Is Burying Carbon in the Ground the Answer to the Woes of Coal?

Is Burying Carbon in the Ground the Answer to the Woes of Coal?
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They call it “clean coal . ” They tell us that the pollution problem is “fixed” and the solution to the greenhouse gas implication is just around the corner.

They say, “Don’t worry that burning coal releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other fuel source . We’ll soon ‘sequester’ that stuff: we’ll bury it in the ground.”

How soon?

Burying the carbon produced from the burning of coal, so called Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), isn’t as simple as the coal advocates would have us think.

At the rate CCS technology is being developed, Richard Branson will have figured out how to send tourists to Moon before we see anyone storing significant amounts of carbon under our feet.

New Scientist magazine recently provided a good overview of CCS technology. It quotes a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study called The Future of Coal, which concludes that, “the first commercial CCS plant won’t be on stream until 2030 at the earliest.”

Oil-giant Shell “doesn’t foresee CCS being in widespread use until 2050.”

If it’s going to take 30 years before we figure out how to capture carbon from coal effectively, wouldn’t it make sense to move our energy generation away from coal to renewable source like wind and solar? After all, the world’s best scientific organizations have all concluded that we have much less than 30 years to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas we are pumping into the atmosphere.

But in coal country – which is to say, the United States of America – the appetite for coal profits seems to be overwhelming what might otherwise be viewed as intelligent caution.

Consider the “Americans for Balanced Energy” (ABEC), an organization that has received $40 million from coal industry giants including Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, Arch Coal and CONSOL Energy Inc. You may have seen ABEC at work: their “clean coal” advertising blitz ran heavily on CNN during Democratic Presidential Debates and Democratic Primary coverage.

One of ABEC‘s ads highlights a CCS pilot project called “FutureGen,” something that was originally hailed by the US administration as the first commercial-scale pilot project that would capture and sequester carbon and answer our global warming woes.

Not surprisingly, ABEC‘s “clean coal” ads haven’t been updated to report that the US Department of Energy pulled out of the FutureGen project in January after development estimates jumped from $800 million to $1.8 billion. So working CCS is still 40 years away, but the myth of CCS remains as a justification for building new coal-fired power plants plants today.

If the American public buys the CCS myth, hopefully Richard Branson will not only have figured out how to fly us to the moon, but to colonize it as well.

Is Burying Carbon in the Ground the Answer to the Woes of Coal?

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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