Exciting news, everyone! This week, ACCCE members Arch Coal, Peabody
Energy, Southern Company, American Electric Power and Luminant partnered
up with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Carbon Capture Center,
a public-private partnership advancing the next generation of carbon
capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
The nation's best scientists and technology experts will come together
to help advance large-scale CCS operations. The new center will allow
these folks to work on CCS in a real power plant setting, at a size
large enough to provide meaningful performance data under real operating
conditions to enable scale-up of the technologies.
The center, located at the Power Systems Development Facility in
Birmingham, Ala., should be fully operational by 2010.
"As a partner in the National Carbon Capture Center, we will help drive
new energy technologies that will allow the United States to meet both
its environmental and economic goals," said Steven F. Leer, Arch Coal's
chairman and CEO. "We look forward to working alongside foremost energy
experts to unlock a cleaner energy future for our planet."
We're with you on that one, chairman. We're excited to see the
real-world results taking place.
Most Americans nationwide support the use of coal to generate electricity. And why shouldn’t they? Coal is our most abundant resource, and it has long been an economic boon for our nation.
Take this recent Detroit News poll out of Michigan, for example. About 65 percent of readers give Michigan the green light on construction of new coal-generated and nuclear power plants.
In the comments included with the online poll results, many Michiganders made great points highlighting the benefits of coal.
One Detroit resident said that it would be premature to give up on coal-fired power plants, because alternative energy is “not ready for prime time yet.” Like I said before, energy efficiency and renewable energy, even together, aren’t a total solution – they are only part of a much bigger strategy.
A Taylor resident told the story of a recent blackout due to insufficient winds to power turbines. The wind-powered energy stations were not able to keep up with the massive demand placed on the power grid. We certainly wouldn’t have those kinds of problems with coal – it’s a reliable base-load power source.
So, folks, here’s what we learned today: Americans know that coal has a big role to play in our energy future.
Finally — somebody else besides me is addressing the elephant in the room.
University of Cambridge physics professor David MacKay recently wrote a CNN.com commentary saying that energy efficiency and renewable energy, even together, aren’t a total solution – they are only part of a much bigger strategy.
MacKay says Americans consume about 250 kilowatt-hours per day (to help put this in context, one kilowatt-hour is the energy used up by turning on a 40-watt bulb for 24 hours). Think that unplugging your cell phone charger is going to help save the environment? Not so much. That phone charger is about 1/100th of the power consumed by a single light bulb. Or the power used in driving an average car for one second.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t stress conservation when we can, but MacKay compared it to “bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.”
In order to have a serious discussion about the role of energy efficiency and renewable energy, MacKay said we need to think about the numbers. Even if energy-efficient technologies cut our consumption in half, it would be crazy to supply our energy use solely with renewable energy. According to MacKay’s figures, we’d need a wind farm three times the size of California just to deliver a day’s worth of energy to the population of the United States – or 1,575 one-gigawatt nuclear power stations.
So I say, let’s embrace all kinds of options. Energy efficiency is great – but it won’t displace the increase in demand resulting from a growing population and a rebounding economy. Renewable energy – while it will grow — won’t be enough to supply America with enough power all on its own, and that’s precisely why we need traditional fuels like coal to be part of our viable solution. We’re going to need to rely on coal for the foreseeable future, and generating electricity from coal is less expensive than other energy alternatives. Plus, we’ve got centuries of it. So let’s keep it in the mix.