Clean Coal Founders on Bureaucratic Obstacle Course

Clean coal-fired power plants have been touted as a remedy for an environmentally challenged age, offering the promise of turning cheap but dirty coal into a pollution-free energy source. Don't turn off those wind turbines yet.

At least eight clean coal plants, more than a third of those on the drawing board, have been canceled, delayed or rejected by regulators this year.

Developers cite soaring construction costs, technology hurdles and uncertainty about regulation of greenhouse gases.


I heard a report on the likelihood of the first nuclear reactor going into Australia. The spokesperson said anyone putting in a reactor needs confidence not only that the regulatory framework it needs to operate is there, but that it will continue to be there, government after government. No one is going to invest in something that big, the first one in Australia, until they believe that Australians have basic support for it, that no subsequent government will be elected that will just shut it down.

This reluctance of the coal industry to get on the ball, even to build plants that would be easier to convert to CCS may mean that they think a carbon tax isn’t going to make it, in the same way that when Clinton was elected with a widespread expectation that healthcare was finally going to be put in, it wasn’t. And they are the first ones I would be looking to for the reason the tax won’t make it in. They could be thinking that what worked for them so far will continue to work. Any sober assessment of what can be put through Congress even if Obama is in the White House makes it sound iffy. Even if some in the coal industry are thinking about CCS or CCS ready plants, its a lot of money to throw away, so why do it until things settle a bit in Washington, and even then, what about the next Administration, is it going to be Republican and eliminate the tax? Plants can last 50 years.

They can’t seem to keep Hansen quiet. Greenland might slide into the sea. It must be a bit nervewracking to be in the coal business these days.