Archive for March, 2009

We Need Affordable Energy

During the taping of one of our first video blog posts, we were
interrupted by a man who thought we were putting together the evening news. He shouted for us to do a story about the need for him to get a job.

That interruption changed the message of our video post. After all, there's no doubt that
affordable electricity can help get businesses back on their feet and
hiring workers.

Take a look.

Exciting projects in the news today

Even in tough economic times, it’s still possible to come across a positive headline or two in the news.

For instance, it was nice to read a few stories today about the teams of researchers who are hard at work building the next generation of clean coal technologies, including ones that will capture and sequester carbon dioxide (CO2).

Alstom Power and Dow Chemical announced today they are building a pilot plant to capture about 1,800 tons per year of CO2 from the flue gas of a coal-fired boiler in South Charleston, W.Va.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy is joining Archer Daniels Midland in financing a seven-year program to show the viability of underground CO2 storage. Soon, teams will begin injecting CO2 into mile-deep rock formations. The formal groundbreaking is April 6.

These are exciting times. Already, technology has made coal 77 percent cleaner in terms of emissions currently regulated under existing Clean Air Act programs per unit of energy produced. And with continued advances, clean coal technologies will soon include technologies that capture and store CO2.

A look back at the carbon capture conference

Well, that’s a wrap on the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) conference on carbon capture.

We learned a lot about the exciting technology that’s around the corner. Labs all over the country are working on new ways to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from process of generating electricity from coal.

When we arrived, we weren’t sure what we’d hear. But we left town more optimistic than ever that coal can meet the needs of America’s energy future while simultaneously meeting our nation’s stringent environmental standards.

In the video above, Ned Leonard, the vice president of technology policy for ACCCE, gives his final thoughts from the conference.

Coal: A Slam Dunk for America’s Economic Recovery

If you're like us, you've been glued to the television lately watching college basketball.

Of course, the tournament also got us thinking about energy issues. (Strange, we know, but thinking about energy is what we do around here.) Specifically, how dependent the final weekend of the tournament will be on coal-generated power.

Coal generates almost 50 percent of America's electricity, which means about half of the televisions we watch the games on will be powered by coal — and coal-based electricity is affordable (1/3 the cost of other fuels). Those are some pretty strong stats.

Add to that the fact that America's electric utilities that use coal have invested over $90 billion in technologies to reduce emissions and improve air quality, and it shows that the coal-based electricity sector has game. So it's no wonder 72 percent of our American opinion leaders support the use of our most abundant fuel.

When it comes to affordable, reliable, and increasingly clean energy — American coal is a slam dunk (and an easy No. 1 seed).

If you want to be a part of a growing team of people who believe we can grow our economy, create jobs, keep energy costs affordable and invest in technologies to further reduce emissions (including the capture and storage of CO2), click here.

U.S., Australia team up on carbon capture

No matter what the issue, it’s encouraging to learn of people who put down their battle axes and find a way to meet in the middle.

Such is the case in Australia, where environmentalists and industry have compromised in order to push funding for carbon capture and storage. So when the Australian Prime Minister met with President Obama to develop solutions for mitigating greenhouse gasses while spurring economic development, one idea came to mind: partnering with other governments around the world in the Australian initiative for a global carbon capture and storage institute.

Said President Obama, "If we can take some intelligent steps and we start to discuss how we could work together on this, figuring out how to sequester and capture the carbon that's emitted from coal, as just one element of a broader range of energy initiatives, that's an example of something that can create jobs; also deal with a potential environmental crisis – that's the kind of economic growth that I think we're going to be looking for."

Prime Minister Rudd agreed saying, “Generating jobs through clean coal and carbon sequestration technologies is critical. It's also critical in terms of bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.”

It’s clear that the world’s leaders see promise in carbon capture technology for more than eliminating carbon dioxide. What will it take to get the rest of Americans on board?

Taking the time to do climate legislation right

We’ve said that climate change legislation was too important of an issue to attempt to tackle by using back-door methods. It seems like more people are agreeing—a collection of House and Senate members on both sides of the isle have encouraged leadership to hold off on fast-tracked climate change legislation.

Said Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine), "I'm a strong supporter of climate change legislation and continue to be. But this is a major policy change, and it should not be jammed through using reconciliation. We should have a full debate, and ample opportunity for a lot of different amendments."

If you look at the big picture, climate legislation, while certainly important for the environment, will also affect U.S. families and businesses. Like President Obama has said, “If [a cap-and-trade system] is too onerous that people can’t meet it, then it defeats the purpose.”

Carbon capture conference: Day 3

Here at the annual National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) conference on carbon capture technology, we caught up with Professor Edward Maginn of Notre Dame.

His research has focused on ionic liquids (salts that are liquid at room temperature), a breakthrough absorption technology for post-combustion carbon dioxide capture. This differs from other aqueous amine technology, but we’ll let Professor Maginn explain for himself.

Carbon capture conference: Day 2


Rui Huang, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, displays his research at the annual National Energy Technology Laboratory conference on carbon capture in Pittsburgh

Yesterday was all about using sorbents and solvents to capture the CO2 from the flue gas of existing power plants. Today, the focus is how to capture the CO2 from the combustion process through a method called advanced oxy-combustion.

In the oxy-combustion process, oxygen (rather than air) is used so that the end result is pure carbon dioxide exhaust, which can be captured more easily.

As Jared Ciferno of the Department of Energy said this morning, existing technology can capture 90 percent of CO2 from power plants. However, the key is keeping costs affordable.

As with any technology, it is always more expensive when it first comes out (think about VCRs and plasma TVs). That is why the demonstration projects to scale-up these technologies is so important – it allows us to drive down the cost of the technology and ultimately ensure that we deliver the desired environmental benefits at an affordable price to consumers.

So far today, we’ve heard from Fanxing Li of Ohio State University, Herb Andrus of Alstom Power, William Rogers of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), Maxwell Christie of Praxair Inc., Hamid Farzan of Babcock & Wilcox and Thomas Gale of the Southern Research Institute.

Remember, clean coal technology research is taking places all across the country. We’ll have more from the NETL conference soon.