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World’s Deadliest Fuel Made Safe and Clean?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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bituminous-coal

Courtesy of USGS

Coal kills. When it’s not horrific mining accidents like the one in Soma, Turkey, on May 13 that killed more than 300 miners, it’s the 13,000 Americans who die early each year because of air pollution from burning the dirtiest fossil fuel.

Coal is a way of life, providing jobs and inexpensive energy wherever it is found, whether Turkey, Wyoming or Shanxi Province in China. There are an estimated 50,000 coal miners still working in the U.S. at more than 500 mines in 26 states. Globally, coal still provides the bulk of the world’s energy and the burning black rock has been the fastest growing source of energy in the 21st century.

turkey-coal-use-iea

Courtesy of IEA

In other words, coal is both a bane and boon. So is there a way to make coal safer and cleaner?

No one has to die
The biggest danger in coal mining is an explosion, whether from a buildup of methane gas leaking out of the coal or ignition of coal dust itself. More than 10,000 coal miners in the U.S. died in such explosions between 1900 and 2011, the vast majority of coal mining fatalities. But with the appropriate safety precautions coal mining could be safe, even from explosive gas and dust.

The only problem is implementing such safety measures might cut down on the efficiency of getting coal out of the ground and into power plant boilers or steel mill furnaces. Part of the reason for the horrific death toll in the Soma disaster is that the accident occurred during a shift change, when more miners were inside the mine. A simple solution to lower the fatality rate is to assure that one shift’s miners have exited safely before the next one goes in to work.

Other significant causes of miner deaths—crush by collapse as in the most recent casualties among West Virginia coal miners or crush by machinery—can be solved by technology, such as devices that allow heavy mining equipment to detect whether human miners are in its vicinity or not. Such proximity detection devices exist and are available, being implemented in mines in countries such as Australia and Canada. But, as long-time West Virginia reporter Ken Ward, Jr., notes on his blog Coal Tattoo, rules to require such devices in U.S. mines are languishing at the White House and among West Virginia officialdom. “Coal mining disasters are preventable,” Ward wrote on May 15. “Why don’t we put an end to coal-mining deaths and disasters?”

Another technique for averting disaster that the lost miners in Turkey also apparently lacked is so-called “self escape,” a practice of having resources for escape positioned throughout the mine to help miners help themselves in the event of an explosion, collapse or other accident. It’s not just technology like face masks that can render deadly air breathable or better communications devices, though, it’s taking the time for drills—at least according to the National Academy of Sciences, which put out a report on how to improve such self-escape options for underground coal mines in March 2013.

Of course, any time taken for drills is time that could have been used to mine coal.

Clean coal
In Turkey the Soma miners were busily extracting so-called lignite, which holds less energy than other kinds of the burning rock. Such brown coal is really just buried and compressed peat. Lignite is the most polluting form of the most polluting fossil fuel, whether in terms of the climate change–inducing greenhouse gases released when it is burned or various other forms of air pollution.

But in Kemper County, Miss., a new power plant tied to a lignite mine could point the way to an alternative future for such dirty coal. “They mine the lignite right there and just put it in,” explained Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz in an interview with Scientific American last year. “We’re going to go low-carbon but we think all the fuels with enough investment are going to have a place in that low-carbon world.”

kemper-county-coal-power-plant-and-mine

Courtesy of Mississippi Power

The Kemper integrated gasification combined cycle power plant will first turn the lignite into a gas for fuel, in the meantime stripping out the contaminants that cause air pollution, including capturing roughly two thirds of the carbon dioxide that would otherwise hit the atmosphere when the fuel is burned. That captured CO2 is then piped 100 kilometers to an old oil field, where it is pumped underground to scour out more crude, putting some of the CO2 back where it came from, albeit in a different form. Such enhanced oil recovery is meant to address the primary problem with such cleaner coal: cost.

Coal is expensive
The Kemper power plant is the fruit of several demonstration projects, including Mountaineer in West Virginia, to show that burning coal does not have to cause climate change. But such efforts have been stymied by the fact that making coal clean means making it more expensive.

