NewEnergyNews: “CLEAN’ COAL – EXPERIMENT, HOPE OR LIE?

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA
  • QUICK NEWS, August 19: LOW-PRICED WIND ENERGY ATTRACTS UTILITIES; TEXAS SUBURBS BLOCK SOLAR; WHAT UTILITY CUSTOMERS WANT
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE THREATS TO OLD ENERGIES AROUND THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 18: GERMANY UPS GRID STABILITY WITH NEW ENERGY ; U.S. SOLAR MANUFACTURING TO RISE; TEXAS LEADS U.S. WIND BOOM
  • -------------------

    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

    -------------------

    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Buy Or Lease Rooftop Solar?
  • Weekend Video: The Sound Of The Wind
  • Weekend Video: Why Energy Efficiency?
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE IN CHINA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-RUSSIA-CAPTURED CRIMEA DIALS DOWN NEW ENERGY
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW LOOK AT THE WORLD’S OCEAN ENERGIES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WORLD BANK PLEDGES $5BIL FOR AFRICA NEW ENERGY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 14:

  • TTTA Thursday-KELLOGG CALLS FOR LOW CARBON CORN FLAKES
  • TTTA Thursday-SIERRA CLUB HAILS WIND CHAMPIONS IN CONGRESS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE BOOM IN SOLAR CARPORTS
  • TTTA Thursday-EV BATTERIES GET SECOND LIFE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: SAVING WATER CAN CUT GREENHOUSE GASES
  • QUICK NEWS, August 13: ECONOMIST NUMBERS ON NEW ENERGY COST WAY OFF; POLITICS AND WIND ENERGY; GEOTHERMAL UPDATE
  • -

    --------------------------

    --------------------------

    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

    -------------------

    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

    -------------------

    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

    -------------------

    Your intrepid reporter

    -------------------

      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

    -------------------

    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

  • ---------------
  • Monday, September 08, 2008

    “CLEAN’ COAL – EXPERIMENT, HOPE OR LIE?

    The fact that “clean” coal is nothing more than a working hypothesis did not stop the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) from coming out in force at both parties’ nominating conventions.

    The attraction of “clean” coal, also known as carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS), is enormous. In fact, it is not attraction, it is seduction. Especially for Americans, who believe in solutions the way
    The Great Gatsby tragically believed in the green light: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——…”

    Just as Gatsby’s pursuit of the green light’s promise led him only to disappointment and tragedy, ACCCE would have the U.S. pursue the illusion of “clean” coal to the dirtiest of ends.

    Political leaders find it particularly hard to turn away from the concept of “clean” coal technology because it offers the hope of a way to use the U.S.’ supposedly vast coal reserves (an abundance many authorities have begun to question) without having to pay a price in greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions.

    More realistic leaders in Europe cling to the hope of “clean” coal because it seems to offer the only way to deal with the coming and veritably insatiable appetite for power in the emerging economies of China and India without dreadfully setting back the fight against global climate change.

    Coal spew-cleaning technology did solve the problem of acid rain that was created by coal-fired plants. But acid rain was a relatively small-scale problem compared to the global challenge of climate change. And acid rain-inducing toxins were minor byproducts. GhGs are the main products of the reaction that produces energy in coal plants. To go on using coal as a source of power in the U.S. would require the capture and sequestration of a volume of GhGs far greater than the considerable seduction of the concept.

    Andrew C. Revkin, energy writer, NY Times: “Behind the gloss, experts who have run the numbers still say that at a scale the atmosphere would notice, capturing and burying CO2 remains a pipe dream. I have yet to see a serious challenge to the math on this done by Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba, who has noted that handling just 10 percent of today’s carbon dioxide emissions would require more pipelines and other equipment than is now used worldwide to extract oil — a precious commodity — from the ground.”

    When the discussion of “clean” coal turns to cost, the sweet seduction further sours. It is already more expensive to build new coal plants than to build wind installations, just because of the rising costs of basic materials and because of the advanced equipment required to capture coal burning’s toxic spew. The cost of technology to capture GhGs will be significantly higher. The problem of sequestering them, if the technology is ever proven, would be even greater.

    There is another cost factor: Insurance. If trials prove GhGs can be safely sequestered for 10 years or 20 years, there will remain the question of whether they can be safely sequestered for 50 years or a century. The premiums for insurance against a failure of safe storage, considering the profound harm a release of potentially poisonous gases could cause, will be considerable.

    The coal industry wants the federal government to give it taxpayer-underwitten insurance against the disaster of leakages and accidents, the same financial subsidy given the nuclear energy industry. If the federal government does not choose to carry such a large financial burden, how economically viable would “clean” coal then be?

    There are several costs the taxpayer already absorbs on behalf of the coal industry. The devastating impacts on the environment from coal mining, for which the coal industry perpetrators rarely suffer the costs, is one.

    Another is the cost associated with the severe air pollution that comes during the transport and burning of coal. Medical science is just barely beginning to document the range of lung diseases and cancers associated with coal-fired power.

    Despite “clean” coal not being clean or affordable, ACCCE insists it is an urgent investment so the nation can perfect Coal-To-Liquids (CTL) technology and thereby achieve energy independence.

