Report outlines major risks of "clean coal"

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a report today outlining the considerable risks associated with so-called “clean coal” and carbon capture and storage technology (pdf.)

Clean coal has been a persistent theme throughout the US election, with presidential candidates on both sides of the political ledger touting the message that coal is somehow clean. As coal industry commentator and author Jeff Goodell puts it best: 

Clean coal” is not an actual invention, a physical thing – it is an advertising slogan. Like “fat-free donuts” or “interest-free loans.”

In other words, coal remains more in the realm of illusion than reality and the UCS report highlights the major outstanding questions around the holy grail of the coal industry - carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).

The report found that carbon-capture-and-storage technology, while promising, is saddled with many unanswered questions about scale, safety and cost:

SCALE: For the technology to make a meaningful contribution to reducing global warming pollution, it would require an enormous processing and transportation infrastructure that could handle a volume of liquefied carbon dioxide rivaling that of the oil consumed in the United States today. Put another way, the Department of Energy estimates that the annual storage space needed for a typical 600-megawatt plant's emissions would be approximately four times the volume of the Empire State Building.

SAFETY: Demonstration projects will have to determine if carbon dioxide can be stored indefinitely and in what type of underground geologic formations. Slow carbon leaks could undermine the technology's effectiveness as a global warming solution and contaminate groundwater. Fast leaks from a storage site or a pipeline could threaten local residents.  

COST: Current coal plant designs cannot cost-effectively capture carbon dioxide. Studies estimate that adding the technology to a conventional coal plant would dramatically increase cost and reduce energy output. Although there are advanced coal plant designs that are better suited for carbon capture, it still would be extremely expensive to add the technology, particularly as a retrofit. 


There is one proven, tried and true process that captures carbon directly from the atmosphere - but unfortunately it is ultra low cost, unable to be patented, widely available, and so non-commercialisable - it is PHOTOSYNTHESIS.
Our planet has some 5 billion hectares of seasonally dry grazing lands - under changed and more appropriate management these lands have the capacity to remove from our atmosphere ALL of the carbon dioxide released since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
We CAN do something about the legacy load of carbon dioxide now poisoning our planet - see for more information.

There is one proven, tried and true process that captures carbon directly from the atmosphere

Actually there are two. Alkaline earth silicates pulverized as part of mining have been observed to be sequestering CO2 as carbonates, principally MgCO3.

This is how Nature brings CO2 down for million-year periods, and its artificial acceleration is a much more powerful method than anything biological. More at .

G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan ‘til ~1996

More warmie nonsense. CO2 is not a pollutant. There would be no life on earth without CO2. It is not poisoning our planet. Geez warmies are dense.

is essential for life, in very small quantities. More is tasty, nothing more. Lots of salt will make you ill. Even more than that will kill you.

CO2 is like that.

And what is that level when it becomes toxic? It’s HUGE, some 10%. It’s currently 0.0384%. If it was that poisonous you would be killed by simply drinking soda pop, that’s CO2 that is being released.

CO2 levels in the geological record was many more TIMES the current level and life flousihed.

Yes it is nonsence to claim CO2 is a pollutant at the levels it is in the atmosphere.

Hope you do not mind the little correction.
50000PPM is when CO2 become toxic\ 5% of the atmosphere.
At 30000PPM ( 3%) any side effect is easily reversible.
Normal Under ground mining is 4700PPM to 5000PPM.

Wiki has 7-10%, but the point is the same. We are at least 10,000 TIMES away from being toxic in the atmosphere, hence is it not a “pollutant” in the same usage for real pollutants (like SO2, NO, NO2, N2O4, etc). And the alarmists have no evidence at all that any naturally occuring levels of CO2 that the planet has seen in the past 500 million years was anything but highly benificial to life.

We are not discussing the level at which CO2 in the atmosphere becomes toxic for organic life (breathing in & out), we are talking about the level at which the greenhouse effect (deflection of heat etc) becomes a serious problem for sustainable ecosystems that will support human life.

Pollutants can take a number of forms. Obviously, something that kills people off by ingesting it in the air or by water sources is a toxin. But something that alters the biosphere according to its concentration in the atmosphere - even by a few parts per million – has got to be taken seriously. Not as a toxin, but as a pollutant that has the potential to throw the balance of the atmosphere completely out of whack.

If you don’t understand that, just try leaving your fishbowl unchanged for a few days and watch the ammonia build up. It’s all about balance.

Fern Mackenzie

We are not discussing the level at which CO2 in the atmosphere becomes toxic for organic life (breathing in & out), we are talking about the level at which the greenhouse effect (deflection of heat etc) becomes a serious problem for sustainable ecosystems that will support human life.

And what is that? We know from the geological record that CO2 levels in the past were 3-4 TIMES todays level and were periods of very healthy organic growth.

It’s a problem right now, dimwit. You trolls are too stupid to understand the problem and too dishonest to admit you don’t understand it.