The only reason coal is cheap is because the human costs of coal are not included in its price. Companies that take coal out of the ground don’t have to pay to put it back in safely, after it’s been reduced to toxic ash by burning. And firms that burn coal do not pay the medical bills of people stricken by breathing ailments as a result of air pollution. And no one pays, at least in the short run, to dump CO2 into the atmosphere, where it is steadily accumulating, trapping more and more heat and changing the global climate. It seems the dismal science of economics has trapped people in an abusive relationship with the dirtiest fossil fuel.

David Biello About the Author: David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @dbiello.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. SJCrum 6:01 pm 05/20/2014

    To stop the total atrocity of 10,000 coal miners dying, there is a very simple way to keep that from occurring.
    It is a fact that coal cannot explode if the oxygen is pumped completely out of coal mines. it is also a total fact that all of the miner’s lungs will be totally safe from breathing coal dust by using this method, and then prevent all of the Black Lung disease that has killed way too many also.
    This is accomplished by having miners wearing oxygen masks and tanks.
    So, both situations can be easily prevented.

    Link to this
  2. 2. VanIslGuy 6:21 pm 05/20/2014

    CO2 sequestration is always heralded by fossil energy companies as the solution. Scrub the CO2 from exhaust stacks, liquefy it under pressure, and then pump it into underground reservoirs. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Until you ask about what happens to that compressed CO2 afterward. What happens if it somehow leaks back to the surface? What if a seismic event allows it to escape. What if a capped well fails? What happens to that CO2 and any living thing in the vicinity when it reaches the surface? How lethal is concentrated CO2 and for how many centuries will it remain lethal? How many??? So who exactly is on the hook for constant monitoring that sequestered CO2 all those centuries? Who compensates the victims if/when leaks happen? In Athabasca the oil companies want a 70-year deal after which government, i.e. the public, is to assume responsibility for monitoring the underground reservoirs and compensating victims for leaks. Sounds fair, doesn’t it? No?

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  3. 3. Chryses 7:07 pm 05/20/2014

    “It seems the dismal science of economics has trapped people in an abusive relationship with the dirtiest fossil fuel.”

    Alas, that is unlikely to change soon.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Dr. Strangelove 10:38 pm 05/20/2014

    Biello

    The Turkey coal mine accident is due to safety negligence. Coal mine explosions are preventable by proper ventilation and water spraying.

    If you wonder why we still use coal despite 13,000 deaths in US annually due to air pollution, ask why we still smoke despite over 5 million deaths worldwide annually.

    Link to this
  5. 5. GSChandy 11:22 pm 05/20/2014

    It’s encouraging indeed that we’ve developed the technology to make coal a clean and safe power source.

    But the underlying problem is quite different: it’s us 7-billion odd human beings consuming the earth like a cancer.

    Here are some frightening stats from my country, India:

    When we won independence from the Brits, we had:
    – a population of some 300-million humans;
    – more than 40% of our land area under thick forest cover;
    – more than 40,000 tigers in the wild.

    Today, we have:
    – a population of more than 1.2 billion humans (and counting);
    – less than 10% of our land area under (mostly degrade) forest cover;
    – less than 1500 tigers in the wild.

    Things are not much better if we consider the world as ‘a whole system’.
    The underlying problem confronting us is our attitude that “WE HUMANS ARE THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE!”

    Why does not SciAm seek to find out if this real problem can be tackled? There are practical systems tools available, though not widely known, that could help us work on this kind of problem.

    GSC

    Link to this
  6. 6. phalaris 12:59 am 05/21/2014

    The article seems to imply that the CO2 is stripped out before combustion. It would be interesting to know how that could be done technically.

