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Author Topic: Clean Coal Technology
Member # 1284

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Here's a source for more information on the technology:

Wikipedia's article on Clean Coal

Clean coal is the name attributed to coal chemically washed of minerals and impurities, sometimes gasified, burned and the resulting flue gases treated with steam, with the purpose of almost completely eradicating sulphur dioxide and reburned so as to make the carbon dioxide in the flue gas economically recoverable. The carbon dioxide can then be captured and stored instead of being released into the atmosphere (see carbon capture and storage). However, the byproducts of this treatment are very hazardous to the environment if they're not properly contained. This is seen to be the technology's biggest hurdle from both a practical and public relations point of view.
So, here's my question:

Environmentalists hate this stuff so much that I cannot seem to get any of them to actually talk to me about it, in any way, beyond swearing at me - much less telling me why they dislike it. I can see that the byproducts are nasty - similar to the byproducts of using coal - only concentrated. However, this seems mostly mitigated by the fact that the places manufacturering this stuff, and producing this horrid byproduct, are designed to handle it, and to dispose of it in such a way as to minimize the impact - making it cleaner than say, anything else currently available. Maybe that's not true (though from what I read, it is true), but regardless: Why do environmentalists hate "clean coal" so much?

[ October 23, 2006, 05:12 PM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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A few reasons I can think of off hand, Jav.

For one, most enviormentalists trust the government to force corporations to handle wastes properly about as much as most Libertarians trust them to budget and tax fairly.

Another reason is that mining corporations often bail out on coal mines without doing proper clean up, leaving dams that don't last holding waste water, not putting the mountain top back on, not stepping up when problems arise later, and just going bankrupt to avoid their liabilities.

They want us off of coal, and think that clean coal technology will get the public to swallow the contruction of loads of new coal plants that will dramatically increase demand, which will increase the impact of coal mining.

They don't trust the goverment to make sure these wastes will be properly stored, and don't want the publis to yet again get stuck with the bill for cleaning up a corporate mess.

Me? I haven't made up my mind completely yet, but if we're gonna burn coal (and we are) this is better than what we're doing now.

[ October 23, 2006, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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I'm inclined to believe that they're against it because they're Idealists. I.e. they'd rather settle for the "perfect solution" vs. the practical one.

Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a "perfect solution."


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could you point to sources of environmentalists 'hate clean coal'? Just read the wikipedia link, no one is actually doing 'clean coal', so perhaps you meant they 'hate the idea of it'?


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"Clean Coal/Dirty Air, or How the Clean-Air Act Became a Multibillion-Dollar Bail-Out for High Sulfur Coal Producers and What Should be Done about It." - by B. A. Ackerman, W. T. Hassler

Most of my experience on this comes from talking to self-labelled environmentalists in Washington and Oregon. I am having trouble finding resources online that show this point of view. I'm guessing that if I could find them, I'd see some sort of reasoning, and wouldn't have had to ask the question.

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Well, even if you collect the CO2, you still have to do something with it. I'm sure not every coal power plant has a nice convenient place they can sequester carbon, and the market for CO2 is certainly not large enough to accommodate all the power plants out there. Besides, sequestration is expensive IIRC, so the question remains whether they'd bother to do that even if they had the technology. And even without the nasty sulfur stuff (which is far far worse than CO2, of curse), coal still produces more CO2 per BTU than oil or natural gas.

So I guess I'd agree with Jesse, that the environmentalists that are against it are against it because they want us off coal completely. They'd see this as a half measure, and are probably afraid that the rest of the public will see this as the end and not bother to push for better technology afterwards.

Or maybe they're just crazy [Smile]

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Colin JM0397
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Extra carbon? Get on building those carbon nanotube cables for the space elevator... duh!

I was reading a bit on coal a few months ago about how it's a good backup if the oil ever runs dry, how there's some emerging technology to turn coal into a diesel fuel, and a bit on the new generation "clean" coal burning and clean diesel engines... Interesting stuff. Talked about how, if the oil runs out or gets too pricey, the US, Canada, and China are in position to become the "OPEC of Coal"

Have any of you ever seen a strip mine? That's probably one big reason the greens are against coal. That and it's just more of the same inasmuch as you're trading off fossil fuels.

I think Ed hit the nail on the head – some people being unrealistic. To get to the perfect solution, you have to work through many not so perfect paths.
At least you didn’t say the ultimate solution… Some of those off the Green deep end are so sure humans are an infestation on the Earth, they advocate drastically bringing the human population down.
I suspect these people are ugly, smelly, never get laid, and have no friends.

I guess they are holding out for Mr. Fission that you can dump a banana peel and old can of beer into for a joyride in your flying DeLorean.

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Tom Curtis
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Mr Fusion perhaps?

I think part of the issue is that coal is seen as an old technology. We may be able to gussy it up and make it look prettier, but investing in it seems rather like investing in horse and buggies in 1910.

There is also a feeling that investment in Carbon sequestration is done at the expense of investment in wind, solar, and wave power; so that an attempt to save an old industry is slowing the rate at which we convert to "genuinely" clean energy. This is definitely true in Australia where one government responce to global warming has been to increase funding for research into carbon sequestration while halving funding for research into wind and solar power.

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