There are several lines of evidence which suggest that raising the global temperature by 6 K would suffice to cause the oceans to begin outgassing hydrogen sulfide.

That’s only a CO2 concentration in the atmosphere of about 1000 ppm.

Read Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees”, for example.

Peer reviewed evidence to back that claim up please.

55myo the planet was 8C warmer than today. Seems such “outgassing” did kill of all life then did it.

That warmers don’t want a solution.
Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel.
It provides a large percentage of the worlds energy.
One would think that any sane person would appaud an effort to make its use clean.
But not Warmers.
They don’t like wind mills or nuclear or solar either.
They REALLY don’t like carbon capture and storage.

Because its not about climate.
Its about dismantling capitalism and free democracy.

again from Gary.

“We’re here to clear the PR pollution that clouds the science on climate change”
You do recognise that phrase I hope? To you everything appears to be about those damned reds coming over to steal your wealth, family and livelihood. Get a grip.

Clean coal has not yet been proven to be an effective technology, let alone affordable. It is a sop to the coal industry.

Wind, solar, tidal and algae based biofuels are all more mature technologies.

They are a far more expensive way to generate electricity, by several times current rates. Right now, with the economy the way it is, and if you really want to preserve capitalism and democracy, what we do not need is more costs to heat and electrify our homes.

that you equate capitalism with democracy. I don’t particularly care what happens to capitalism. It may or may not survive the current economic upheaval. But I don’t see that the survival of democracy necessarily depends on what happens to capitalism. Your statements are very simplistic, JR. I fear the finer points of the present circumstances are beyond your ken.

Fern Mackenzie

You cannot have democracy without capitalism. (but you can have capitalism without democracy – China) Because how do you prevent capitialism from flourishing in a democracy?

But you always have to get the jab in don’t you. You can’t have a rational discussion without interjecting an insult, or can you?

Fern has some sharp elbows in the corners sometimes

“We’re here to clear the PR pollution that clouds the science on climate change”

Perhaps then, a good place to start would be to show some proof or even good evidence that there IS a scientifically supportable case for AGW.

30 years of trying and 50+ Billion dollars have so far produced some theories and lots of red faced advocates but precious few facts.

Have at it. We are waiting.

Try reading the fourth assessment report from the IPCC, and not just the regurgitated crap that appears in the denialists blogs. Yes, I realise I am suggesting you make an effort and actually read something technical, but try it. Then make your own mind up based on the scientific facts, instead of letting somebody else tell you what to think.

By Rupert Wyndham

John McLean is the authority on the IPCC, but I believe the following to be correct. In some ways, the most outrageously mendacious claim of all, and for the following reasons:

There aren’t 2500 climate scientists in the world - truly dedicated specialists about 100, per Prof. Siunichi Akasofu. Many of those named disagree with the Reports themselves but, above all, with the SPMs which flow from them. Since the reports of WGs 2 & 3 necessarily flow from the work of WG1, it is essential that this should be robust. It is anything but, as we have seen. SPMs, what 99% of people read - if anything at all, are not written by scientists anyway but by civil servants, inter alia, obsessed by political correctness; mustn’t gainsay 3rd world contributions, etc. Scientifically, they frequently clash with underlying WG reports. Protests are simply ignored - well documented, by the way. The UN for the first time in 2007 released to the web the comments of reviewers who assessed the drafts of the WG1 report of AR4, together with IPCC editors’ responses. 308 reviewers commented on WG1, but only 32 commented on more than three chapters. Only five commented on all 11 chapters. Only half commented on more than one chapter.

It gets worse. The critical chapter is No. 9, in which the near certainty of GW increases being due to human activity is asserted. Only 62 reviewers commented. Of these, 55 had self-evident potential vested interests. Thus, precisely seven could reasonably be seen as impartial. Two rejected the findings of the report altogether, four turned out to have less transparent potential conflicts of interest, and the last made only a single comment on the entire report. Thirty four reviewers’ comments/suggestions were rejected with no reason being given. Enough said!

I exhort you to read the source material and make your mind up for yourself. And what do you do?
You immediately quote verbatim a third party, who in turn merely rehashes a fourth parties opinions.

The IPCC is not a scientific organization. It’s conclutions are not peer reviewed. It’s purpose is strictly political and its message is political. Their political arm TOLD the scientists (all 35 of them) what to put in their reports. It’s not to be trusted.

And I might add, when it suits the alarmists purpose, when the IPCC is not what they want to promote the alarmists claim the IPCC is too “conservative”.

So you use it when you want, but reject it when you want.

Bottom line is this: if you have read the conclusions of the IPCC, they are clearly beyond your comprehension. For some reason you believe yourself to be of equal scientific stature to the people who wrote the peer-reviewed scientific papers that were the basis for the IPCC conclusion – people whose entire careers have been devoted to the accumulation, analysis and interpretation of climate data. I have no such pretensions. I know what I know not. And I can distinguish between scientific conclusions and PR smog.

I don’t know why you rage against the evidence, JR. But it’s very clear that you wouldn’t recognize facts about AGW if they marched up & bit you in the face. Your mind is made up.