    Link to this
  7. 7. ravisamson 2:00 am 05/21/2014

    This is hog-wash. Clean coal is an impossibility. A dream perpetuated by the energy industry, never to be realized. Coal kills worldwide, Black Lung disease in just a tinsy-wincy piece of the overall killings (think Beijing). Pollution kills and in the short term (300 yrs) will exterminate all of mankind as well as all the mega species (almost achieved now). We need to thank coal for this desirable extermination of our ignorant species.
    In a few thousand years this world, without humans, will be a beautiful place.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Chryses 9:55 am 05/21/2014

    “real science peer reviewed and published in reputable journal shows Gas with its copious methane leaks is actually a worse GHG producer than coal”

    Is that why the U.S. GHGs have gone down?

    Link to this
  9. 9. David Biello in reply to David Biello 10:12 am 05/21/2014

    In reply to Dr. Strangelove: Correct. It’s almost as if you read the post ;)

    Link to this
  10. 10. David Biello in reply to David Biello 10:14 am 05/21/2014

    In reply to VanIsIGuy: The issue of ownership of subsurface CO2 is indeed a tricky one, and one gone into in some depth (ahem) here:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-win-the-war-on-coal-carbon-capture-and-storage/

    and here:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/report/carbon-capture-storage-ccs/

    Link to this
  11. 11. David Biello in reply to David Biello 10:15 am 05/21/2014

    In reply to phalaris: See here for a short primer:

    http://www.iea-coal.org.uk/documents/82847/8346/Pre-combustion-capture-of-CO2-in-IGCC-plants,-CCC/191

    Link to this
  12. 12. Chryses 10:36 am 05/21/2014

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/2013/09/16/switching-from-coal-to-natural-gas-may-be-better-for-the-climate-than-previously-thought-new-measurements-see-lower-fugitive-emissions-from-fracking/

    ‘Nuff said. :)

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  13. 13. SAULT18 11:21 am 05/21/2014

    Re Chryses,

    The study showing lower fugitive methane emissions from fracking was done in a way that is totally non-representative of the industry as a whole. It merely showed that “green completion” techniques can lower emissions, but the industry is in no way required to use these techniques and it is also so underregulated that emissions are much worse when the drillers know the government isn’t looking. From the very same article you linked to:

    “Recent field estimates by independent scientists including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have found methane emissions to be 10 to 20 times higher than the UT Austin study. In a 2012 study published in the journal Nature, NOAA scientists found natural gas producers in the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Colorado lost 4% of gas to the atmosphere. This summer, a study published in Geophysical Research Letters found leakage rates between 6-12% for a natural gas field in Utah’s Uintah County.”

    This just shows that the industry CAN be much cleaner, but it doesn’t have the proper incentives and regulations to make it happen. As with all market failures, their excess fugitive emissions in the name of profits ends up being a huge loss for the rest of us over the long term.

    Link to this
  14. 14. murraydunn 11:41 am 05/21/2014

    The atmospheric oxygen consumed in burning the coal is part of what gets liquified and pumped underground in the sequestration process. If adding a little extra CO2 is such a big environmental problem, I would think that removing all of that oxygen from the atmosphere would eventually create an even bigger problem.

    At least when the CO2 is in the atmosphere, we can expect that photosynthesis will eventually return the oxygen to the atmosphere, and sequester the carbon as bio-matter.

    Link to this
  15. 15. Johnny Chimpo 12:06 pm 05/21/2014

    “The only reason coal is cheap is because the human costs of coal are not included in its price. Companies that take coal out of the ground don’t have to pay to put it back in safely, after it’s been reduced to toxic ash by burning. And firms that burn coal do not pay the medical bills of people stricken by breathing ailments as a result of air pollution. And no one pays, at least in the short run, to dump CO2 into the atmosphere, where it is steadily accumulating, trapping more and more heat and changing the global climate. It seems the dismal science of economics has trapped people in an abusive relationship with the dirtiest fossil fuel.”

    I agree with you up until the last sentence. Or at least I would offer that economics should be the solution to this inefficient pricing (simply called an externality in economics). Why not tax coal use by the amount of these external costs? The problem is not economics, but rather it is politics.

