Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Clean Coal or Dirty Coal?

When President Bush said “America is addicted to oil”, he could also have said that America is addicted to coal.

Most Americans are not aware of the sheer scale of current coal use in the United States. Over 50% of electricity is generated from coal with 20 pounds of coal per a person being burnt every day to generate electricity.

While questions are increasingly being raised about remaining oil and gas reserves, we are assured that there is plenty of coal left to burn. Indeed in a talk to a meeting of builders and contractors at the Capital Hilton on June 8, 2005 President Bush asked the audience,
"Do you realize we've got 250 million years of coal?"

Hopefully readers will spot this obvious gaffe. The figure quoted by the coal industry is 250 years of reserves, not 250 million years. The energy illiteracy of the average person is worrying enough, but in our political leadership it is a real cause for concern.

There are an estimated one trillion tons of recoverable coal in the world, by far the largest reserve of fossil fuel left on the planet. The United States has over 25% of the world’s recoverable coal reserves. An important point to remember when considering how many years of coal we have left is that these figures are based on current rates of consumption and do no take into account growing demand for electricity. Since 1980 coal use for power generation has increased by over 75%.

A good percentage of the coal that’s left is too dirty to be burned in conventional power plants and much of its buried in inconvenient places. In 1974 the USGS published an estimate of the recoverable reserve base at 243 billion tons. This however failed to take into account real world restrictions on mining: state and national parks, roads, towns, proximity to railroads, coal quality, losses during mining and geologic limitations. When these are factored in less than 50% of the coal estimated as “recoverable” in the 1974 study was available for mining. This fails to taken into account how much is economically recoverable at market prices. In a 1989 study by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Kentucky, at $30 a ton 22% of coal was economically recoverable. The author Tim Rohrbacher wrote “a strong argument can be made that traditional coal producing regions may soon be experiencing resource depletion problems far greater and much sooner than previously thought”.

Recently there has been a rise in suggestions that America should replace its addiction to oil, with diesel fuel made from American coal. There is currently in place a Coal-to-Liquids Tax Credit of $0.50/gallon in place until 2023. The idea has been around for a long while, in the second world war it was used by the Germans to make Nazi oil from coal when their supply of normal gasoline was cut off. I remember when I first started researching peak oil I realised after awhile if things got bad that coal rich countries might turn to making Nazi oil in desperation when petroleum depletion started to bite. Of course calls to start building Coal to Liquids plants aren’t proof that petroleum depletion is well advanced, but I hardly see it as a source for optimism.


Fischer-Tropsch pilot plant

You don’t need to be an expert on coal liquefaction to realise that it’s a bad idea as this article on AutoblogGreen shows. It’s expensive, uses lots of water, produces double the carbon dioxide when compared to regular petroleum use and produces diesel when the vast majority of the U.S. car fleet runs on gasoline. Over at the Ergosphere, the Engineer Poet crunches the numbers and compares coal to liquids versus electric vehicles. He calculates that to replace the United States petroleum consumption at current rates would take 214 four billion dollar coal to liquid plants (that’s not far off a trillion dollars in investment) and the mining of an additional one and a half billion tons of coal a year, in addition to the one billion tons already being mined for electricity generation. It should be noted that the high percentage of electricity currently produced from coal is not an argument against electric vehicles, this is something I have covered in detail elsewhere on this blog. Electric motors are inherently more efficient than the internal combustion engine. It is far easier to control emissions from large power plant, than from the exhausts of thousands of cars. Electric vehicles are not reliant on one source of energy and in the longer term polluting non-renewable sources of electricity can be replaced by clean alternative energy.

The coal industry’s promotion of the idea that America has a vast reserve of coal is slowing the transition to clean renewable sources of energy. In addition to tv spots showing child actors extolling the virtues of coal, the industry has spent heavily to get the ear of the political establishment. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company spent over 5% of its revenues on political contributions, for comparison Exxon Mobil and General Motors spent a fraction of one percent.

