to actually show some merit! This is arguable, but I’m willing to concede this fact to them.
We don’t have a plant here in the United States today that has commercially installed carbon capture technology.
Without the price on greenhouse gas emissions that is delivered by cap-and-trade mechanisms, CO2 capture and storage will remain a daydream.
Agreed. CCS is not economically viable unless a dollar value is added to carbon emissions. This in no way demerits CCS’ potential.
I’m not trying to say that CCS is the end-all be-all miracle cure for all of our energy problems. In fact, I really don’t think CCS will make a huge impact at scale. Coal is still and will always be our dirtiest fuel source. The point is that I’m being open-minded and willing to look at the facts, the science, the past experience of CCS projects. I’m willing to look at the fact that China is putting up a new coal-fired plant every 2 weeks. The coal’s going to get burnt. Why not use it as efficiently and cleanly as we possibly can?
Anyone who blindly rejects coal as the ‘cigarette’ of energy sources simply does not know that much about energy. Period.
Next post will be more engineer-y. I promise.