Tom Friedman's Favorite Green Lump

"All environmentalists have their favorite "green" energy source that they think will break our addiction to oil and slow down climate change. I've come out to Montana to see mine. It's called coal." So starts New York Times's Thomas L. Friedman, who we recently thought made sense, but not today. He is in Montana, touring strip mines with the Governor. "Montana has one-third of all the coal deposits in America — 8 percent of all the coal in the world. Montana's coal is roughly equivalent to 240 billion barrels of oil. "That's enough to replace all our imported oil for 60 years," he noted. That's the good news. The bad news is that because of global warming — fueled in part by carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning electricity plants — the only way we'll be able to use all those coal reserves is if we can burn coal without emitting the CO2. Otherwise we're cooked, literally." He lists Governor Schweitzer's plans to promote clean coal, including getting "Washington to co-invest in a dozen pilot gasification and liquefaction technologies — which already exist — for cleaning coal and sequestering the carbon dioxide. Then identify the best technologies quicker and move down the innovation curve. and write the regulations now for how we will manage carbon dioxide that is removed from coal and stored underground." Our first reaction is that is a lot of carbon to sequester. The Economist points out that this is not an easy thing to do; "Gases, of course, are bulky and difficult to store. Most plans for carbon-dioxide storage involve liquefying it and pumping it underground into former oilfields, gasfields or coal beds—an energy-intensive and thus expensive process."

There is also the small problem of digging all that coal up; Robert Wilder, in a recent Red Herring article, said "I would not use the word 'clean' anywhere near the word 'coal,'" he said. "It's a misnomer; coal is inherently dirty. You cannot say 'clean coal' for the basic reason that mining coal is dirty work, so you can't get clean coal unless you ignore the fact of getting coal, which is ridiculous."

There is also the issue that even the producers of coal-to-gas refineries admit that gasification produces four times as much CO2 as the straight burning of coal.

Thomas Friedman previously said that "Green is the new Red, White and Blue" but perhaps somehow he is letting that flag cover his eyes.

Behind the fence at::New York Times but copy here

Tags: Coal | Montana

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