More thoughts on coal

070116 shunde

Here’s an interesting article from my home town paper, The Roanoke Times, on the new carbon capture technology being tested at a power plant in West (By God) Virginia. The technology is interesting to me, especially since I once considered becoming a geologist, but this is the part of the article I found most interesting:

[Mike] Morris [Chairman of American Electric Power (AEP)] and a host of others stressed Friday that coal will fuel power generation for decades to come, both in this country and many others. He said AEP agrees there is enough evidence to believe there is a link between human activity and climate change. But he said the United States has “the financial and technical wherewithal to address the issue.”

Some environmental groups encourage carbon capture efforts such as the one at Mountaineer. Others ask tough questions.

John Steelman is program manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center.

“We support the use of carbon capture,” Steelman said Thursday. “We believe that for the next few decades the United States and other countries, including China, are going to use coal in significant quantities.”

And this is a critical time, he said, to limit emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

John Blair is president of Valley Watch, a small environmental group in Indiana whose primary focus is the lower Ohio River Valley. The organization has fought coal-fired power plants since Valley Watch’s founding in 1981.

Blair said he has been following the development of the carbon capture and storage system at Mountaineer.

“The Alstom technique is kind of fascinating, I must say,” Blair said. [ed. – emphasis added]

The first thing that made me pause was the assertion that the USA can afford this. As someone who’s still living with campaign commercials for the Virginia’s Governor’s race, the cost of electricity is a MAJOR issue on people’s minds. As a business owner that gets 100% its power from AEP, the cost of coal fired power has a definite and immediate impact on the bottom line. I am all for energy alternatives, but let’s take off the rose colored glasses about the costs involved.

I am also interested to see somebody finally acknowledging that China (and India) are going to use coal because it is what is available and affordable (front end cost, not a nearly impossible to calculate “environmental cost”). Whether or not carbon sequestration works or is applicable in China on a large scale is something to watch. I would like to see some rational enforcement of safety in the Chinese coal mining industry (which is flat out horrific) and particulate emissions from Chinese power plants, as that is the immediate driver of the human cost of pollution in China. I am genuinely concerned with the smog in Chinese cities, as our team at PassageMaker (some of my closest friends) live and work in it everyday.

So to brighten your weekend, a lovely photo of the air quality in south China!

070116 shunde

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