B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘coal’ tag

Clean Coal Myth

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There really isn’t any such thing as clean coal, well, other than a marketing tool utilized by energy company hacks to greenwash coal, one of the dirtiest energy sources ever created. Clean coal might be created in the future, but then again, so might cold fusion1. Or robots with bees in their mouths.

Satanic Gift



I hope Barack Obama and Joe Biden will alter their campaign positions supporting clean coal, but I’m not holding my breath.

Withered and Died

From Greenpeace:

Coal washing results in the formation of large quantities of slurry. This is placed in waste piles. Rain drains through the piles, picking up pollutants which end up in rivers and streams. This runoff is acidic and contains heavy metals.

Between 7 and 30 percent of coal consists of non-combustible material that just has to be eventually disposed of. “Clean coal” technologies attempt to trap these waste products before they leave the smokestalks; waste material that is trapped is then used (despite containing a number of toxic elements) or dumped as landfill.

The use of higher quality coal – lower in ash and sulphur should reduce emissions and increase efficiency, but thermal efficiency is increased by only one percent. If clean coal is used to meet the increased electricity demand predicitions of govenments instead of cleaner renewable alternatives, there will in fact be a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) mercury and its compounds are highly toxic and pose a ‘global environmental threat to humans and wildlife.’ Exposure to it has been associated with serious neurological and developmental damage to humans. The report also states that coal-fired power and heat production is the largest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions. According to the Coal Utilization Research Council ‘there are no commercial technologies available for mercury capture at coal-fuelled power plants’. Furthermore, a US Department of Energy commissioned report, states that the consistent, long-term performance of mercury control has yet to be demonstrated. Experimental removal of mercury is prohibitively expensive at $761,000/kg mercury removed and even then 10% of the mercury still remains.

Despite $5.2 billion of investment in the US alone , clean coal research has been plagued with difficulties. For example, of the 13 clean coal projects that the US General Accounting Office looked at, eight had serious delays or financial problems – six were behind schedule by 2-7 years and two were bankrupt and will not be completed.

The operators of the $297 million Healy Clean Coal project in the USA intend to retrofit the current clean coal plant with traditional technologies. The plant has been closed since January 2000 because safe, reliable and economical operation was not possible with the experimental technology.

Hidden Social and Environmental Costs

Social and environmental problems caused by the use of coal begin at the point where coal is mined. Mine workers are at great risk of death, injury and illness. Local communities suffer from land degradation and pollution and in many cases are forced to relocate.

At a coal-fired power plant, coal is pulverised and burnt in a high temperature furnace. Various toxic gases and tiny particles are released from the furnace into the smokestalks; pollution devices are used to try to trap pollutants before they are released into the atmosphere. The use and disposal of solid wastes trapped in the furnace and the release of gases and fine particles from the smokestacks have severe impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and people’s health.

  1. note, not the cold fusion discovered by Kevin Gugan late at night at Guff House after he had been up for weeks at a time snorting speed. Ok, getting off point here. []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Clean Coal is not cheap

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Failure of leadership means money for desert wars, not for reducing carbon emissions.

For years, scientists have had a straightforward idea for taming global warming. They want to take the carbon dioxide that spews from coal-burning power plants and pump it back into the ground.

President Bush is for it, and indeed has spent years talking up the virtues of “clean coal.” All three candidates to succeed him favor the approach. So do many other members of Congress. Coal companies are for it. Many environmentalists favor it. Utility executives are practically begging for the technology.

But it has become clear in recent months that the nation’s effort to develop the technique is lagging badly.

In January, the government canceled its support for what was supposed to be a showcase project, a plant at a carefully chosen site in Illinois where there was coal, access to the power grid, and soil underfoot that backers said could hold the carbon dioxide for eons.

Perhaps worse, in the last few months, utility projects in Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota and Washington State that would have made it easier to capture carbon dioxide have all been canceled or thrown into regulatory limbo.

Coal is abundant and cheap, assuring that it will continue to be used. But the failure to start building, testing, tweaking and perfecting carbon capture and storage means that developing the technology may come too late to make coal compatible with limiting global warming.

“It’s a total mess,” said Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

[From The Energy Challenge – Mounting Costs Slow the Push for Clean Coal – Series – NYTimes.com]

Lets hope Obama’s friendship with energy companies like Exelon won’t impede research funds into cleaner coal when he wins in 2009.

But only a handful of small projects survive, and the recent cancellations mean that most of this work has come to a halt, raising doubts that the technique can be ready any time in the next few decades. And without it, “we’re not going to have much of a chance for stabilizing the climate,” said John Thompson, who oversees work on the issue for the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group.

The fear is that utilities, lacking proven chemical techniques for capturing carbon dioxide and proven methods for storing it underground by the billions of tons per year, will build the next generation of coal plants using existing technology. That would ensure that vast amounts of global warming gases would be pumped into the atmosphere for decades.

The highest-profile failure involved a project known as FutureGen, which President Bush himself announced in 2003: a utility consortium, with subsidies from the government, was going to build a plant in Mattoon, Ill., testing the most advanced techniques for converting coal to a gas, capturing pollutants, and burning the gas for power.

Seems like besides a failure of political leadership, energy companies are milking taxpayer funds for their own purposes.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 29th, 2008 at 10:43 pm

Posted in politics

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