Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Clean Coal?

Four Corners this week looked at the issue of 'clean' coal - also called Geosequestration or Carbon Capture and Storage (or CCS) or even 'burying the carbon pollution under the ground' - and whether it was a possible major part of any climate change solution.
Against clean coal was Mark Diesendorf (from the Institute of Environmental Studies at UNSW), who argued that the technology was: unproven; expensive; risky; and the money would be much better spent on already available renewable energy such as wind and solar.
Dr Joseph Romm was also interviewed. He argued that clean coal faced a number of challenges:
  • Expensive
  • Unproven
  • Risky
There were also pro-clean coal viewpoints put forward by the coal industry. I

nterestingly the program also had a look at the failed US attempt to get CCS technology 'off the ground' and working 'safely' (it faced increasing levels of community concerns). Given that any new technology must cross the technology 'valley of death' to get to market, it will be both difficult and expensive for Australia to succeed where the US is currently failing.
It needs a lot of Government funding and regulatory help. It is getting this at the State and Federal level, but given that the funding available here is relatively very small in size compared to the US (and they found it too expensive to get a demonstration plant running), it is a difficult task indeed.
The main question is: Could the money be better spent on other solutions?
Renewable energy is already available and needs further policy help to play a major part. The clean coal technology plant would have only lowered the carbon pollution emitted by the coal fired power station by 1.5%. Not a great reduction. "its the idea" said the coal spokesman. It would also take many years (decades even) to roll out any retrofit program for existing coal power stations. Dr Romm suggested we would also need to bury as much carbon pollution as we dill oil out of the ground each year.
Anyway, well worth a look.

Video available here

** If you enjoyed this post please also check out:

'Clean Coal' ???

EPA decides 'no new coal-fired power plants' (Well at least for now)

Greenpeace protests against coal carriers

Should coal-fired energy producers pay for greenhouse pollution permits???

Top 10 Environmental Posts


So please, tell us what you think.