Report Re-characterizes "Clean Coal" Program: Black As Ever

Just when the "clean coal" mantra, having been echoed through the public relations hole a gazillion times, had even US presidential candidates from both parties arguing that more "clean coal" type technology was ready for prime time taxpayer subsidy, comes a contrarian's view from 13 MIT experts. In a nutshell: its not ready. Worse than 'not ready,' the current approach of the US Department of Energy FutureGen program increases the likelihood of financial waste and adds to the risk that energy supplies will be disrupted in the future. Don't take our word for it, read the overview in Technology Review. Meanwhile, we've been making a similar point in our recent posts. So here's another contrariwise idea from us. Next time the DOE cooks up a scheme that makes or breaks the prospects for life on earth, they might want to get a third party peer review from people with no economic interest in the outcome. Look below the fold for a few excerpts.

The volume of compressed carbon dioxide that will need to be captured and transported is similar in scale to the amount of oil consumed in the United States .

The report challenged the idea, argued by some energy experts, that a new type of coal plant--one that converts coal into a gas before burning it--will make it easier and cheaper to capture carbon dioxide, compared with collecting it from the smokestacks of conventional power plants.

As a result, the MIT researchers recommend that governments not support the new gasification plants over conventional plants. Instead, they say that governments should focus on large-scale demonstration programs that would, for the first time, capture carbon dioxide from coal plants, transport it, and store it at a large scale Without such a demonstration, warns the report, a rush to cut carbon emissions would lead to spiking costs and further delays, and that would make it difficult for power producers to meet energy demand.


Image credit: FutureGen Texas.

Tags: Clean Coal