In seeming return for such generosity, The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included five billion dollars of subsidies for the coal industry.

Virtually every power plant built in America between 1975 and 2002 was fired by natural gas. However between 1970 and 2000, the amount of coal America used to generate electricity tripled.

Now with natural gas prices rising steeply, U.S. power utilities are expected to build the equivalent of 280 500 megawatt coal-fired electricity power plants between 2003 and 2030. China is already constructing the equivalent of one large coal burning power plant a week with two thirds of energy production coming from dirty coal. 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China. India is the third largest producer of coal in the world, also getting over two thirds of its energy from coal. If these new coal plants are built, they will add as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as has been released by all the coal burned in the last 250 years.


Acid run off from coal mining

Coal’s sale price may be low, but the true costs of its extraction, processing and consumption are high. Our use of coal leads to ravaged mountains, air pollution from acidic and toxic emissions and fouled water supplies. Coal mining is massively more invasive than oil or gas drilling. Coal burning power plants account for more than two-thirds of sulfur dioxide, 22% of nitrogen oxides, nearly 40% of carbon dioxide and a third of all mercury emissions in the United States. Results of the largest mercury hair sampling project in the U.S. found mercury levels exceeding the EPA’s recommended limit of one microgram of mercury per gram of hair in one in five women of childbearing age tested. Each year coal plants produce about 130 million tons of solid waste, about three times more than all the municipal garbage in the U.S. The American Lung Association calculates that around 24,000 people a year die prematurely from the effects of coal fired power plant pollution.

Techniques for addressing CO2 emissions exist, although the will to quickly implement them lags.

The techniques electric utilities could apply to keep much of the carbon dioxide they produce from entering the atmosphere are known as CO2 capture or geological carbon sequestration. This involves separating the CO2 as it is created and pumping it underground to be stored.

Until recently I wasn’t aware that all the technological components needed for carbon sequestration are commercially ready (according to an article in September’s Scientific American magazine) as they have already been proven in applications unrelated to avoidance of climate change. However integrated systems have yet to be built on a commercial scale.

Capture technologies have been deployed extensively throughout the world both in the manufacture of chemicals (e.g. fertilizer) and in the purification of natural gas. Industry has gained experience with CO2 storage in operations to purify natural gas, principally in Canada, as well as using carbon dioxide to boost oil production, mainly in the United States.



The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated in 2005 that it is highly likely that geologic locations worldwide are capable of sequestering at least two trillion metric tons of CO2 - more than is likely to be produced by fossil fuel consuming power plants this century.

Carbon sequestration is not without risk. The two main risks are sudden escape and gradual leakage of carbon dioxide. In 1986 at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, Africa carbon dioxide originating from a volcano killed over 1,700 people. However according to IPCC this is unlikely for engineered CO2 storage in carefully selected, deep porous geologic rock formations. In regard to gradual leakage the IPCC estimated in 2005 that in excess of 99% of carbon sequestered is “very likely” to remain in place for at least one hundred years.

Studies indicate that 85%-95% of the carbon in coal could be sequestered using existing power generation technologies.



A key point is that fundamentally different approaches to carbon capture would need to be pursued for power plants using the old pulverised coal technology as opposed to the newer integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC). IGCC plants use heat and pressure to cook off impurities in coal and convert it into a synthetic gas, this gas is then burnt in a turbine. These plants are 10% more efficient than conventional plants, consume 40% less water, produce 50% less solid waste and burn almost as cleanly as natural gas plants.

Although building IGCC power plants is slightly more expensive (10%-20%), IGCC is likely to be the most effective and cheapest option for carbon capture.

In an IGCC plant designed to capture CO2 the syngas exiting the gasifier, after being cooled and cleaned of particles, would be reacted with steam to make a gas made up mainly of CO2 and hydrogen. The CO2 would then be extracted and pumped to a storage site. The remaining hydrogen would be burned to generate more power. Captured carbon dioxide can by piped up to several hundred miles to a suitable geologic storage site.

