Tall Tales of Clean Coal

30 01 2009

Clean coal does not exist. All plants currently using coal to produce electricity emit CO2 as a byproduct.

Throughout the Obama/Biden campaign our president vowed to “develop five ‘first-of-a-kind’ commercial scale coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture and sequestration technology.” Clean coal plan. I am an Obama supporter, but this claim is unfeasible. Not only will this technology cost extraordinary amounts of money to develop, but after the byproducts from burning coal are “captured and sequestered,” then where do they go?

What happens when those captured byproducts escape? On Dec. 22, 2008 several residents of Knoxville, TN found out first-hand. The Associated Press reported the spill, “sent 1.1 billion gallons of ash and sludge into a rural neighborhood surrounding the plant.” Not only did this mess take about $1 million per day to clean up, but ash containing radium and arsenic were released — both of which can “have serious health implications.”

Furthermore, the EIA (environmental information administration) does not predict any decrease in CO2 emission for the next 15+ years. To see this forecast click here and choose the spreadsheet on the left labeled co2.

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2 responses

4 02 2009
pat k

Well I agree that clean coal is a bit of a misnomer. The fact is, however, that the United States gets about 55% of its electricity from coal fire plants. Unless a move to nuclear is spearheaded by this administration I have to doubt coal is going anywhere.
In terms of where the co2 emissions can be stored there are a few ideas. One is the sea floor which uses the weight of the deep ocean to sequester and compress the co2 until a later date when it can be processed. Another is the great sandstone canyons in Utah, Nevada and Arizona where the co2 can be pumped under the sandstone, which acts as a natural barrier, until the future. Texas has done the same thing to store vast natural gas reserves in large underground rock formations.
These ideas, however, are relatively short term and probably should be used as interim remedies while the nation attempts to switch to greener energy solutions.

9 02 2009
katynally

Hi Pat,
Yes, it’s true that coal provided about 50 percent of the energy used in the U.S., but I still think steps should be made to look for a replacement energy source. Coal plants are the largest polluter in the U.S. and I think a comparable energy source is possible if more time and money were invested in researching it. I would prefer to invest in engineering cleaner energies than trying to find new ways to store fossil fuel waste.

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