CCS: A Pathway To Cleaner Coal And Enhanced Energy Security?
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Take a second to list the top green energy sources.
I bet coal didn't make your list. It should. New technologies being developed - including carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) - have the potential to make coal not just our most abundant and affordable energy source, but a green one too.
Today coal provides approximately half of our nation's electricity and employs thousands of Americans. Contrast that with renewable sources of energy, which supply only a tiny portion of our current energy mix, about 7 percent. In the near - and even distant - future, technologies like solar and wind will not be able to meet our country's energy needs alone. Renewable and alternative fuels and technologies are vital tools in our quest to improve our nation's carbon footprint and energy security, and Business Roundtable is strongly supportive of their development. However - as we recently outlined in our Unfinished Business report - in order to develop a cost-effective and realistic path to sustainability, we also need to leverage the domestic resources that currently provide power to millions of Americans in the cleanest, most efficient way possible. Enter CCS.
Achieving cuts in greenhouse gases while maintaining economic competitiveness is going to require significant investments in the development and deployment of new technologies, and CCS is one of the most promising.
With CCS, a variety of techniques are employed to capture CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants and store them away from the atmosphere. The technology can drastically reduce carbon emissions from coal plants and, as we outlined in a previous Treehugger post, can effectively "green" our nation's energy workhorse.
Coal currently represents approximately one-third of our nation's carbon emissions, so even small improvements in coal technology present us with the opportunity to make significant cuts over the years. In fact, CCS technology has the potential to eventually capture and store more than 90 percent of GHG emissions from stationary sources. This is more than just a drawing-board concept - it's reality. Over the past two decades alone, the public and private sectors have invested more than $6 billion in clean coal technologies, creating a sustainable future for our country's vast coal reserves and delivering increased energy security to communities across the country. And recently, the first coal-fired power plant in the U.S. with advanced CCS technology began operations at American Electric Power 's West Virginia-based Mountaineer Power Station.
As we look ahead to the COP 15 summit, it's also important to remember that coal has become an ever-more-important resource for developing nations like China and India as they march into the industrial age. For instance, coal-fired energy is projected to account for some 70 percent of China's energy needs for the foreseeable future. It's an important resource in the developed world as well, with the European Union recently pledging support for CCS projects in Britain, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.
Additionally, an October 13 meeting in London of energy ministers from 15 countries - including those from China, Europe and the U.S. - called on COP15 delegates, "to recognize the importance of CCS in mitigating climate change." We agree.
Clearly, coal will be with us for decades to come, so it's important that we work both domestically and internationally - especially with emerging economies - to make this energy as safe, clean and economical as it can be. With a broad, balanced program of financial incentives, investments in research and development, cost-sharing and regulatory reform, CCS technology has the potential to advance our nation's - and the world's - economic, environmental and security objectives simultaneously.
Additional posts on CCS.
Will Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) Conflict With Mineral Rights?
Carbon Capture And Storage Will Happen - Here's Why We Should Support It
More on the Myth of Clean Coal
Five Dire Green Myths Causing the Greatest Global Harm
Clean Coal Spokesman 'Doesn't Know' if Coal Plant Emissions Cause Global Warming (Video)
Clean Coal Carolers from an Industry Run By Morons
Focus on Focus Earth: Coal's Hard Truth