A recent study found that for carbon capture in a saline formation one hundred kilometers from a power plant would cost an additional 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour (over the generation cost of 4.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for a coal IGCC plant that vents carbon dioxide), making a 40% premium. With coal generation costing 6.6 cents for a kilowatt hour, this would make wind power cheaper than coal and with technology advances could also provide a boost to other renewable energy sources (e.g. concentrating solar power).

However electricity producers are rushing to build conventional coal pulverisation power plants, just as they rushed to build coal plants without sulfur scrubbers prior to legislation coming into force. This is short-sighted as it is more expensive, more energy intensive and less effective to attempt to capture carbon from conventional coal power plants. It is highly likely that having built these plants, that the coal industry would expect the taxpayer to foot the bill for the additional expense. Of the one hundred or so plants being planned or under construction in America only a handful use IGCC technology.


Proposed Design for FutureGen

FutureGen, is the Department of Energy financed one billion dollar zero emissions plant intended to turn coal into electricity and hydrogen. Proposed in 2003 and backed by a consortium of coal and electric companies, it is not due to come online until at least 2013. Many in the industry consider this date to be dubious nicknaming the project NeverGen. It is intended to make it look like the coal industry is doing something, while actually doing very little and in the process putting off changing how coal plants are built for a decade or two. Indeed in its Coal Vision report(pdf), the industry does not plan on building “ultra-low emissions” plants on a commerical scale until between 2025 and 2035. According to the report “there is considerable debate about the need to reduce CO2 emissions”. The report also states that “achieving meaningful CO2 reductions would require significant technical advances”.

The report further states “large scale and long term demonstrations of carbon sequestration technologies over a geographically and geologically diverse range of... sites are needed before making any policy decisions concerning carbon management”. The coal industry wants sequestration to be demonstrated not only in the United States but additionally “similar assessments need to be conducted internationally”. In terms of who should pay for these demonstrations the report writes “the government must play a significant role”.

It sounds that if the coal industry has its way, it won’t be using carbon capture for many decades.

Instead of waiting until 2013 or even 2035, the coal industry could be building IGCC power plants with carbon capture now. The rush to build conventional coal pulverisation plants is extremely short sighted as these plants could be operating for the next fifty years or more.

In the first instance I advocate maximising our use of clean renewable energy. At the moment wind power is being used to generate only 0.5% of electricity in the United States. Using existing technology wind power could cost effecively generate a significant portion of many countries electricity supply. Significant sums of money should also be invested in making solar power and wave power more cost effective, as well as investments in energy long shots such as cellulosic ethanol and fusion power. If we are going to continue to use coal as global society as a major source of energy, which seems pretty much inevitable for at least the next few decades in key countries such as the United States, China & India, then we should be building IGCC power plants with carbon capture and retiring existing dirty coal plants now. If there are unforeseen problems with carbon capture, we need to find out now rather than in a few decades time. The coal industry's business as usual attitude is simply not acceptable.

Jeff Goodell in his recent book “Big Coal” concludes, “coal gives us a false sense of security, if we run out of gas and oil, we can just switch over to coal… the most dangerous things about our continued dependence on coal is it preserves the illusion that we don’t have to change our thinking”.

Further Reading:
Big Coal” by Jeff Goodell
“What to Do About Coal?” in Scientific American September, 2006

Lively Discussion of Coal to Liquids

Coal Vision by the Coal Based Generation Stakeholders Group

Mountaintop Removal

A Quick Guide to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

When Will Coal Production Peak?

32 Comments:

Anonymous taoist said...

All of this fails to mention that coal slag is also our primary source of nuclear waste.

No doubt about it, Coal is an extremely dirty fuel. While I would love to see more renewables lighten our dependency on coal, however, the only real alternative to replace the massive amount of energy we get from coal is nuclear, which can now be done quite safely and cleanly. Check out pebble bed reactors for info on modern nuclear power plants.