    Link to this
  16. 16. phalaris 1:55 pm 05/21/2014

    David Biello –
    thanks for the link – it didn’t work in fact, but with the clue you gave I could find descriptions of the process.

    Link to this
  17. 17. David Biello in reply to David Biello 3:28 pm 05/21/2014

    Glad to hear it. Might be because it’s a pdf?

    Link to this
  18. 18. David Biello in reply to David Biello 3:29 pm 05/21/2014

    You’re right. Economics definitely does have an answer to this market failure and you’re right its a price on carbon. Only politics stands in the way.

    Link to this
  19. 19. phalaris 4:05 pm 05/21/2014

    David Biello -
    whoops, fallen for it again – found it six times in my download folder!

    Link to this
  20. 20. SJCrum 4:58 pm 05/21/2014

    To David Biello – I was curious as to why you didn’t comment about the first post in the list of them here, and which was mine about pumping out all of the oxygen, which would TOTALLY prevent ALL explosions, and actually make them IMPOSSIBLE to occur. AND, the enormously successful thing about providing oxygen masks for the workers, which would also make it IMPOSSIBLE for any coal miners to ever have any health problems at all.
    Also, have you ever heard of OSHA, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Agency? and, which is a total surprise that that agency doesn’t demand such an enormously successful requirement?

    Link to this
  21. 21. David Biello in reply to David Biello 5:07 pm 05/21/2014

    Sorry about that!

    Link to this
  22. 22. David Biello in reply to David Biello 5:09 pm 05/21/2014

    Breathing apparatus is absolutely key, no doubt. Zero oxygen might prove difficult for an entire mine (depending on size) but there’s no question, as the post notes, that coal regulations come rarely (and, sadly, are usually disaster driven.)

    Link to this
  23. 23. LarryMoniz 10:46 pm 05/21/2014

    Excellent story, how do we go about ensuring every member of Congress sees it before the elections? How do we ensure their constituents KNOW that they’ve seen it? Can SA send registered copies to each member and ensure they sign for it, then put out a news story to the AP?

    Link to this
  24. 24. Chryses 9:55 am 05/22/2014

    SAULT18,

    The link below will, if followed, present a document from the U.S. EPA, and in it, on page 23 you’ll find that its opinion is that fuel switching contributed to the reduction of the U.S. GHG emissions.

    http://epa.gov/climatechange/Downloads/ghgemissions/US-GHG-Inventory-2014-Chapter-Executive-Summary.pdf

    Link to this
  25. 25. rkipling 1:51 pm 05/22/2014

    Mr. Biello,

    I’m not a mining engineer, but I understand shift change in continuous manufacturing plants. Having one shift completely evacuate a mine before the next shift enters might increase overall danger rather than reduce the number of miners at risk. It’s an interesting question though. It might be possible to sequence the shift change to accomplish what you suggest without losing efficiency or safety of operations.

    From reports of mine accidents I’ve seen over the years, I get the impression than at least some mining companies do not make safety a priority. Perhaps the penalties for neglect are insufficiently severe?

    I agree with your response to the suggestion that mines be made oxygen free zones. While that would eliminate most explosions, the dangers from working in such an environment might actually cause more deaths than the present rate. My guess is that the cost of that approach would effectively stop coal mining.

    A personal note:
    I was disabled from all commenting on this site and designated a TROLL on my profile after questioning the use of a picture showing a cloud of water condensate particles on one of your posts. I incorrectly assumed that was done at your request. I was pleased to learn that you were not a part of that. The TROLL label has been removed, but I am still disabled from commenting on all articles excepting blogs. I have contacted the webmaster@sciam.com, but have had no response after many weeks. I applaud the more civil tone that seems to be a result of a long needed comment policy. Given the sudden absence of many dissenting commenters, I am left to speculate that there exist double secret commenting guidelines.

