Energy enthusiasts find common ground on emissions

Posted by Joe Lucas at 12:30 pm, April 20, 2009

If you watch some of the more negative television ads out there talking about energy issues, you’d get the idea that people who work on renewables don’t like the folks working on coal R&D projects that much. Well, luckily, what we see on TV isn’t always a good representation of what happens in the real world.

During the sessions at George Washington University’s symposium for accelerating greenhouse gas reductions, we were struck by how much respect was observed between researchers who were working to advance carbon capture and those who were working to advance renewable energy.

During his presentation on solar energy, Ken Zweibel, director of GWU’s Institute for the Analysis of Solar Energy, said that people studying renewables and people studying carbon capture were not all that different—they both have the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation. The difference, he said, is that they are approaching the issue from two different angles.

If you follow the media’s interpretation of how the different energy sectors interact (or perhaps, by the commentary on some environmental blogs), you might think that we all fight like cats and dogs or tear down one another's research.

Today was living proof that that’s simply not the case. In fact, Mr. Zweibel said at the start of his solar energy lecture that he would “hate to see CCS be taken off the table” due to regulatory disconnects or hold-ups, and that solar energy is another option on the table to help us reduce CO2 emissions from electricity production and increase domestic energy production. Said Zweibel: “We need our energy here [in the US].”

And he’s right—we absolutely need all of our domestic energy sources to meet our growing energy and environmental challenges. We’re happy to have been part of the symposium at George Washington University and to have gotten the chance to work alongside these great thinkers and innovators.

7 Responses to “Energy enthusiasts find common ground on emissions”

  1. DebbieKat says:

    The reason that they don’t like the clean coal R&D is because you still have to blow up mountain tops to get at the coal in the first place. You are still storing it in unsecured places, where in one recent case it wound up contaminating hundreds , if not thousands of acres of people’s land.
    I’m sorry, but just because you find ways to burn it more cleanly, coal is not and will never be clean.
    I’m sure this post will be deleted.

  2. Rick Shipley says:

    Sir I have a prayer and it is out side the box.
    WE THE PEOPLE need these things to put this economy back on track, recapitalize the middle class and answer the inflation all this stimulus spending will create and answer your CO2 problem.
    FIRST: 75% reduction in the green house emissions by really mitigating our smoke stack gasses.(cap and trade is a good place to start, it’s the politically expedient thing) However the Bio-reactor, DOE Award NO. DE-FG26-99FT40592 which has been tested since 1998, can establish our coal fired eclectic plants as a domestic source of bio-fuels. The silver lining is the sale of this byproduct creates a profit center where the rate payer is not stuck with the bill for these improvements and there by establish a home grown industry for jobs and the export of a technology Europe, China (ISN’T THE IEA ON THEIR CASE ABOUT COAL) and India would line up for. You need to take a look at this before a small South African company beats you to the punch.
    SECOND: A car that gets 200 miles to a gallon of gas. If you whant us to use expensive alternative bio-fuels, it would be best to employ a paradigm that makes the unit price at the pump irrelevant. With cars like the Aptera (300 miles to a charge) and the Tesla Si four door sedan that gets 160 miles to a charge and with the proper economies of scale, can have a $49,000 price tag, (the GM volt is already obsolete)
    The employment of this synergy will put the rank and file environmentalist on your side because these paradigms clean the air, create a clean domestic alternative fuel supply and it stops making the Coal industry look years behind the times. It will create a source of revenue and most important it will break the log jam on all the coal projects you still have on the drawing board. You get to call the shots on the future of global warming not just in the US but the entire glob.
    This is out side the box. However if you whant to see a working model of the reactor view the REDHAWK POWER PLANT, ARLINGTON, AZ.
    You are looking at trying to clean the coal, when the CO2 problem is in the Smoke Stack waste gasses. (which is a free raw material) Lobby congress to establish a green stock that would offer a 12% capital gains cap. You now have a source of founds and with the sale of the bio-fuels a revenue stream that the CCS process can not match.

  3. Debbie:
    A good way to think about sequestration is to remember the advice that our parents gave us as children: “If you take something out, remember to put it back where you found it.” The CO2 comes from the ground, where it is locked inside the coal. When we burn the coal to make electricity, the CO2 is released. New technology will allow us to capture that CO2 before it enters the atmosphere and then — as our parents told us — put it back in the ground where we found it. Will this really work? Yes, but there is still work to be done on how to ensure that the CO2 stays in the ground. Developments in this area are popping up every day.

    Furthermore, in its 2007 Carbon Sequestration Atlas, the National Energy Technology Laboratory reported that North America has enough storage capacity at our current rate of production for more than 900 years worth of carbon dioxide.

    Thanks for the comment—we’ll check out the Redhawk.

  4. Elliott Alhadeff says:

    If Co2 were a cause of global warming, why does it follow temperature increases instead of preceding them? How do we control CO2 releases from the ocean which is thousands of times more than that caused by man? How do we plug up a volcanic eruption or “capture” the carbon from forest fires? The effort to control carbon emmissions is not only a political exercise in futility, it is an economic disaster.

  5. Mary Lee Scalf says:

    I am all for clean coal. What I am not for is blowing the tops off of the southern Appalachian mountains. I have seen mountaintop removal first hand and it is an abomination. Those of you who are all for mountaintop removal take time to educate yourselves about the horrible devestation it brings to the people and enviroment of the region where it is occuring.

  6. John Bagshaw says:

    I have come to the conclusion that we should start to look at smaller area coverage and find the natural source of energy first and then if needed add alternative sources. I would like to see a model that may start with solar in Florida because it is amply available and then suppliment with nuclear, just for Florida. Or tidal energy on the coasts and solar and nuclear on the interior, just for Florida. The point is make the grid cover a smaller area and create more independent grids. The cash outlay would be greater than a large unit but the long term savings would be found in the local natural source that is available. Other areas will have different sources, Nebraska could use soy or grain fuels, Colorado could use solar, wind and geothermal sources. The smaller grids would also make it harder for our enemies to disable our sources on a national level.

  7. John Bagshaw: You’re right—we’ll need all of our domestic energy sources, including renewables like wind and solar, to meet our growing energy demand. Just bear in mind that two of the states you mentioned rely heavily on energy from coal—Nebraska and Colorado get 65 and 71 percent of their electricity from coal, respectively. As a result, Nebraska enjoys the fifth cheapest energy rates in the country. These are facts we can’t ignore as we expand our energy options.