1:27 pm, October 03, 2006  
Blogger BSRNews said...

If scientists can work past the challenges posed by the pollution coal causes, the Department of Energy believes coal could be part of some of the "most promising" energy technology of the future. For more information, view BSRNews` new topic, Coal. BSRNews.com

5:21 pm, October 03, 2006  
Blogger Tom Gray said...

Wind energy's potential is quite large also. For more information, see the Plugging the Gap report.

Regards,
Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association
www.awea.org
www.ifnotwind.org

6:16 pm, October 03, 2006  
Anonymous Tom Veil said...

If (if if if) we transition to plug-in cars, I think the nation's outmoded, inefficient electrical grid will solve itself, because politicans will have to start paying attention to it the way that they pay attention to gasoline prices today. The result will be a new grid that is enormously more efficient -- which, in turn, means less wasted electricity. An upward spiral!

11:18 am, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Damen Evans said...

I dont care how cleanly coal can be burned, its still a limited resource, and clinging to fuels we can run out of only causes greater problems down the line when we eventualy DO run out. Renewable is the only way to go.

do you guys realize that the money spent on the Iraq war so far, is enough to have fitted more than 8,288,332 homes with full solar electrictiy?

our government REALLY needs get its priorities straight.

11:48 am, October 04, 2006  
Anonymous Matt Wasson said...

Thank you for this exhaustive post - the message is simple: coal that destroys homes, communities, mountains and an entire culture when it is mined can never be called clean - particularly if it continues to be the main contributor to greenhouse gases.

Coal - whatever technology is used to burn it - is not the solution to our energy problems. Mountaintop removal and global warming are two absolutely egregious examples of the destructive impact of our addiction to coal (yes, I said coal - not oil).

Thanks for giving voice to the REAL solutions to our energy needs.

12:10 pm, October 04, 2006  
Anonymous Tod Brilliant said...

Yes, thanks for this detailed post.

Could it be that the planned re-introduction of diesel vehicles by many producers in 2008 is something of a clue to planned future policy concerning coal?

8:42 pm, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Calvin Jones said...

nov 4th

10.00am Cycle protest assembles at Lincoln's Inn Fields, South side (Holborn/Temple tube). Goes via ExxonMobil offices, Australian Embassy and Downing Street to arrive at US embassy at 11.30 am.

11.00am Rally opens : Messages from around the world, performance poetry & musical protest with "Seize the Day" and others.

12 noon Main Rally at US Embassy, Grosvenor Square. Speakers include George Monbiot, Colin Challen MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Norman Baker MP, Zac Goldsmith.

1.00 pm March for Global Climate Justice from US embassy to Trafalgar Square

1.45 - 2.00 pm March joins i-Count's.. Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square

1.00 - 3.00pm i-Count Mass Gathering in Trafalgar Square

Stop climate chaos are limiting their activities to the UK but the march organisers, CCC, are keen on international solidarity, more on: http://www.campaigncc.org/.

Join us for the biggest event of the year to stop climate chaos!

1:45 pm, October 14, 2006  
Blogger Bibi said...

This was really interesting. Thank you!

12:39 am, October 28, 2006  
Anonymous urbanmike said...

I live in the heart of Coal production in Australia, Newcastle, NSW. The suburb we live in is right on the harbour where I get to watch hundreds of ships a year take coal for export to China, Korea and whoever else wants it.

All our electricity locally is produced by coal, but suprisingly, much of the coal extracted locally is not what's burnt locally. Trains bring brown coal from hundreds of miles away in Victoria to be burnt, while we sell our clean stuff! Go figure, where there's a dollar to be made, someone will find a way, despite the potential environmental cost.

Great Blog, thanks for the indepth article!