    Link to this
  26. 26. llirbo 3:57 pm 05/22/2014

    @SJCrum

    There he goes again……

    Link to this
  27. 27. RIchardASun 4:10 pm 05/22/2014

    There may be way to make coal cleaner and safer, but Kemper will not be it. If the technology becomes successful eventually–which appears unlikely unless the cost of natural gas power triples–it will be other later plants using better version of the technology. Kemper is badly over budget, behind schedule and the cost will be several times that of natural gas fired power in the region. Worst, all the risk of the plant was intended to be taken by a small group of rate payers in a poor state;for them Kemper is likely to be a poverty creation program. It has had major problems in construction; it is likely it will have even worse problems in operation so the cost will be even higher. Absent political deals, I think Southern Company will probably have to write off at least 80% of its investment as a loss. They built a science experiment instead of a utility plant.

    Link to this
  28. 28. RIchardASun 4:12 pm 05/22/2014

    For a detailed discussion of the issues with Kemper, see http://www.BiggerPieForum.com

    Link to this
  29. 29. shroomer_dave 4:16 pm 05/22/2014

    Now Nuclear can move up to the deadliest .

    Link to this
  30. 30. stu64bit14nm4k7in 5:34 pm 05/22/2014

    In the battle between big carbon and big silicon, only invest in big carbon if you need a big tax loss write off,if you want to make lots of money, invest in big silicon and make big money. Spread your investments to reduce the risk, since 1977 the price of solar power, per kWh has gone down by 99%. In spite of the slow down from 1989 to 2007, where the price only halved, it’s plummeting again, as it reaches mass production. The bootstrapping effect of economies of scale, sprint or punctuated evolution, where equilibrium or the Great Stagnation in the developed nations will end. Some rough exadurations, 1815-25 steam engines, 1915-25 internal combustion engines, 2015-25 solar power / manganese batteries. They say that energy bases can’t change rapidly, stuff of nonsense, they just did, the US reduced its energy imports, by half through fracking, that’ll be down to a third in 2016. If the US can reduce it’s energy imports by 16.66° every two years, then with solar now producing, more energy, than it takes to manufacture. We’ve already reached break even, when it costs half as much as coal, it will become a breakthrough technology. Like the printing press, Morse code, telex, radio, TV, PC, smartphone, investing in coal in the next 10 years, is therefore much the same as investing, in a horse and buggy shop, next to the Henry Ford factory. Soon people will be dropping off the power grid, with manganese batteries, co generating with gas, solar farms will supply industry, through the trunk lines. Hey it’s your money if you want to blow it on coal, go ahead, the Chinese are investing in solar big time, with several billionaires already. Go on, while your at it, buy a plasma TV, because these photo electric LED TV’s, are never going to beat the old technology. They’ve swamped the market, with their higher energy efficiency and lower costs, the same will happen at the other end of the power line.

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  31. 31. tsnell 7:25 pm 05/22/2014

    For VanIsIGuy. CO2 is not a poisonous gas. We breathe it with every breath. the problem with CO2 is that it blocks heat energy from escaping the earth. That’s why as we add more and more CO2 from burning coal and gas and oil we’re creating more and more of a blanket in the atmosphere that is warming up the earth, causing global warming and climate change. They’re not much of a problem yet, but just you wait. If we don’t immediately make a massive conversion to wind and solar power and dramatically increase the efficiency or our energy usage, we will be in a crisis like we’ve never seen before. We did something similar with we geared up to win WWII. We can do it again to reduce climate change. But so far it’s as though we’re using a cap gun to hold off an entire army. Let’s get real!

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  32. 32. bongobimbo 9:20 pm 05/22/2014

    Remember Fukushima??? Coal is the world’s “most dangerous” fuel only because of its massive scale. The genuine “most dangerous” fuel is nuclear, and oil and gas aren’t far behind them both. We need renewables!

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  33. 33. disdaniel 9:52 pm 05/22/2014

    It seems to me that coal is the perfect form of carbon sequestration, proven to store carbon for millions of years. Stop burning it and start burying it. Then we will have this climate change problem licked in a generation or two. Use solar, wind, water, and storage instead.

