Posts Tagged ‘Clean Coal’


Natural gas: Fuel of the future – CNNMoney.com

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The world seems awash in natural gas.

In the United States, new production from once hard-to-tap shale rock is booming in places like Texas, Louisiana and the Northeast. There are also plans to construct a mammoth gas pipeline through Canada to bring Alaskan North Slope gas to market.

In Australia and Qatar, liquefied natural gas terminals have started supplying fast-growing Asian countries, and more are under construction.

In Africa, rich natural gas deposits off the coast of Angola are slated for both the domestic market and export to Europe, which still gets a big part of its supply from Russia’s huge reserves. Plans are also underway to supply both Europe and Asia with the sizable gas reserves in Iran and Iraq.

Forecasting agencies, long known to play it safe before touting new trends, are only predicting a modest increase in gas’ share of the world’s overall energy mix by 2030.

But some analysts are saying it could be much higher, with big implications for the electricity markets – and coal-fired power plants in particular.

How much do we have?

In the United States, it’s this shale natural gas that’s got everyone so excited.

This gas has been known about for some time, but new drilling and extraction technology has now made it commercially viable. There are some concerns over the environmental impact of this drilling, especiallywater pollution, but the sheer amount of new gas is getting major attention.

“We’ve basically won the lottery,” Michael Ming, president of Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, an organization that studies new natural gas developments, said during a recent Time Inc. conference on energy technologies.

The amount of gas reserves in these new shales could double the nation’s known stockpile of natural gas, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates.

Yet the U.S. Energy Information Administration is only forecasting a rise in natural gas production of under 20% by 2030. And as our overall energy use is expected to rise as well, natural gas’ share of our overall energy mix will be little changed. EIA’s estimates are in-line with other private forecasts.

Ming is among those who believe estimates for natural gas use are too small. He pointed to estimates from 10 years ago that said just 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was likely in Texas’ Barnett Shale. That estimate is now 50 trillion cubic feet.

“There’s a lot of conservatism right now,” he said in an interview with CNNMoney. “We’re just at the very tip of this pyramid.”

What we use it for

Natural gas can be used for many things – to power cars, heat homes, cook, or generate electricity.

It’s this last use that will likely represent the biggest opportunity for gas in the next couple of decades.

For the last several years utilities have scrapped plans to build coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas plants, which emit about half the carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. This move has become known in the power industry as the “dash to gas.”

But that dash has been only half-hearted, said Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist at ARC Financial, a Calgary-based private equity firm.

Over a decade ago utility execs were promised natural gas would be abundant and cheap. But the production didn’t pan out as planned, and gas prices spiked even before oil prices did earlier this decade.

Prices have since dropped significantly, partially due to all the new shale gas, but utility execs are still leery this resource is for real.

‘It’s a question of believing,” said Tertzakian, who also thinks the estimates for future natural gas use are low. “Once they believe the trend, gas demand is more likely to gain momentum.”

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I Feel Another Coal Rant Coming On – HaynesvillePlay.com

Coal is getting under my skin again. Two things in particular are bothering me: coal ash and the myth of “clean coal.”

In catching up on articles this past weekend, I read an article in Sierramagazine about the problems associated with the coal ash ponds created by the huge coal-fired electric plant in Colstrip, MT. As coal is burned, it leaves behind a certain amount of residue, but unlike the wood in our fireplace, coal ash is filled with dangerous heavy metals and toxins, including mercury. Some of the ash is turned into building materials, but much of it wastes away in holding ponds along with sludge from srubbers that remove a portion of the pollutants from the smokestacks. Unfortunately these ponds lead to even more pollution as the chemicals in the water both leech into the groundwater and evaporate into the air.

I also saw a piece in the New York Times about the difficulties in cleaning up the massive coal ash spill in Kingston, TN. This massive spill in 2008 made us all aware of the dangers of these holding ponds. Outside of the sheer magnitude of the cleanup (the article notes that the disaster spilled “5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash across 300 acres into the Emory River and an affluent shoreline community near Knoxville(,) enough ash to cover a square mile five feet deep.”), the cleanup crews are having trouble finding appropriate dumping grounds for the sediment. The spilled ash is horrible stuff, filled with heavy metals that can lead to cancer, and not many landfills can handle it, especially not in these massive volumes. The one landfill that does take the sludge, located in tiny Uniontown, AL, has received so much rain lately that it has to deal with 100,000 gallons of tainted water per day as a result. The cleanup contractors are looking across the southeast for sites to process the tainted water, including in my home state of Louisiana. That situation is not yet resolved.

It is hard for me to believe the environmental furor over hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, a practice that has not created a single documented instance of groundwater contamination, when there are hundreds of these toxic retention ponds at coal plants all over the country, many of which are classified by the EPA as “high hazards” or disaster sites (see map below). I can certainly understand the desire to avoid other potential new hazards, but the outrage directed towards fracking, especially in the Northeast, would be much better spent preventing the spread of toxic pollution associated with coal-fired power plants.