8:30 pm, October 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a problem: Useable uranium is forecast to run out in about 2070 (the waste legacy will remind all future generations of the "Nuclear Era".) Nuclear Fusion is in the very distant future if at all. Oil,gas and coal will also be gone, leaving their various scars if not an open wound that will mean the demise of all living things on our Earth. We humans have caused this problem therefore we must solve it - now. Using renewable sources for energy is the only long term solution. Funding other means than RE is only diverting good money and delaying the solution. The USA is way behind. The benefits for RE use in California are going to Japanese, German and Danish firms because of better products. Americans, we all can do something to solve this problem: save energy, write Congress, demonstrate, invest in RE, invent better RE products, unite with like minded souls in the world to get the word out and take action, etc. Like Apollo 13 we are at a distant point alone in space with a huge problem; it will take the ingenuity of all of us to save our biosphere. Unlike Apollo 13, we do not know yet how this will end. Let's get to work we have not a day to lose!

3:19 am, November 26, 2006  
Anonymous American said...

That acid photo should really be a wakeup call. With all this filth in our ecosystem, no wonder more and more people are falling ill with cancer and other seemingly unexplainable diseases.

9:01 am, December 07, 2006  
Blogger shadoweyes said...

Don't forget the many deaths and diseases attributed to coal mining. Coal has killed far more people than nuclear is ever likely to.

Not that this means nuclear is our best option, but people's reactions to the two are often inverted from what reality should dictate.

12:04 pm, December 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you by any chance read the recent Newsweek Int. Edition (Dec 2006 - Feb 2007)? Its quite good wth many diverse articles, one on clean coal too, incl. one by Al Gore.

6:11 am, December 12, 2006  
Anonymous tom_squick said...

Good article.

8:15 pm, January 23, 2007  
Blogger Solar John said...

The Bush administration has been an environmental disaster. I can't wait until this national nightmare is over.

http://solarjohn.blogspot.com

John

10:42 am, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Coal Miner said...

Lots good info here. Your point regarding the output of Coal to Liquids technology versus the current vehicle fleet requirements needs answering. The mixture of engine types you see on the road today diesel/gasoline is a broad reflection of what your countries oil refiners are getting out of a barrel of crude. If you are not making your fuel from crude oil you have no such restrictions on you. Although you can make any fuel from coal, it has been found that coal to liquids is much more cost effective if you heavily bias the process towards one product, in this case diesel. Diesel is a much more environmentally friendly fuel than gasoline. Any diesel vehicle is around 30% more fuel efficient than it’s gasoline counterpart and the same is true for diesel vs gasoline hybrids. So by moving your fleet to diesel you can make deep cuts in vehicle emissions, and diesel hybrids take you even further. The fleet is turned over in about 15 years and a widespread adoption of coal to liquids will take decades in any case so the current fleet is really not a factor.

Of course to close the loop you are going to need geological sequestration. The first step of coal to liquids is gasification, so you already have a pure stream of CO2 to work with. These plants can be usefully sited at or near a sequestration site and the high value products shipped out.

A point worth making with regard to geological sequestration for power generating utilities is that most potential sequestration sites are nowhere near energy consumers. It is not desirable to transmit electricity over excessive distances, nor will it be viable to transport C02 over long distances without some add-on revenue generating activity such as EOR. Consider that for every tonne of coal burned you are producing in excess of 2 tonnes of CO2. The transportation costs are going to be significant. At current traded CCX or ECX Carbon prices you will need a sequestration site within 150km (real back of the envelope stuff I admit) or it will be cheaper simply to vent the CO2. A market derived price on Carbon emissions will therefore give non-emitting utilities the competitive advantage they need to gain market share. For this reason it is hard to see a future for coal for power generation in a Carbon constrained world. Rather it needs to be conserved for synthetic fuels, and all those petrochemicals and plastics we currently get from crude. Again such production facilities can be located at a sequestration site, and should the hydrogen economy ever come to pass you can re-tool your operation to produce it. In the end a market derived price on Carbon emissions will get us where we need to be environmentally speaking.