    Link to this
  34. 34. manny64 10:32 pm 05/22/2014

    Fusion Power is the way to go and it appears the we are getting closer. We need to increase resources so that it can happen sooner and then the world will have a clean and abundance energy supply. No one need to die obtaining hydrogen that is in abundance on Earth. It can be use to drive a spaceship to Mars and back. The use of oil, coal and gas are the wrong fuel for the sake of the planet.Fusion Power is the way of the future and will revolutionize the planet.

    Link to this
  35. 35. Patrice Ayme 2:27 am 05/23/2014

    Lying by omission and red herrings is still lying. Fossil fuels kill seven million a year according to WHO. All example of CCS are very special cases of re-injections in fossil fuel beds, thus not replicable.
    Total number of CCS existing and/or to come on line in next ten years is no more than a dozen, when hundreds of thousands would be needed.
    http://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/biosphere-destruction-not-just-climate-change/

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  36. 36. rkipling 11:32 am 05/23/2014

    I think I’m beginning to understand why some voice so much frustration here. If you don’t understand the scale of fossil fuel consumption, then you may assume the powers that be are just being obstinate in moving away from coal for their own personal gain or even evil intent. Now I don’t claim full knowledge of this topic, but I have enough of a glimmer to know that throwing money at fusion power development, for example, won’t assure a breakthrough.

    I’ve tried on several occasions to show calculations to give people some sense of the scale of resources required to make a dent in the use of fossil fuels or resources needed to implement carbon sequestering schemes. It is apparent that many have so little understanding that they will always remain unreachable.

    I don’t advocate use of coal, but those clamoring to abandon burning coal immediately would not like going without electricity part of the day nor the price they would pay for it when it was available. For many in this country, power outages are rare and very temporary inconvenient experiences. They don’t make the link between their advocacy for green energy and running their air conditioner. It will be interesting to see operational data from the Kemper plant once it is in service. This article doesn’t address problems with Kemper, but there is a Washington Post article from a few days ago that can be found with a quick web search.

    Fossil fuel supplies are finite. At some point moving to alternative energy will not be optional. How quickly this happens at what price and economic disruption is the question. The political issue is being driven by officials with little real understanding of the problem or solutions. People should be very careful what they wish or vote for. They might get it.

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  37. 37. stu64bit14nm4k7in 3:21 am 05/28/2014

    Mr rkipling, may I point out that solar power arrives, at exactly the right time and amount, for air conditioning, at the current rate of growth, of the largest solar farm in 4 years it would be 5 GW. As well as many more of them, please remember that the main cost of electricity, for customers is transmission. 70% of the juice is wasted in transmission, then there is the enormous cost, of maintaining an elaborate network. Electricity companies complain too many people are putting electricity into the network, at peak demand times from their homes. Folks are going to go, off grid using manganese batteries and gas cogeneration, then they don’t have to pay electricity bills at all, just gas and initial investment. As costs fall for solar power per kWh, to below that of coal, more people will fall off the grid, so costs per grid customers will go up. As communities drop off the grid, the trend will accelerate, once the electricity companies, charged more for surging demand, now they want to charge more, because of falling demand. Repeat solar power per kWh has gone down by 99%, that’s right, two orders of magnitude, 1/100 th, repeat fracking has already, rapidly changed the energy base. Many silicon or photo electric devices have, experienced rapid market ramp up, LED TVs in 50″ dominate sales, in just 5 years. Smartphones and tablets, have outsold PCs in 5 years, investing in big carbon is a bad idea as big silicon moves in on its territory, big silicon is already worth as much, or more than big carbon. Especially when you cut out the transmission and transport costs for carbon, once silicon is installed, there are no transmission or transport costs. I suspect we haven’t realized, the mathematics of price crash, unit no increase, mass production, economies of scale, the breakthrough slash bootstrapping situation. Witness how internal combustion engines increase, by 10 times on an already substantial base, between 1915 and 1925. Most new power installations in the developed world are renewable, China invests more than twice as much money as the US in solar on an economy which is only 2/3 the size, not because they intend to lose money. When a technology reaches maturity, it can experience explosive effects on civilization, when efficiencies for steam engines reached a certain point, unit no’s exploded.

