Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Clean Coal Myth

Seems like I find myself talking more and more about coal.

The good news from Texas is that the giant coal plants that the Governor with the Good Hair has fast tracked were just slowed down by one liberal judge from Austin.

Here is part of the story.

Local Ranchers Move To Block Coal Plants In Texas
The Huffington Post
Melinda Henneberger
February 21, 2007

WACO -- On the eve of hearings on six of the 11 coal-burning power plants that TXU wants to build in a hurry across the state, a judge in Austin ruled that Governor Rick Perry never had the authority to fast-track permits for the new plants in the first place.

It is unclear whether Goliath will stay dead. But at a rally of nearly 1,000 opponents of the TXU plan at the Waco Convention Center Tuesday night, a local rancher who filed the lawsuit that led to the temporary injunction got a long standing ovation.

"Here we are, a little old group from Riesel, Texas, and we sued the Governor and won,'' said the rancher, Robert Cervenka. If the new plants were built, "I'd have four right around my house.'' They would also double CO2 emissions in Texas, which already emits more of the greenhouse gas than any other state in the country.

"I feel like a pyromaniac who lit the spark that started the blaze,'' Cervenka exulted, and pulled a copy of the late afternoon ruling by District Court Judge Stephen Yelenosky from his coat pocket.

Almost immediately after it was issued, though, the Republican Governor's spokesman suggested that "a single liberal Austin judge'' was not the ultimate arbiter in the case. Both TXU and their opponents still plan to show up for the scheduled hearing on the permits in Austin on Wednesday. more

The bad news is this.

There is this growing meme out there that we can dig up coal, combust it into the biosphere, and then put the carbon back, and everything will be just hunky-dory. Even my piano tuner thinks clean coal is better than ugly wind turbines. I told him there is no such thing as clean coal. It's a myth. A fiction of those who intend to make big profits at our expense.

You're probably thinking, some folks must think it is possible. Otherwise, why would all of these smart people say that this is what we should do. I should remind you that, at one time, everyone also thought that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Here is part of a story that captures part of the real truth.

Cleaner Coal Is Attracting Some Doubts
The Ledger
Matthew Wald

Within the next few years, power companies are planning to build about 150 coal plants to meet growing electricity demands. Despite expectations that global warming rules are coming, almost none of the plants will be built to capture the thousands of tons of carbon dioxide that burning coal spews into the atmosphere.

Environmentalists are worried, but they put their faith in a technology that gasifies the coal before burning. Such plants are designed, they say, to be more adaptable to separating the carbon and storing it underground.

Most utility officials counter that the gasification approach is more expensive and less reliable, but they say there is no need to worry because their tried-and-true method, known as pulverized coal, can also be equipped later with hardware to capture the global warming gas.

But now, influential technical experts are casting doubts on both approaches.

“The phrases ‘capture ready’ and ‘capture capable’ are somewhat controversial,” said Revis James, the director of the energy technology assessment center at the Electric Power Research Institute. “It’s not like you just leave a footprint for some new equipment.”

A major new study by faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scheduled for release soon, concludes in a draft version that it is not clear which technology — the so-called integrated gasification combined cycle or pulverized coal — will allow for the easiest carbon capture, because so much engineering work remains to be done."

"So much engineering work needs to be done"?

You mean we are basing our entire electrical future on a technology that does not exist except in very small scale, and it has not even been demonstrated at the scale we plan to build?

Yep, you got it Sherlock.

The story goes onto say,

“It will work,” Randy Zwirn, the chief executive of Siemens Power Generation, said of the ability to separate carbon from a gasified coal plant. “The question is, Can it be done economically?” more

And the answer is no.

Non-Clean Clean Coal will be more expensive than a blend of central station solar, distributed third generation solar, and large scale wind, with ultra capacitor/hydrogen turbine/unified energy system back-up.

And it won't be clean. And it won't be affordable.

And you can't take nerve poisons like mercury that are found in the coal out of the ground and then bring them into the biosphere without those poisons ultimately finding their way into the biosphere. (that would be you)

This world move into this fiction of "affordable clean coal" is as great a folly and as insane as the coalition of the willing's move into Iraq.

Only this time, we won't be able to pull out.

We'll have squandered our resources

and the precious time we have left,

to rescue our climate,

and our children.


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Blogger Alex Smith said...

Yes, coal is the talk of the town. I have a decent radio show on Prof Mark Jaccard, a clean coal advocate. He says we will use it anyway. Check it out at (a non-profit 24 hour green radio station and audio download site).

9:23 PM  

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