On the subject of coal resources and reserves, and speaking as a professional in the coal industry, there is more than enough to see humanity through the transition to a low carbon existence, even if it takes a hundred years (think of the efficiency and technological gains since 1907). Running out is not an issue, so long as we extract and use it intelligently.

9:47 pm, March 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why on earth does anyone believe there to be some alternative energy magic that is going to save us from fossil fuels.

The "Inconvenient Truth" is that for us to do anything about carbon dioxide we will first have to kill about 4 billion of the earth's people. That is the direct consequence of not using the agricultural methods we now use.

We cannot make enough food for the planet if we don't use petrochemicals for fertilizers, weed and pest control on our farms.

In most of the world, yields would drop by at least 50% without these methods. The consequences are mass starvation.

We are focused on carbon dioxide for only one reason, we can correlate the amount of carbon dioxide in ancient ice, to past climate changes.

So we hunt for solutions to reduce carbon dioxide while we ignore the fact that most of these solutions produce at the very least increased amounts of water vapour which is said to be at least 25 times the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is.

I think we need to take a careful step back and see who is making the money on the hunt to reduce carbon dioxide.

We should also take a hard look at the alternatives that are continually being posited. In most cases they are fairy dust that ignore the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Coal and other fossil fuels are not going to be so easily replaced and the desirability of doing so it very open to debate.

Cheers,

Bloefeld

11:04 pm, April 16, 2007  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Fusion may not be such a long shot:

Bussard Fusion Reactor

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

It has been funded:

Bussard Reactor Funded?

I have inside info that is very reliable and multiply confirmed that validates the above story. I am not at liberty to say more. Expect a public announcement from the Navy in the coming weeks.


The above reactor can burn Deuterium which is very abundant and produces lots of neutrons or it can burn a mixture of Hydrogen and Boron 11 which does not


The implication of is that we will know in 6 to 9 months if the small reactors of that design are feasible.

If they are we could have fusion plants generating electricity in 10 years or less depending on how much we want to spend to compress the time frame. A much better investment that CO2 sequestration.

=====

The Magic may be just around the corner.

If you want to learn the technical details there is lots here:

IEC Fusion Technology blog

Scroll down.

7:49 am, August 28, 2007  
Blogger M. Simon said...

Did I mention that this fusion project was funded by the BUSH administration?

==

Some solar scientists are predicting a little ice age due to a decline in solar output caused by a fall off of solar internal circulation.

So far world temperatures according to satellite measurements have been flat or slightly declining since 1998.

We may need to produce more CO2 to keep warm. Until something else comes along.

In any case China is the one to watch. They produce 6X as much CO2 per $ of GDP as America.

8:02 am, August 28, 2007  
Anonymous Gil said...

Well researched article! You touched on one of my main concerns with carbon dioxide sequestering. One day, it will come back out of the ground, at it may be in huge quantities. There have been several cases, as you have mentioned, where natural carbon dioxide stores, caused by volcanic activity, have built up under lakes. The natural temperature gradient keeps the CO2 trapped in the bottom of a lake until an event, such as a minor earth quake, upsets the balance resulting in a mass escape of the CO2. In a few cases, hundreds of people have died in nearby villages/towns from lack of oxygen that is pushed out by the CO2. I just fear this same scenario happening if we starting loading carbon dioxide underground.

7:38 am, September 08, 2007  
Anonymous Ames Tiedeman said...

I was just reading that Iceland gets most of their energy from water power. I then watched MSNBC and they suggested that using water power to smelt aluminum can reduce, by 90%, the bad emmissions caused from aluminum production. This sounds very positive too.

Wind and solar must become the source of power for Nevada, Arizon, New Mexcio, and Califronia.

6:44 am, September 20, 2007  
Blogger BethLBeth said...

