This post was contributed by Sarah Lozanova, one of our Chicago bloggers.
By its very nature, the concept of "clean" coal seems like a paradox. Coal power plants are responsible for 40% of the nation's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, numerous asthma attacks, smog, and mercury contamination. How clean can energy be that is produced from a lump of black coal?
Plans are underway to construct a low-emissions coal plant in Mattoon, IL. Powered by high-sulfur Illinois coal, this $1.8 billion prototype will test the viability of clean coal energy. Being touted as the cleanest coal plant in the world, it will be a laboratory for carbon sequestration and coal-to-hydrogen technologies. The public-private partnership between FutureGen and the DOE entails the DOE providing 74% of the required funds.
Proponents of the plant see it as a boost for the economy of Mattoon and an opportunity to test the viability of “cleaner” coal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes that CO2 capture and sequestration could be a viable option for mitigating climate change, but does raise concerns about cost, overall potential, and technical maturity. This raises the question, how much value do we place on a stable climate?
Considering the $1.8 billion investment needed for this 275-megawatt plant, this prototype will have a steep upfront cost. Operating costs can be higher as well because 10%-40% more energy is needed by plants that capture, compress, and pump CO2 into the ground.
Some consideration has been given to use wind energy to compress the captured CO2 and pump it underground. This will decrease the use of fossil fuels by plants that sequester carbon.
Using coal as an energy source also comes with creates numerous environmental issues. Coal mining is responsible for extensive environmental damage. Forests and streams are destroyed, impacting water quality and wildlife habitat.
Despite the environmental impacts of coal mining, the low-emissions plant in Mattoon, IL is certainly an improvement from business as usual. This prototype plant will help answer some of the questions that surround carbon sequestration and its feasibility for mitigating climate change.
U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007.
As part of his recent senate campaign, Karl Kruszelnicki estimated the amount of liquefied carbon dioxide produced by Australian coal power stations would fill a cube 100m to a side...daily!
By way of comparison, that's about the same order of magnitude as the Monash regional landfill site, which will take ten years to fill (with rubbish) on current estimates.
How many daily landfills the US and China would need is a bit daunting. I mean, every little bit helps...but!
What else can be done about CO2?
Crack it? A quick google squizz brings up a number of initiatives for catalytic conversions, but I suspect a fair degree of energy is involved.
Use less coal? Probably the most effective long term strategy, but it will take time and, er, sea changes.
I looked at coal plant cancellations in depth here:
Based on my research, it seems the relative "cleanliness" of the coal will be an important future consideration for new U.S. coal-power plants
I dont accept DrKarl as a religion to believe in.The decent thing about liquidified gas at 100cu.m is Karl can count.The reality is does that really represent emissions at coal power stations or a gross figure,rather than a net figure at every power station.And I doubt any new research on carbon dioxide has undergone encapsulation with new materials ,decided hot places like Australia should have ice rinks for the athletic in any town or area that wants one,and all the possible uses of carbon dioxide into varying carbonates thats possible.What Karl has done is been so silly in his real criticism, the coal fired generators have found a good bludge to cry poor,cry no research can be done that isnt costly,and cry government assistance is necessary and every other excuse that means they wont to a bloody thing.He should be ashamed of himself,by not pointing out the bloody water vapour also goes up,and that can also be used.Some of the people who have forced these over-generalised but accurate statistics, I suppose,have also created the problem being worse than what it may be, by emphasizing the wrong view of the volumes of the gases.Surely to bloody Christ since when in human history has waste of any type not be seen as an unaccounted for asset!? Lately,you think!? Karl via this site,and Telstra Bill..I accuse you of being one of the world s Fucking Idiots.Why do any of you people think you actually care!?