Fern Mackenzie

you’re off topic Fern. (and I say that as one of your loyal fans) This thread isn’t supposed to be about whether anyone believes in AGW. It’s about the concept of clean coal technology. Please try to keep with the program. Thank You


Of course, JR doesn’t know the first thing about the IPCC — just what he reads on the inactivist web sites.

The IPCC in fact looks nothing like the IPCC in JR’s reality. To whit:

People from more than 130 countries contributed to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report over the previous 6 years. These people included more than 2500 scientific expert reviewers, more than 800 contributing authors, and more than 450 lead authors.

Of these, the Working Group 1 report (including the summary for policy makers) included contributions by 600 authors from 40 countries, more than 620 expert reviewers, a large number of government reviewers, and representatives from 113 governments.

And JR thinks he’s smarter than all of them!

Sinse you are off topic.. Peer review is not a hallmark of science. Reproducibility is. deliberately fraudulent studies have passed Peer review. Like the Hockey stick.

good point on the hockey stick-handling through peer review.
It does demonstrate the fallibility of academia. It’s not unreasonable to have some doubts about the science.

Yes, the hockey stick is an excellent example. It has been independently reproduced many, many times.

Fern Mackenzie

If Mann’s graph is correct, and his graph shows a drop in temp from 1945-1975, then show us what caused this drop when CO2 emissions increased four times. Can’t be from aerosols as the data I got from RC, which comes from Hansen, shows no negative forcing for aerosols during that time frame.

Are you saying man made atmospheric aerosols do not cause a negative forcing? Run that by me again, under what conditions, or better still link to the information.

You said:
“Can’t be from aerosols as the data I got from RC, which comes from Hansen, shows no negative forcing for aerosols during that time frame”

I asked you to tell me under what conditions, or to show me your source.
Quit dodging.

You are the one who first here brought up the subject of aerosol cooling. Without support.

Two more links for you to deny.

16 May 2007: The cause of the drop in temps 1945-1975 “Sulphate aerosols have a cooling effect on the climate because they scatter light from the Sun”

28 May 2008: The cause of the drop in temps 1945-1975 “…something which has puzzled them for years”, “The cause of the 1945 dip has so far remained a mystery,”

So we go a year after a claim it’s aerosols to it’s a “puzzle” and “mystery”!! Thus in other words THEY DO NOT KNOW, so much for their models of forcings. So now with it being unknown how do they deal with it? Make it dissapear! The data is all wrong, there never was a cooling trend! Just like they made the Mideval Warm Period and Little Iceage dissapear.

This is why I’m skeptical.

Thanks for proving my point.

BTW, I remeber all the hype back then. There was no error in the data.

Thanks for proving my point JR writes.

You’re right, JR… I did prove your point! But only if you ignore 98 percent of the content of the linked articles, as you did.

Your intellectual dishonesty and lack of scientific rigor are truly astonishing!

Which article’s 98%? The one that says it’s aerosols or the later one that says the drop was a mystery and hence we need to get rid of the drop?

And yes, it was your friend Hansen that was calling the ice age alarm back in the early 70’s. I remeber the media hype about it very well. There was even talk of how we can get more CO2 into the atmospher to reverse the cooling trend and save the planet!

It would appear to be fairy tales. These are a few of Hansens papers from that timeframe.

Wang, W.-C., Y.L. Yung, A.A. Lacis, T. Mo, and J.E. Hansen, 1976: Greenhouse effects due to man-made perturbation of trace gases. Science, 194, 685-690, doi:10.1126/science.194.4266.685.

Lacis, A., J. Hansen, P. Lee, T. Mitchell, and S. Lebedeff, 1981: Greenhouse effect of trace gases, 1970-1980. Geophys. Res. Lett., 8, 1035-1038.

Hansen, J., D. Johnson, A. Lacis, S. Lebedeff, P. Lee, D. Rind, and G. Russell, 1981: Climate impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Science, 213, 957-966, doi:10.1126/science.213.4511.957.

A thorough review of the scientific literature during the 1970s shows that 44 peer-reviewed studies were suggesting the world was warming, and only 7 studies suggested the world might be cooling, and those papers held that soot pollution might counteract and possibly negate the CO2 warming effect.

the hype from 1945? Finally, we have an answer…you’re senile.

You claimed to have evidence from climatologists that the atmospheric aerosols present between 1945 and 1975 did not contribute to a negative forcing. I merely asked to see that evidence.
By prevaricating you now appear to have drawn the attention of other contributors.
So show us your evidence.

And I would like to remind you of your comment in the ““Stephen Harper: the only leader in North America advocating inaction on climate change”, post.

Quote: “Interesting because when anyone asks me for a reference, I actually go and get it even though I may have already posted it several times previously.”

Nope! Wrong again ..Shows them studies were the Hockey stick is proven to be right. I do agree lots of Tax $$ spend on studies proving nothing except a increase bankroll.