Is everyone blind? The Bush family is invested in the coal industry, and of course the Bush Admin is going to promote coal as a primary source of "green energy," which it really isn't:

"If current practices continue, another 724 river miles will be buried by 2018, the report says."
NY Times Article

There are alternative technology innovation companies out there (this one is just an example), that are small businesses that will custom design for clients. I anticipate they will target residential areas in the near future rather than working only commercially.
Going greener is not only a threat to the U.S. economy, it is a threat to our planet. Try to avoid supporting large corporations such as Georgia Power, use your own buying power to help your neighborhood's small businesses grow.
Also, if it moves you to take a stand against the Bush Administration, by all means, please go to True Majority, a non-profit organization engined by Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's.
We should not let this coal industry take over, please voice this issue as much as possible!

thanks for reading,

Bethany :0)

11:55 am, October 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks! just the facts.

7:09 pm, November 05, 2007  
Anonymous Christopher Calder said...

The new Bush biofuels bill will cause more double digit food price inflation, speed global warming, and create greater political instability around the world. Obviously, the poor, the disabled, and the retired living on fixed incomes will be hurt the most. A United Nations food official has called biofuels "a crime against humanity," and a senior British Government science advisor has call biofuels a political "scam." For details, see THE BIOFUEL HOAX IS CAUSING A WORLD FOOD CRISIS! at: http://home.att.net/~meditation/bio-fuel-hoax.html

5:06 pm, December 27, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think you people have a clue about coal its benefits or its problems. But when the lights go out and you all sit in the cold wondering why there isnt any electric power to blog on your pc's remember that it was you that stopped the coal from allowing you to be the most progressive and productive nation in the history of the world.
and as far as coal miner deaths...dont forget that last year and for the past 8 years over 36,000 people have lost their lives on our highways.... kind of strange when you compare the two isn't it?

4:51 pm, January 11, 2008  
Anonymous ap said...

Hydropower energy potential is still enormous in the developing countries and could give a relevant contribute. See also this link http://www.unesco.org/water/wwap/facts_figures/water_energy.shtml
regards

5:07 pm, January 14, 2008  
Blogger abu said...

Since the energy we consume can not be stored any nut can see we are doomed. Nevertheless, there is no infinite supply of fossil fuel- at least not on this planet. If we convert totally to nuclear power, there is only so much uranium in the ground. Sun power will only work during daylight. If present trends continue- and they most likely will. The last few billion barrels of oil will not be traded on the open market; but will become the property of a military victor.

The very best we can do is conserve and hope like hell perpetual, alternate energy sources will be invented and or found or brought down to us from the Gods. There is no help coming out of Washington- form neither branch of government. There is no Manhattan Project to solve this one. Prices for corn, chicken, pork and soybeans are predicted to double within a year. This will happen because we chose to feed grain to our insatiable hunger for the combustion engine- that stupid, so-called sexy, automobile.

I personally believe no one wants to look realistically at the consumption habits of the pass or the present and our inability to find alternative energy sources. Instead, we are fighting over which methods are best when all are doomed to failure. We are drinking up all the wine and there are simple no way to grow more grapes. When the human species are gone it will be by our own arrogant, ignorant, self-centered doing. President Jimmy Carter warned us about our lavish, wasteful way with fuel and it cost him his day job. Well, conservation will only prolong the inevitable. We will run out! Good luck you Neantherdal wannabes.

1:27 pm, May 06, 2008  
Blogger Amanda said...

In the world of alternative fuel vehicles, those that use compressed Natural Gas often are muscled out of a conversation dominated by gasoline-electric hybrids, biodiesel and hydrogen fuel cells.

Natural gas costs, on average, one-third less than conventional gasoline at the pump. (Utah has the cheapest rate at $.63/gallon) Moreover, there are over 150,000 NGVs on U.S. roads today and over 5 million worldwide.

