Professor Socolow's "wedges" were featured in this morning's NPR Morning Edition story Climate Game Gives Real Options To Save The World
If proven, "clean" coal would be a boon to the US and Big Coal. IF proven. And then there is the new question of just how much coal there really is left...
Global coal rush raises clean energy stakes
Gerard Wynn, June 15, 2007 (Reuters)
Robert Socolow, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Princeton University's "Carbon Mitigation Initiative", the Department of Energy (DOE)
click to enlarge
An energy-hungry world is increasing its consumption of coal despite awareness of coal’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which add to climate change. The resolution of the dilemma might be “clean” coal technologies, making it possible for coal to take its place as one of Socolow’s 7 “wedges” (types of energy) that will combine to provide adequate fuel, without increasing GHG emissions, by mid century.
- Socolow’s comments were made June 14. They pertain to the coal industry as it is currently being developed and will be developed through 2050.
- Coal plants are expected to increase by 1/3 by 2050.
- A combination of Socolow’s 7 “wedges” (forms of energy) could hold GHGs to today’s levels by 2050
A CCS system will have to be installed at 1600 coal-fired power plants worldwide.
Europe has CCS demonstration projects schedule to go on-line in 2015.
- “Clean” coal technology involves the capture of the GHGs emitted during the transformation of coal to energy and the sequestering those emissions in underground (geologic) structures. This is called “carbon capture and storage” (CCS).
- Demonstration projects are being developed, including DOE’s Future Gen. Problems with CCS might be costs, miners' lives, pollution and sequestration leakage to the landscape. Alternatives to CCS (Socolow calls these “wedges” in the energy mix) are nuclear, wind and biofuels. According to Socolow, it would take 2 million wind turbines to replace coal (other experts have estimated a much lower number) by 2050, a 25 times increase in wind energy. Present nuclear capacity would have to be tripled.
- Though there is presently economic pressure on biofuels from food crops, future biofuels will come from nonfood crops and not take up food-dedicated ag land.
the DOE project (click to enlarge)
- Socolow: "We really don't have to wring our hands about the growth of coal…But it means we have to move as quickly as possible…We can do any of the wedges badly or well... It's about public acceptance. We've seen that with wind and nuclear in various parts of the world…What's impressive is that the public have said they don't want the risk of unpredictable climate change. If we lose that momentum it could take decades to get it back."
- Princeton University's "Carbon Mitigation Initiative"