EU TO BIG COAL – “CLEAN” COAL OR NO COAL BY 2015
There is only one way to meld 27 nations into a functioning government: Be realistic. Eyes on the stars, fine, but feet on the ground. One step at a time.
EU leaders have been among the most aggressive at recognizing the reality of global climate change and acting to build New Energy. Some of the EU nations, however, were trading with India and China since before there was a United States. They know the reality in Asia as well.
In India and China, the reality is dirty coal. More and more of it. And the air in India and China is the world’s air.
Because of this reality, European leaders cannot bring themselves to turn their backs on nuclear energy and “clean” coal technology.
Research is never a waste. Trying to devise a safe way to store nuclear waste or capture and sequester greenhouse gas emissions is noble work. Such research (a) recognizes that neither of these dreams has yet been accomplished and (b) keeps the dreams alive.
The EU itself was a dream for a long time and then some very realistic leaders made it a reality.
The heirs of those dreamers and realists got together October 7 and took another step forward. They stated an important new position: Turn the dream of “clean” coal into a reality by 2015 or stop burning coal.
The Green Alliance, an organization of “clean” coal advocates, has published A last chance for coal: making carbon capture and storage a reality. It argues the case for Carbon-Capture-and-Sequestration (CCS) technology in the fight against climate change and for energy security.
It was funded by Shell Oil and BP.
It contends CCS represents economic opportunity – IF demonstrated at commercial scale. UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett wrote the forward: "…We will only succeed if we can secure a low-carbon future for coal."
Report contributors come from across the EU’s political spectrum and from business, unions, academia, think tanks and NGOs. (Examples: Former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, Linda McAvan MEP, Graeme Sweeney of Shell, Frances O'Grady of the UK Trades Union Congress.)
More reality: EU leaders have voted to remunerate power producers that build trial projects in “clean” coal (CCS) technology with hundreds of millions of euros in tradable emissions credits. This will encourage the CCS trial projects – and cut the cost of greenhouse gas emissions for participating power producers.
How realistic are the realists? Both the environmental and coal-burning communities are in full action mode, trying to get the European Commission (EC), which must give final approval, to reject the plan.
There is, however, another perspective on reality. Caroline Lucas, Green Party, MEP: "This technology has a part to play, but so do many other new and exciting renewable technologies…We should not be articificially boosting CCS and prioritising coal at the expense of these - especially bearing in mind that CCS will not reach commercial stage until at least 2020, yet the science tells us that emissions must peak and begin to decline by 2015…"
And, at the risk of turning this into something similar to science fiction, there is yet another reality: Multiple studies show “clean” coal is not now and is unlikely to EVER be cost competitive with New Energy. If it is ever actually proved feasible.
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National Day of Action Against Coal & Coal Finance, November 14-15, 2008
Equipping power plants to store CO2 underground
07 October 2008 (European Parliament press release)
EU vote backs tough carbon caps for power plants
Pete Harrison (w/Dan Fineren, Gerard Wynn & James Jukwey), October 7, 2008 (Reuters)
The European Parliament (EP) (Chris Davies, Avril Doyle and Caroline Lucas, members); The EP Environment Committee; The European Commission (EC); Joris den Blanken, climate and energy director, Greenpeace EU
As proposed by its Environment Committee, the EP adopted a "Schwarzenegger clause" requiring an "emission performance standard" for new power plants with 300 megawatts or larger and instituted credits for trial projects worth billions.
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- Later in 2008 or in 2009: Final approval required from the EC
- Before December 2009: Contracts for trial projects must be awarded.
- ~2011: Ratification by member states must be within 2 years from final approval.
2012-2013: Earliest CCS trials.
- From 2015: Large power plant emissions, calculated on an averaged annual per kilowatt-hour basis.
- 50 years: Trial project operators will be responsible for emissions sequestration sites for a half-century.
- Trial projects can be in EU member nations or elsewhere.
- Biggest opposition: Eastern European EU member states most reliant on coal-fired power plants and environmentalists around the world who argue there is no such thing as “clean” coal.
- Large power plants will be allowed average annual emissions of 500 gram CO2e per kilowatt-hour.
- The EP allotted up to 500 million euros in EU ETS credits to be awarded for CCS trial projects. The EP wants 12 trial projects. Total cost could be E10 billion+.
- CCS, the theory: Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants are trapped, piped and buried underground in “secure” geologic structures.
- The EU’s "Schwarzenegger clause" allows emissions of no more than 500 grams CO2e per kilowatt hour from plants with 300 megawatt capacities or more.
- Reuters experts: Average coal plant CO2 emissions are ~1,000 g/kW-h; the cleanest coal plants emit 700+ g//kW-h.
- Trial project operators must establish a fund to cover costs for monitoring, oversight and remediation of storage sites.
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- Chris Davies, MEP guiding CCS legislation through the European Parliament: "This effectively prevents the building of new coal-fired power plants from 2015 unless equipped with CCS…"
- Joris den Blanken, climate and energy director, Greenpeace EU: "We won't put the coal age behind us if we give carbon capture and storage a blank cheque…"