Natural gas is the practical bridge to sustainable energy. It's here: 98% of it is in North America. It's now: reserves point to at least a 60-year supply, according to the Natural Gas Supply Association. Natural Gas is plentiful and will not offset global food prices. Please include this alternative fuel as an option to consider in more of your articles. With natural gas on the horizon, the future needn't look so bleak.

2:07 pm, May 12, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello all. What I don't get is the worry about CO2. That is the base for all life. It is the oxygen of the plants, the building blocks of Corral reefs. Also, human output of CO2 currently accounts for 0.03 hundreds of one percent of the total output of CO2. Dying trees, fires, volcanoes etc do most of the output. Also CO2 is not the main greenhouse gas. The biggest one is water vapor. (hard one to control). Earth was warming for a while due to the sun cycle, which is just ending right now by the way. The CO2 theory is just junk science to get more govt. grants. Also about oil, the crust of the earth rotates. When the oil gets down to the burning inside of the earth, the earth farts out the gas in volcanoes.(Most under the ocean beds in the Pacific.) So we can have coal plants. Let the trees have their oxygen. There is no new co2. It has always been here. It cycles. Just like water.

8:20 pm, May 29, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

blah, blah, blah...the fact is (and has been stated and restated in the past) is that there is NO SINGLE SOLUTION!!! (or at least until Mr. Fusion ala 'Back to the Future' is a reality.)

In other words, bring it all, Wind, Solar, Nuclear, Coal Gasification, more drilling, new engine designs, etc, etc. We need them all putting their two cents worth in.

9:04 am, June 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have a look at coal is dirty and all the other related sites for the nimby fascists who really are stupid, arrogant and do not give a toss about others. But for the majority of people who do have a moral conscience and sense of fairness they patently realise that we do need to wean ourselves off oil and natural gas as soon as we can, for the simple reason that its fast running out as demand outstrips production and we are facing WW3 and nuclear Armageddon for the remaining control of it.

Coal is also a finite commodity but used more wisely it will keep us in electricity and gas for a great deal longer than what most non large oil and gas reserve countries have now – over 200 years or so for the US, even longer for the UK and most of Europe Asia, Africa, South America. That time, however, would change to about half or less if we screwed oil out off coal so we could keep our cars, running – and that’s one major energy rub.

The other major energy rub, apart from sustainables, is nuclear power as unless we can get sustainable energy to be “providing” around 70% of our electricity by around 2060 then I doubt if we would have any alternative that to consider using the heat from nuclear fission to generate steam, to drive a steam engine that drives the generator that produces the electricity – chetty, as for obvious ESR reasons there is no way we would want CHP to boot.

As for nuclear fusion and CO2 sequestration; well Gill is spot on with CO2 - not that we need to do it anyway - but nuclear fusion looks like it will never happen, if the past 60 years of R&D is anything to base a yard stick on. That said, and as an Engineer, I for one would rather we spend “some” money on its R&D to see if it could happen than fart about with the multitude of hire brained ideas we have now.

All things considered the wise thing to do for the economic availability of electricity, gas and pharmaceuticals is to use coal as efficiently as possible and that means no more large centralised power stations but lots more smaller bespoke CHP systems that would return a five fold increase in efficiency and a corresponding if not large decrease in pollution – due to system multi tasking.

So, drop the nimby and nuclear jack monkey as you and I know full well that unless we act cohesively and pragmatically and do this our children and their children, etc. will curse us (well some of us) for being so cowardly, stupid, selfish and anti social – and that latter word in my opinion is just an old fashioned way that means caring or looking out for others; like your friends, family, buddies, co workers (well perhaps with some exclusions – after all we are only human).

Oh, I am also at a loss about oil as I have two cars that need gas and my job needs wheels to get to. But I know that we once ruled most of the Wold without it – not that implies some sort of former colonial superiority or slight, however, nor dare I say do I relish the thought of buying a pony instead – think of all the poo that would need cleaning up on the M1 (back to my lab).


Dr John
Mud Island

11:58 pm, November 13, 2010  

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