Archive for November, 2008

Clean coal technology made in… China?

The U.S. is not the only player involved in pushing the envelop on advanced clean coal technologies to capture and store carbon.

China is involved in a project like the FutureGen project here in the U.S., a public-private partnership to build a near zero-emissions coal-fueled power plant.

(Click here for the latest on FutureGen's status.)

The Chinese project — known as GreenGen — is larger in scale then the proposed FutureGen project, and it promises to show continued progress on advancing technologies that will ensure that coal remains a viable energy option for meeting growing energy demand even as we move to enact measures to reduce greenhous gas emissions.

As we've learned, there is no word in the Chineese language for NIMBY (not in my backyard), so I suspect that it will be full-speed ahead for the GreenGen project. That said, I'm hopeful that as a country, we move aggressively in achieving the goal set by the incoming Obama administration to have at least five full commercial-scale carbon capture and storage projects deployed in the U.S. over the next several years.

If we fail to do that, the technologies that we use here at home to capture and store CO2 could come with a "made in China" logo. While I'm pleased to see that China is taking such a strong leadership position, it would be a shame to see us miss out on the opportunity to export U.S. developed technologies abroad.

See below as Fred Palmer, senior vice president at Peabody Energy, discusses the plans for GreenGen:

Clean coal technology to the economic rescue

Coal has long been an economic boon for our nation, and with constantly evolving clean coal technologies, it will continue to play a vital role.

With the right investments in clean coal technology, the United States would have an opportunity to capture a growing share of the export market for coal-based fuel products that enhance efficiency and environmental performance to countries around the world.

After all, global demand for power generating technologies and services is anticipated to create a $480 billion export market over the next three decades and support more than 600,000 jobs in the U.S. power-equipment industry.

These jobs are getting greener every day. In fact, there is over $6 billion in clean coal research underway right now in 41 states — even ones not normally associated with coal production.

Click here to find a clean coal technology project near you.

Railroads are America’s energy pipeline

It is hard to think about America's freight railroad
industry as an energy pipeline — but in fact that is partly what it is.

In addition to carrying millions of tons of frieght each year, America's
railroads are also responsible for carrying coal from the mines to the power

And they do it efficiently and safely.

Jim Young, chairman of the board with Union Pacific Corporation recently had a chance to tell us about the rail industry's role in meeting America's future energy needs.

Take a look for yourself:

Clean energy shouldn’t be all or nothing, says MIT professor

When it comes to reducing emissions from coal-fired plants, we can’t allow perfect be the enemy of the good.

Howard Herzog, a professor
at MIT, echoed the same sentiment during a panel discussion at the International
Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies
in D.C. yesterday.

Said Herzog: “By insisting on the
perfect thing, we’re creating the worst thing, which is a stalemate. It doesn’t
have to be full [carbon] capture versus no capture.

From the ClimateWire report:

their soon-to-be-published research, Herzog and fellow panelist Ashleigh Hildebrand,
a graduate student in chemical engineering at MIT, found that grabbing 45 to 65
percent of carbon dioxide from a coal generator, as opposed to the
often-proposed 85 to 90 percent, would provide an incentive for investors to
get moving on the technology while achieving emissions parity with natural

The fact is, we'll need to find policies that allow us to meet growing energy demand while reducing emissions from our chief source of baseload power, we should support it.

We agree — an all-or-nothing mentality will get us nowhere.

No matter what you’ve heard, FutureGen is alive

Recently, we had the chance to chat with Fred Palmer, senior vice president at Peabody Energy

We talked about the status of a project slated for Matoon, Ill., called FutureGen — a public-private partnership to build the world's first near zero-emissions coal-fueled power plant.
(Peabody is one of the founding members of the FutureGen Alliance).

In the video below, you'll hear him say "FutureGen is alive."

He adds, "We'll make a concerted effort in the Obama administration to reinstate the project and get this built as originally planned."

We share Fred's cautious optimism that this important project will get back on track early next year, given the commitments made by Barack Obama — both in terms of this project specifically and in support of the deployment of a number of large-scale commercial carbon capture and storage projects.

Watch the whole video for yourself.

Our Beef with Brian Williams

Okay, it's not really a beef. We just need to clear something up.

This week, NBC Nightly News
aired a report on coal, which examined coal-based
electricity and its ability to burn cleanly.

Anchorman Brian Williams
began the report by calling clean coal “an oxymoron,” failing to acknowledge
the suite of technologies that have been developed over the last 30 years to
remove harmful emissions from coal-based power plants. 

These technologies have
already made coal a cleaner energy resource—overall our plants are 70 percent cleaner today than they were in the 1970s
based on regulated emissions per unit of energy produced. And with new advances
in technology, we’re looking at a future in which coal will meet America’s
growing electricity needs with little to no emissions of the pollutants
regulated by federal and state clean air laws.

However, the NBC team
redeemed themselves a bit by traveling to Germany to profile the country’s $100
million pilot carbon capture and sequestration plant,
which eliminates 95 percent of carbon dioxide from power plant emissions and
buries them underground.

NBC also noted the lack of
U.S. funding for pilot plants here in America, cutting to a researcher from the
MIT Energy Initiative who said, “I believe we have really no time to waste in
pursuing a whole set of low-carbon technology options.”

In the end, NBC showed
America that carbon capture and sequestration is not only possible, but necessary in order to utilize our most
abundant, affordable energy source, and that it’s time to support the funding
of the next generation of clean coal technologies.

Will Detroit’s cash crisis kill the electric car?

That’s what one headline was asking this week. I hope the answer is “no!”

As you know, we’re big fans of electric cars.

We’d love to see a plug-in
hybrid like the Chevy Volt on the road as soon as possible.


Because the energy these cars
run on will have to come from somewhere – and if it is plugged in, odds in this
country (and many others) are good that the electricity charging them will be
coal generated – greatly increasing America’s energy security.

If that electricity can be
produced utilizing carbon capture and sequestration technology, we can also
greatly reduce the greenhouse gases that are currently being released into the
atmosphere by every car on the highway without increasing emissions in the
utilities sector.

That’s the definition of a
win-win situation.

According to the article, GM
is protecting its investment in electric cars like the Chevy Volt even as it
cuts funds elsewhere.

Let’s hope that is true,
because plug-in electric vehicles may not only be the future of the auto
industry, they could mean a brighter future for all of us.

Chamber of Commerce Recommends Sweeping Energy Agenda

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging President-Elect Obama to instantiate an “executive-level office to help expand domestic oil and gas production while aggressively promoting energy conservation and development of cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels.”

Specifically, the agenda calls for the president-elect and the 111th Congress to, within the first 100 days, establish a fund managed by fossil fuel-based utilities for the R&D and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies at private, academic and government sites. The recommendation also calls on Congress to “commit to doubling research and development funding over five years for renewable energy technologies, as well as clean coal energy.”

We agree!  We can create jobs, become more energy independent, keep energy costs affordable for consumers, and respond to climate change concerns.  The key is investing in all of our domestic energy resources … including clean coal. 

Take a look for yourself and let us know what you think.