Archive for June, 2009

Algae: Another Kind of Clean Coal Technology

Last year, after watching an NBC Nightly News piece about algae, I wrote that coal and algae are a perfect clean energy pair.

The news today is that Dow Chemical and Algenol Biofuels are going to build a demonstration plant that will use algae to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol, which will be used as a transportation fuel additive or an ingredient in plastics.

The plant could produce up to 100,000 gallons of ethanol per year.

The idea is simple: instead of releasing CO2 emissions from coal-generated power plants into the air, it will be pumped into a tank of algae. The algae eat the CO2, which then converts into ethanol and oxygen.


• The ethanol can be sold as a vehicle fuel

• The oxygen can be used to burn coal to generate electricity

• The end product can be used as an ingredient to make plastics, replacing the need for using natural gas.

Scientists and environmental groups have given this process a thumbs up, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to get the project going on a commercial scale.

Today’s Climate Change Vote

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2998). Click here to read our reaction.

Why the Sierra Club’s Actions are Appalling

When Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel David Bookbinder said “we hope to clog up the system” last year (as quoted in the Los Angeles Times), I was saddened by what I saw as such a blatant misuse of our nation’s legal system, given that the strategy was only being used to delay energy projects that had already been thoroughly vetted and properly permitted by state regulatory agencies.

Having just returned from Southwest Arkansas where I met men and women proud of their jobs building a state-of-the-art coal plant that meets and exceeds every environmental standard set forth by state regulations, I am even more than appalled at what I see as a miscarriage of justice.


Obama’s Enviro Adviser says Coal is Here to Stay

As you’ve heard us say before, coal will continue to be a vital part of our energy mix in the future.

But don’t take it from us. Listen to Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

As President Obama’s chief environmental adviser, Sutley tells it like it is. “Clearly coal is a part of our energy mix now and it’s likely to be so in the future,” she said. “But even if we were to stop using coal tomorrow, it’s used around the world and we have to deal with its environmental impacts.”

Sutley specifically mentioned carbon capture and sequestration as a “promising” technology that will help stem carbon dioxide emissions, and urged people to support clean coal technology.

“Investing in the technology, investing in innovation in how coal is used to produce electricity, is very important not only for our country and our economy but really for the entire world,” she said. “We can be a leader in providing the innovation and research that will get us to be able to deal with the effects of burning coal and try to address carbon capture and sequestration. These are important technologies that we’re going to need.”

Haven’t we been saying that all along?

Check out Sutley’s video and her interview transcript. She talks about the climate bill, what it’s like to be the environmental top banana and Obama’s clean energy projects.

Answering questions on FutureGen

(The FutureGen discussion begins at the 10-minute mark.)

As many of you know, the Obama administration gave conditional support today for a federal-industry partnership that would build an advanced coal-burning power plant in Illinois to trap and store carbon dioxide emissions.

The project, dubbed FutureGen, will be built in Mattoon, Ill.

President Obama has mentioned five one-of-a-kind carbon capture and storage projects that his administration would be willing to fund.

ACCCE CEO Steve Miller appeared on Clean Skies Sunday, an online TV show, to talk about the project and answer tough questions about the future of clean coal technology.

Safe CO2 Storage 101

Carbon capture and sequestration is a viable and safe option to store carbon dioxide emissions. According to an MIT study, CCS is the “common-sense, cost-effective means of ultimately reducing atmospheric concentrations of CO2.”

Other groups like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have said that a reduction on greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale is not possible without successful deployment of carbon capture and storage. 

Research conducted through joint partnerships between private industry, academia and the U.S. Department of Energy shows that there are a number of geological formations that will allow us to safely store CO2 underground and ensure that these greenhouse gases do not enter into the atmosphere. 

In fact, North America has enough storage capacity at our current rate of production to store more than 900 years worth of carbon dioxide. And in some cases, the captured CO2 emissions can be used for beneficial purposes such as enhanced oil recovery.

Clean Coal Jobs ARE Green Jobs

It’s about time people think about the words they’re using to talk about green jobs. Because according to a recent post in the New York Times Green Inc. blog, clean coal jobs are apparently (according to the blog’s author) NOT considered green jobs.

What could be greener of a job than working to make America’s most abundant energy resource even cleaner by developing and deploying technology to remove pollutants?

The blog post discussed a Pew Charitable Trusts study on green job growth and included Pew’s exact definition of what a green jobs is: one that “generates jobs, businesses and investments while expanding clean energy production, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution, and conserving water and other natural resources.”

To any reasonable person, Pew’s definition of green jobs sounds an awful lot like the jobs that come along with clean coal technology. Studies show that coal-generated electricity plants using carbon capture and sequestration and other clean coal technologies promote job growth, boost the local economy and reduce emissions.

In a report conducted by BBC Research and Consulting, a coalition of key labor groups found that the deployment of power plants equipped with CCS could generate $1 trillion of economic output and create between 5 million and 7 million man-years of employment during construction and a quarter of a million permanent jobs. 

Maybe that’s why President Obama consistently talked about how investing in the next generation of clean coal technologies was a key part of his Administration’s green energy plan – just something else for the folks at the Green Inc. blog to keep in mind.

Major Players Talk Clean Coal Technology

In the lead up to a House floor vote on H.R. 2454 – The American Energy and Security Act of 2009 — much has been said about the importance of clean coal technology in an overall energy policy. Click here for a sampling of those comments.