Cheap "Clean Coal" Myth Takes Hit From US Department of Energy

Wed, 2008-01-30 10:57Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Cheap "Clean Coal" Myth Takes Hit From US Department of Energy

It seems that come hell or high water, the coal industry will do about anything to convince us that “clean coal” technology is an affordable energy solution.

They're even willing to burn hundreds of millions of US taxpayers dollars to convince us.

Today, the US Department of Energy announced it will pull out of a $1.8 billion “clean coal” demonstration project called FutureGen.

FutureGen is meant to test the commercial and environmental viability of using coal to generate energy while capturing the carbon dioxide and storing it underground. Scientists say the greenhouse gas is one of the drivers of climate change.

On the announcement, Dave Roberts at Grist writes:

What's behind the decision? “Ballooning costs.” But wait … I thought coal was cheap!?”

The costs of the FutureGen “clean coal” project have jumped from $800 million in 2003 to anticipated $1.33 billion.

With this announcement today by the DOE, it appears that the hope of “clean coal” remains to be nothing more than a distant twinkle in the eye of the coal lobby.

But that won't stop industry-funded third party groups like the “Americans for Balanced Energy Choices,” who will no doubt continue to pour (and probably increase the flow) millions of dollars into advertising and public relations to convince us that “clean coal” is a bargain basement solution to America's energy problems.

Previous Comments

Hey, an increase from 800 Million to 1.33 Billion is only 66%.

1) carbon dioxide sequestration is a new technology and it would be fair to expect costs to decline eventually

2) this increase (66%) is really trivial compared to the typical increases in costs of nuclear power plants.

3) Despite the outrageously and flagrantly absurd propaganda about Nuclear power being “clean” it is many orders of magnitude (tens, even hundreds of thousands of times more polluting) than any other power source at all! The radioactive byproducts from nuclear power are dangerous for tens and hundreds of thousands of years. The entire history of nuclear power shows very consistently that we have done an exceedingly poor job of containing these wastes. Furthermore we still have no safe way of containing them over the long term. The periods necessary are truly mind boggling: not only longer than we have had any civilization, but longer than our species has even existed!

4) compared to nuclear, even coal and oil are renewable! A few hundred million years, more or less, and you have another planet full to plunder (assuming there’s any life left to do it.) When nuclear fuel is burned, that’s all, folks! Even waiting a few billion years won’t help you.

5) to date, nuclear power is the most expensive and least economically viable of any form of energy generation at all and by a very wide margin. This ugly reality is kept from the public by hiding many of the costs: government subsidies of insurance and fuel costs, failing to account for (still as yet unknown!) costs of dismantling, waste storage (disposal is simply not possible), etc. Nuclear power generation was and is only supported by governments because that is the only economically viable way to get nuclear material for bombs (extraction of plutonium from spent fuel is massively less expensive than the centrifugal process and the public doesn’t object as much to those still very high costs when they think it’s necessary to get their electricity.

That’s just to put it into perspective. IMHO carbon dioxide sequestration is far from the best option or even necessarily an economically viable one. But we are in such desperate straits here (thanks to Dubya et al.) that we’d better learn all we can about ALL the options.

Note however that carbon sequestration in the deep ocean would be planetcide, pure and simple. The ocean would inevitably die and the rest of the planet would inevitably follow.

Failing rapid impeachment of Bush and Cheney, complete will full and open investigation of all of their illegal (by both national and international law) activities, and NO pardons, America is doomed to the dustbin of history.

As Martin Luther King said: you can’t be oppressed if your back isn’t bent.

“We have met the enemy and he is us!” Walt Kelly


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