    CTL is the idea Germany and Japan thought would win World War II for them. CTL is also the technology South Africa, now desperately short of energy and suffering blackouts, brownouts and economic stunting, thought would make them an energy exporter. CTL is even more GhG-intensive than petroleum. Without “clean” coal technology, the development of CTL would be devastating to the fight against global climate change. And it should be pretty clear by now that “clean” coal technology is at least 10-to-15 years away, if it is ever developed, making the use of CTL an unrealistic proposition.

    Given all this, the promised coal industry “renaissance” so heralded only a few years ago seems to be stagnating. The stagnation has been helped along by a courageous stand against new coal plants from a worldwide network of environmental activists.

    Revkin: “For now, you’ll be hearing lots more about lofty plans for “clean coal” technology…but I encourage you to watch for actual dollars spent on actual plants in actual places.”

    Which brings up the one last but possibly most dangerous aspect of “clean” coal’s seductive promise. It is used as an excuse to build new "dirty' coal plants. Regulatory agencies are being asked to approve new plants with the stipulation the plans must have provisions for “clean” coal technology "when it is proven." This strategy for getting plants approved is especially insidious. Once appproved and built, it is extremely unlikely a multi-billion dollar facility will be left idle. Instead, it will sooner or later be put to work with the same logic that got it permitted: ”As soon as “clean” coal technology is available, we’ll install it, but the country needs the energy so much right now, doesn’t it?”

    Yes, the country needs the energy. Urgently. That's why Congress needs do everything it can to facilitate innovation and growth in New Energy from the wind and the sun and the oceans.

    Much more at
    Coal is Dirty

    Trailer for Burning the Future: Coal in America From coalmovie via YouTube.

    The Enduring Allure of ‘Clean Coal’
    Andrew C. Revkin, August 29, 2008 (NY Times)
    and
    Clean Coal Blitz falling flat in Denver
    Kevin Grandia, August 26, 2008 (Huffington Post)
    and
    Coal out in force at green convention
    Jim Snyder, August 26, 2008 (The Hill)

    WHO
    American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (ACCCE); Barack Obama and John McCain; Peabody Energy and Natural Resources Defense Council; Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba

    WHAT
    The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity spent a reported $1.7 million lobbying at the Democratic and Republican national conventions on behalf of the coal industry, creating a prominent profile widely commented on in the press and described by environmentalists as just another coal industry propaganda voice.

    Say “No” To Coal While You Still Can From derrickhand301 via YouTube.

    WHEN
    - The ACCCE message is that “clean” coal must be a part of the future U.S. energy mix.
    - In The Future of Coal, MIT experts conclude that “clean” coal technology remains unproven and would require 10-to-15 years of investment in industrial-scale demonstration projects to prove it as a viable future energy strategy.
    - Present emissions sequestration projects handle ~1 million tons/year To impact global climate change, the capacity to manage billions of tons/year.

    WHERE
    - NewEnergyNews heard and read multiple reports of ACCCE’s high presence in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
    - The high cost of “clean” coal technology is particularly problematic if it is to impact China and India GhGs.

    WHY
    - Coal generates ~50% of U.S. electricity.
    - Without coal as part of the energy mix, electricity rates could increase.
    - Coal-fired plants generate ~20% of annual world greenhouse gas emissions
    - Both presidential candidates have emissions-cutting global climate change plans that threaten the coal industry if it does not develop “clean” coal plans.
    - Coal is an important industry is key electoral states.
    - ACCCE and the coal industry argue the right technology could eliminate the energy v. emissions conundrum.
    - The cost of the technology presents another conundrum.
    - The volume of emissions it would be necessary to capture and sequester presents a further conundrum.
    - ACCCE advocates a $17 billion federal investment to prove “clean” coal. It also wants any cap-and-trade or tax system to control GhGs postponed until “clean” coal technology is available.
    - ACCCE also advocates federal subsidies for coal-to-liquid fuel projects.
    - ACCCE used billboards, print ads and an “experiential media” footprint with a bus wrapped in a “clean” coal advertisement available to transport and educate delegates and “brand ambassadors” on the streets and working events, handing out t-shirts, buttons fans that read “I’m a fan of clean coal.”
    - ACCCE has spent ~$4.7 million on lobbying so far this year, more than any other climate change .

    China’s Grime Belt, reported by the BBC. From adam85is alive via YouTube.

    QUOTES
    - Matthew Lewis, Center for Public Integrity: "…[T]he ACCCE coalition…was founded this year solely to address the advancing legislation aimed at cutting the emissions of fossil fuels like coal that are blamed for global warming."
    - Joe Lucas, spokesman, ACCCE: “The audiences [at the conventions] are probably the highest concentration of opinion leaders that we could reach in one geographically defined area…From the moment folks walk off the plane in Denver or Minneapolis, we start a conversation about what does clean coal mean…This is a very unique opportunity to engage…”
    - Kevin Grandia, journalist, Huffington Post: “One of my sources at the Dem's convention this week told me this morning that even people hired by ACCCE to hand out free swag aren't buying into ACCCE's propaganda. Nancy Laplaca with Energy Justice told me this morning that when one of the women hired by ACCCE to hand out free t-shirts was asked whether she believed coal can really be clean, she stated that she really doubted it…When a guy touting an ACCCE clean coal t-shirt was asked a similar question, he replied, ‘hey, it's only a t-shirt.’”

    0 Comments:

    Post a Comment

    << Home

    *