Which brings me to the oxymoron of “clean coal.” It makes my head hurt to try to find two words that go less well together. That large scale carbon sequestration and storage (CSS) has not yet been demonstrated is fairly well known, but what happens if it is finally possible? The amount of carbon captured for storage from coal generating plants would be huge. We would quickly run out of places to store it. On top of that, coal plants would have to burn lots more coal just to power the CSS process. Talk about a win-win for the coal industry!

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A Natural Choice – Washington Post – Editorial

IN AMERICA’S climate debate, one of the most promising developments of recent months has been the growing recognition in Washington that natural gas may play a key role in curbing carbon emissions. The resurgence of gas comes through the discovery of massive deposits in Appalachian shale formations and elsewhere — a reserve that offers the prospect of stable domestic supplies and relatively low prices. Since burning natural gas produces half the emissions of burning coal, switching the two fuels could put a significant dent in America’s carbon footprint.

The rumor this month was that such arguments had swayed the White House and that President Obama would back policy aimed at discouraging coal and encouraging natural gas at a speech he delivered to the Business Roundtable on Wednesday. The rumors didn’t bear out. That’s too bad. With climate-change legislation still stalled in Congress, nudging gas forward is something that the government can do quickly and relatively cheaply to meet its medium-term emissions goals if current trends persist.

To be sure, America doesn’t want to depend too much on one commodity. Drastically ramping up the amount of natural gas burned to generate electricity would require infrastructure investments in certain regions as well as retrofits of certain plants or the construction of entirely new ones.

But existing gas-fired plants are running at only about 25 percent capacity, in part because many are switched on only when demand spikes. The Congressional Research Service reports that doubling the use of existing plants could replace about a third of coal-fired power, getting America a third of the way to its goal for 2020. For reasons of infrastructure, that might be too optimistic a scenario. But BP — which has a stake in natural gas — estimates that retiring the 80 dirtiest coal plants and replacing them with gas-fired power would get America 10 percent of the way to its 2020 emissions target and increase domestic gas consumption by only 5 percent.

Even if you don’t trust BP’s numbers, a range of attractive policy options is available, starting with tax incentives to decommission old coal plants. Natural gas is so competitive, it might not take much more than that. However, policymakers might also consider coupling that with some carrot to switch to gas. States that demand that utilities derive a certain portion of their electricity from clean sources could also allow natural gas to count in such requirements, discounting for the carbon emissions it does produce. Federal legislators contemplating a similar, national standard might also consider this.

In the long term, natural gas is only a bridge fuel as America weans itself off carbon, since it still produces plenty of emissions. With a rising carbon price, natural gas will become too expensive to burn. But it can provide the country some time to bring to market the cleaner technologies on which America eventually must run.

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Obama Pushes Energy Plan That GOP May Support – AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking for a political and policy victory, President Barack Obama on Wednesday pushed energy proposals designed to attract allies and opponents alike, calling for increased ethanol production and new technology to limit pollution from the use of coal.

Facing a Senate with a newly energized Republican minority, Obama has begun tailoring his energy policy to GOP-supported ideas, starting in his State of the Union address last week with calls for offshore oil drilling opposed by environmentalists and a bigger role for nuclear power.

The first-term president — politically weakened by the loss of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat to Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown — also has begun promoting his energy policy as a job-creating boost to the economy.

”Now, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to work together in a bipartisan way to get this done,” Obama said during a bipartisan meeting with governors in the White House’s State Dining Room. ”It’s good for our national security and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It’s good for our economy, because it will produce jobs.”

He spoke as the White House released presidential task force recommendations calling on both Washington and the private sector to spend more money on biofuels like ethanol. The group said the nation likely will fall short of goals Congress has set for creating more environmentally friendly energy.

At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule requiring U.S. companies to produce at least 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels this year, up from about 11.1 billion gallons in 2009. Thirteen billion gallons is about 9 percent of overall U.S. fuel consumption. Congress has set a goal of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the new rules would reduce oil dependence by million of barrels a year and ”help bring new economic opportunity to millions of Americans, particularly in rural America.”

In his meeting with the governors, Obama also announced a new task force to study ways to increase the use of coal in meeting the nation’s energy needs without increasing the pollution that contributes to global warming.

”It’s been said that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal, and that’s because … it’s one of our most abundant energy resources,” Obama said. ”If we can develop the technology to capture the carbon pollution released by coal, it can create jobs and provide energy well into the future.”

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire said the president told coal-state governors he understood their resistance to change when coal suppliers in their states are making money. She said Obama urged them to be partners in developing clean coal alternatives, a proposal that was embraced by many Republicans in the room.

”There was consensus around, let’s see if we can develop a clean coal strategy of the future,” she said.

The White House meeting comes a day after Obama signaled a willingness to separate a controversial cap-and-trade proposal aimed at limiting carbon pollution from more attractive green energy jobs and energy efficiency proposals. The House approved the anti-pollution measure last year as part of a comprehensive energy bill, but it is unlikely to win Republican support on Capitol Hill.

