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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Your Energy Future Is In Good Hands

Britain has solved the problem of burning coal without emitting "greenhouse gases." According to The Independent, cutting edge technology called Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) will be fitted on every new coal burning power plant:

CCS, which takes power stations' carbon dioxide waste gas, liquefies it and stores it permanently deep underground, instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere where it helps drive global warming, would henceforth be a requisite for any new British coal-fired power plant ....

CCS is the foundation of Britain's new "green" energy policy, according to the article, and represents "the technological 'fix' on which the world's chances of fighting climate change may come to depend."

What could possibly go wrong with liquifying carbon dioxide gas and storing it underground? We dont' know, because the technology is unproven and has never been used:
As the technology is in its infancy and still unproven, new generating stations would have to be built from scratch with demonstration plants attempting to capture emissions from about 300 megawatts of capacity, or about a quarter of a typical big plant's output. But after 2020, as long as the technology had been proven, CCS would have to be retro-fitted to all new stations to cover the whole of their emissions ....
So Britain's cure for its energy problem is to rely on technology which hasn't been developed, much less proven, and will not be available even for testing for over a decade.

It's a good thing we are not so foolish. We could never bank our energy future on unproven "green" technologies like CCS:
"The state of Michigan supports this effort to demonstrate the long-term capability of carbon capture and sequestration technology and will assist the city of Holland in its effort to gain approval and federal funding for this important initiative," the governor said in a letter to Mayor McGeehan.

In the proposed project the Holland BPW, in partnership with Praxair, is asking for a U.S. Department of Energy grant to help fund a commercial scale research and development project to determine the feasibility of capturing carbon created from state-of-the-art clean coal generation and depositing the carbon deep into the underground....

"The governor's support and commitment to bring this project to Holland and Michigan is crucial to the project's success, "said Loren Howard, general manager of the Holland BPW. "If funded and constructed, this project could be a cornerstone for a clean energy future for Michigan and all of the United States."
No, we're not so stupid. We fully investigate technology before we invest. After all, it's about the future of our children and grandchildren:
The technology is called "carbon capture and sequestration" and it has been proposed by "clean coal" advocates as a possible solution to global warming that would allow coal plants to continue to operate.

However, the technology is unproven and there have been no commercially viable applications. The technology is expensive and it may have unintended consequences, both when injecting carbon into the ground and with greater concentrations of other emissions being released into the air. Beyond that, while it addresses emissions, it does not deal with other environmental problems or pollution associated with coal power.
And even if state and local officials were so stupid, surely our Congress would not waste precious taxpayer dollars on such folly:

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), one of the House’s biggest coal supporters, on Tuesday reintroduced a bill that would invest billions of dollars in the development of carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) technology for fossil-fuel power plants.

Like a similar measure Boucher introduced last year, the “Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act” would create a $1 billion annual fund for CCS development, drawn from a fee paid by utilities that burn coal, natural gas, and oil. The utilities would likely pass those fees on to consumers; the bill’s sponsors estimate that the cost for an average residential consumer would be $10 to $12 per year.

And even if our Congress were so stupid, surely President Obama, former Editor-in-Chief of The Harvard Law Review, would not rest his energy plans on mere hope:
Obama has repeatedly pledged support for “clean” coal and storage of carbon-dioxide emissions. He backs a cap-and-trade system that would put limits on carbon-dioxide emissions and allow utilities and other producers to trade carbon allowances, or credits, similar to the system that has helped reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions that cause acid rain....

Obama’s program would provide an incentive for injecting CO2 into existing oil fields for “enhanced oil recovery.” He has promised to develop a database for the purpose of matching carbon-dioxide sources to oil fields. His campaign literature calls for government-private partnerships in five “first-of-a-kind commercial-scale coal-fired plants with carbon capture and sequestration.”
And if we did make CCS a foundation of our energy future, we certainly would not do it in such a way as to impede energy projects which are "shovel ready":
Tenaska Vice President Greg Kunkel finds uncertainty troubling when it comes to possible new laws and regulations that could affect a $3.5 billion "clean coal" plant proposed near Sweetwater....

The plant will use low-sulfur coal from Wyoming to generate 600 megawatts of electricity, losing perhaps 200 megawatts in the process of capturing carbon dioxide....

Tenaska, like other similar energy endeavors, needs funding in some form - a carbon tax, Department of Energy programs, a cap and trade system, a tax incentive package - to make it financially viable and cover the costs of investing in carbon capture and sequestration.
Oh yeah, this should work just fine.

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  1. Yeppers,this is going to wonders for the current economy,just wonders.

  2. Isn't liquid carbon, essentially oil? If so wouldn't it take almost as much energy to liquify the carbon as we would get from burning oil? I'm no scientist, but something about this whole endeavor seems inherently futile to me.

    Either way, even if I'm wrong about that (which is very possible given my admitted lack of scientific knowledge), God already invented Carbon Capture and Sequestration, its called trees and plants, and it happens naturally, no need to waste billions on it.

  3. Commish;
    Yeah, you're wrong about #1, but dead on about #2. No less a scientist than Dr. Freeman Dyson has observed that relatively inexpensive modifications to agricultural and horticultural practices would have many times the effect of all the "industrial" fixes combined, and much more quickly.