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  38. 38. Chryses 5:52 am 05/28/2014

    stu64bit14nm4k7in,

    … Most new power installations in the developed world are renewable …

    I doubt that.

    Link to this
  39. 39. SAULT18 1:47 pm 05/28/2014

    Re Chryses,

    Why doubt when you have Google?

    http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/jan-energy-infrastructure.pdf

    Renewable energy has dominated all other sources in capacity additions recently. And this is all while fossil fuels get to dump their pollution straight into our air and water free of charge, too (causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damages from higher healthcare costs, lower GDP and premature deaths)! Take out these massive subsidies and renewable energy might be ALL that gets built.

    Link to this
  40. 40. SAULT18 1:53 pm 05/28/2014

    Re Chryses #24,

    The EPA attributed greater energy efficiency, more renewable energy AND more Natural Gas generation displacing coal as reasons why CO2 emissions went down. I’m talking about the bigger picture that incorporates all the methane leaks that come with natural gas drilling, transport and end-use. When the best estimates of these methane leaks are taken into account, switching to natural gas does not show any climate benefit for 100 years. Meanwhile, if we bank on natural gas to save us while deptiving renwables, nuclear and energy efficiency of the investments required to maximize their potential, we’re just locking ourselves into another finite fossil fuel that also has its own water contamination problems we’ll have to deal with only to produce climate benefits that will only manifest long after we’re dead. And if there are some climate threshholds that are reached before that 100-year time horizon, switching to natural gas in lieu of investing in more sustainable energy sources will be extremely counterproductive.

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  41. 41. Chryses 6:03 pm 05/28/2014

    SAULT18 (#41),

    The EPA attributed greater energy efficiency, more renewable energy AND more Natural Gas generation displacing coal as reasons why CO2 emissions went down.

    I’m pleased to read that even you acknowledge that switching from coal to NG contributed to the U.S.’s decreased GHG emissions

    Thanks

    Link to this
  42. 42. Chryses 7:23 pm 05/28/2014

    SAULT18 (#40),

    Renewable energy has dominated all other sources in capacity additions recently.

    Fair enough. If you limit your data set to a period (recently) when the trend line for X (renewable energy) is greater than Y (all other sources), it is quite likely that you and I will agree that X is indeed greater than Y. Alternately, if you limit your data set to nations (OECD/developed) where when the trend line for X (renewable energy) is greater than Y (all other sources), it is again likely that we will agree that X is indeed greater than Y. No arguments from me about that.

    I’ve posted before, and I’ll do so again now, that the anthropogenic component of the recorded global warming trend is a worldwide phenomenon.
    If you will grant that as true, then the fact that China and India are projected to be burning by 2035 (21 years from now) 3 times the amount of coal as all the OECD nations combined becomes very significant. If you add in the other non-OECD nations, the amount is projected to be 4 times the amount of coal as all the OECD nations combined. Further, the amount of coal being burnt then to generate power is forecast to be greater than it is now, even though the amount of coal (read GHGs) produced by the OECD countries will likely go down.
    http://tinyurl.com/mmqrr6w
    As we share – I believe – the same or at least similar goals (a reduction in global GHG production), I hate to rain on your parade, but unless every country on the planet contributes by lowering, by whatever means, the absolute amount of GHGs it produces, the AGW problem will only get worse.

    Now, I won’t ask you how you plan to turn around China and India’s projected growth in consumption. Instead, let’s take aim at a smaller target. How do you propose to combat/decrease/reverse the forecast increase in coal consumption by the other non-OECD nations? By 2035, they are projected to be consuming as much as all the OECD nations.

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  43. 43. rkipling 1:15 am 05/29/2014

    Chryses,

    Many apply willful blindness to the literally overwhelming atmospheric CO2 contribution of China, India, and others, both now and in the future. By ignoring the Ganesha in the room, they pretend their efforts, such as the above demonstration plant, will have meaning.

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