Energy has been a major part of the president’s domestic agenda since he took office, but it has taken on new urgency in the wake of Brown’s victory in Massachusetts as both the president and his Democratic allies on Congress look ahead to the fall elections.

——

Associated Press Writer Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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Obama Eyes Biofuels, Clean Coal In New Climate Push

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama laid out new steps on Wednesday to nudge the United States toward energy independence, backing measures to boost production of biofuels and bury pollution from coal.

Using the new initiatives to garner support for a climate and energy bill stalled in the U.S. Senate, Obama met with a handful of state governors to press his policies to fight global warming and wean the nation from imported fossil fuels.

“America can win the race to build a clean energy economy, but we’re going to have to overcome the weight of our own politics,” he said at the meeting, noting China was pushing aggressively to lead in “clean” energy technology.

“We have to focus not so much on those narrow areas where we disagree, but on the broad areas where we agree,” he said.

Agreement on a climate bill is still far from certain, and the legislation faces further obstacles after the election last month in Massachusetts that gave Republicans a Senate seat long held by Democrats, depriving the president’s party of 60 votes that could overcome procedural hurdles.

Obama has acknowledged that a controversial “cap and trade” system could be separated from other parts of the bill, though he is adamant that a market-based mechanism be put in place to make high polluting fuels more expensive for industry than less-polluting, renewable energy sources.

Biofuels represent one renewable energy source the administration wants to promote, and a new interagency report spelled out ways the country would achieve that going forward.

“By 2022, we will more than double the amount of biofuels we produce to 36 billion gallons, which will decrease our dependence on foreign oil by hundreds of millions of barrels per year,” Obama said.

He also announced a new task force to forge a plan for rolling out affordable carbon capture and storage technology in 10 years, including having 10 commercial demonstration projects up and running by 2016.

Carbon capture and storage is meant to capture the emissions from carbon-polluting coal plants and bury them underground rather than spewing them into the atmosphere but the technology is still being researched.

EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday ethanol and other renewable fuels must account for 8.25 percent of gasoline sales in 2010 to meet Congress’ mandate that nearly 13 billion gallons of renewable fuels be produced this year.

That is lower than last year’s 10.21 percent renewable fuel standard that the EPA announced in November 2008..

The United States is far away from its goal of producing 36 billion gallons (136 billion liters) of biofuels a year by 2022, currently producing 12 billion gallons annually, mostly from corn ethanol.

The report offers solutions that would ease the way for ethanol to get from producers in the U.S. Midwest to consumers near the coasts. Such snags include filling stations that have been slow to adopt pumps to distribute a fuel blend that is mostly ethanol, called E85, and a lack of dedicated pipelines for biofuels.

Loan guarantees for ethanol plants could be targeted more effectively to support new biofuels plants, the report said.

The struggling biofuels industry is concerned the Obama administration will move too quickly away from ethanol to biofuels that derive from more difficult techniques using wood chips and other biomass.

The president’s backing of ethanol, however, could shore up his support in farm states, where ethanol boosts demand for corn.

Environmentalists and some scientists say production of U.S. biofuels from corn and other grains can drive out production of other crops, prompting farmers in other countries to burn down forests and clear land to grow those crops — creating new sources of CO2, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

(Additional reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Obama’s State of the Union’s Energy Pitch – Chicago Tribune

Pitching his energy and climate agenda to a joint session of Congress last February, President Obama warned of the “ravages of climate change” and asked the House and Senate to send him legislation to send me legislation “that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.”

Tonight, in his State of the Union address, Obama pushed essentially the same energy agenda with language that was decidedly more … aisle-crossing.

He won bipartisan applause by emphasizing plans to build new nuclear plants, develop so-called “clean coal” technology and drill for oil and gas offshore – initiatives favored by many Republicans, and a clear attempt to attract GOP support for a Senate energy and climate bill.

The President didn’t explicitly mention a carbon cap – a key feature of his efforts to lead a global effort to combat climate change, and which many Republicans oppose because they say it would kill American jobs – though he did call for “comprehensive” energy and climate legislation, which, in Washington code, means Obama is still pushing for greenhouse gas emissions limits.

He also acknowledged “those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”

In language that echoed his campaign rhetoric of his 2008 opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama told those climate skeptics: “Here’s the thing: Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.”

The language won cheers from Republicans, at least in the drilling and nuke sections. Environmentalists liked it, too; Frances Beinecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the speech “a clear and unmistakable call to action” on the climate bill that appears stuck in a legislative queue behind health care, a jobs bill and financial regulation.

Here are the key paragraphs on energy policy:

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history – an investment … an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy – in the North Carolina company that will create 1200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. (chamber-wide ovation) It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year, this year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate. I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But … But, here’s the thing: Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. America must be that nation.

And, for comparison, the similar passages from Obama’s 2009 speech:

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders – and I know you don’t either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history – an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.

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