Archive for January, 2009

Federal money for clean energy sources

With Congress hotly debating an economic stimulus package, there’s been a lot of talk lately about government support for various energy sources.

On all sides of this debate, there’s an agreement that there’s no silver bullet — we’re going to need all of our available domestic energy resources to help meet that demand.

That means baseload power sources such as coal, which provides about half of our electricity. And yes it also means renewable energy, which has an important role to play in our energy portfolio when it comes to peaking power.

It is not an either/or situation, and people should remember that we’re not at war with other fuel sources.

Having said that, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) made a good point when he said more federal research dollars are needed to develop clean coal technologies, since coal is an affordable and abundant fuel source.

Per the Associated Press:

"Coal and nuclear are carrying the load," Manchin said. But he said they account for a disproportionately small share of research funding.

So let’s work together to develop good jobs pursuing clean technologies that will capture and safely store CO2.

Commercial-scale carbon capture project slated for North Dakota

Another clean coal initiative is on the horizon, this time in the state of North Dakota.

Last week, outgoing U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Shafer announced a $300 million federal loan for Basin Electric Power Cooperative* in Bismarck to capture carbon dioxide from the company’s existing power plant. The carbon dioxide will be captured at the source in Bismarck and then transferred to Canada where it will be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

The Basin Electric plant is another exciting development in the clean coal technologies that can power us into a clean energy future. Look for updates on this story here on Behind the Plug, and don’t forget to check out the other carbon capture projects in progress—there are more than 80 of them underway in the U.S. right now.

NOTE: Basin Electric Power Cooperative is an ACCCE member.

The NYT Calls us ‘Cheery’ — What Does that make

Last week, the New York Times called the messages of our outreach campaign “cheery.”

That was an Interesting word choice, since we’ve backed up claims of progress with a strong record of achievement and we have spoken realistically about the challenges that lie ahead.
So while I think the New York Times editorial writer is showing a clear lack of understanding about the commitment our coalition is making to the future of coal, I can’t help but wonder how the newspaper would describe the new ads by the group (or, as I like to call them, the “we don’t need coal folks”)?

Our campaign is clear about our policy goals. We promote policies that:

  1. ensure access to reliable energy
  2. promote energy independence
  3. keep the cost of energy affordable for working families and American businesses
  4. create new jobs by investing in advanced technologies to further improve the environmental performance of energy production across the board – including technologies to capture and store CO2 from coal-based power plants.

That’s what we’re for.

But what are the folks who are sponsoring the “anti-clean coal technology” spots asking people to see, feel, and do at the end of their messages? What are they for?

Is it really that we won't need fossil fuels in 10 years? (If so, what proof do they give to support that claim?) Also, why are they so optimistic about overcoming the obstacles associated with the increased use of renewables, but so pessimistic about the future of advanced clean coal technologies that will capture and safely store CO2?

Given that coal accounts for about half of the electricity we rely on each day, and every credible forecast shows coal use growing to meet increased energy needs both here at home and around the world, I suspect most people agree (and polling shows that I’m right on this one) see that coal will be a part of our energy future for a long-time to come.

Coal and algae, the ‘perfect’ clean energy pair

Whoever said coal couldn’t be a part of a green energy future must have missed this recent spot on NBC Nightly News.

Algae—the green slimy stuff you find in ponds and lakes—is being tested as an alternative fuel source for cars. In fact, experts believe that algae has the capability to displace petroleum diesel to the tune of 66 billion gallons of oil. What’s more, algae grows remarkably fast. Rather than harvesting once or twice a year, scientists can harvest algae every couple of days.

The caveat of this fast-growing super fuel? Giving it enough to eat. Every pound of algae consumes more than two pounds of carbon dioxide. The solution: grow the algae where there’s CO2 to spare.

Scientists conducted a small-scale test at an Arizona plant, pumping CO2 from a coal-fired plant into a tank of algae. The result was enough for one scientist to declare, “We’re able to convert a renewable product into fuel and at the same time consume CO2—it’s a perfect story.”

DOE clean coal project a success

We are thoroughly enthused about news from the DOE, revealing the successful close of an advanced clean coal project which reduced emissions, increased plant efficiency, lowered generation costs and improved reliability.

The demonstration project—which was selected in 2003 by the US Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI)—included developing software products to optimize combustion and improve plant-wide availability.

The results, from the DOE statement:

• Nitrogen oxide emissions dropped by 12–14 percent

• Fuel efficiency improved by .7 percent

• Available megawatt hours increased by 1.5 percent.

• Ammonia consumption was reduced by 15–20 percent.

• Reductions in greenhouse gases, mercury, and particulates—as well as lower costs, improved reliability, and greater commercial availability—also resulted.

The DOE reported that the project proved to be a cost-effective mechanism to improve the environmental footprint of coal-based electricity generation, helping “to ensure that the United States has clean, reliable and affordable electricity well into the future.”

What’s more, the technologies commercialized during the project are expected to pay for themselves within one year when installed in average-sized units across all unit types and fuel categories in the U.S. fossil power industry.

This is just more proof of the evolutionary progress of clean coal in providing affordable, reliable, and increasingly clean energy to meet America’s energy needs.

See what clean coal projects are developing in your neck of the woods.

Obama’s New Site


Congratulations to President Obama!

Now that the transition is over, it's time to get to work and start rebuilding America’s economy.

The new administration has put forth its agenda online at — take a look at the priorities listed under the "energy & environment" heading, including:

"Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology"

We're eager to work with President Obama to help him keep his commitment to clean coal technology. America's coal-based electricity providers stand ready to work with him to pioneer a new generation of advanced clean coal technologies that
will capture and store carbon emissions.

Texas Senate considers clean coal bill

We were excited to see a clean coal bill in the Texas Senate that could help bring a $2.8 billion coal gasification plant to the state.

Read all about it here; we’ll post updates on this story as they come.

Dr. Chu, Obama’s choice for DOE secretary

This morning, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee began confirmation hearings for Stephen Chu, Barack Obama’s choice for Energy secretary.

Chu told the senators that it is imperative to speed development and deployment of carbon sequestration technologies.

Here is Greenwire’s account of the hearing:

"I will work very hard to extensively develop these technologies so the United States and the rest of the world can use them," Chu said. Chu added that even if the United States were to move away from coal, China and India would not, and the United States had an opportunity to use its technological leadership to advance the use of carbon controls. "We are in a position to develop these technologies so the world can capture the carbon," he said, later noting that there will be some new coal plant construction in the United States.

"It is a question of science and technology and really putting the pedal to the floor as quickly as possible to develop carbon sequestration technologies," Chu said.

Here’s what Sen. Bryon Dorgan (D-N.D.) had to say about Dr. Chu:

"I think he believes that coal has to be a part of our future. The question is how do you use coal. He believes and I believe that we are going to have a low-carbon future."

We’ll continue to follow the confirmation process closely, but for now… I’ll just say that we look forward to working with Dr. Chu and his team to continue finding ways to meet America’s growing energy demand while protecting energy security and keeping costs affordable for consumers.