Both Clinton and Obama are stumping for “clean coal” up and down the coal State of West Virginia today.
And both Presidential hopefuls include the capture and storage of “clean coal” greenhouse gas emissions in their policy platforms.
Obama will significantly increase the resources devoted to the commercialization and deployment of low-carbon coal technologies. Obama will consider whatever policy tools are necessary, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities, to ensure that we move quickly to commercialize and deploy low carbon coal technology.
Hillary also believes that we need to take swift action to spur the development and deployment of technology and practices that will enable us to capture, store and safely sequester carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. To accelerate the development if this important technology, Hillary would put immediate funding towards 10 large scale carbon capture and storage projects that utilize a range of coal types, power plat types and storage locations… And she will require all new coal plants to be capable of adding capture and storage technology when becomes commercially available.
But there’s only one little catch: experts are predicting that carbon capture and storage won’t be commercially viable for at least another 20 years, but more likely 40 years.
In other words, if one was to build a “carbon capture-ready” coal plant today, it would continue to spew tonnes of heat-trapping greenhouse gas into the air until 2040 or so before this technology could be added to the plant.
Way too little, way too late according to the world’s top scientists in the area of climate change research.
In fact, the Department of Energy recently pulled out of the only “clean coal” pilot project in the United States after the costs of the project ballooned to an estimated $1.8 billion. And when something is too expensive for the government, you know its expensive with a capital “E.”
No doubt Obama and Clinton are bound to say all sorts of things to all sorts of people on the campaign trail, but to take a hard-line stance on greenhouse gas emissions on one hand and promise to continue to allow the construction of new coal plants which account for one-third of carbon emissions is the United States today smacks of nothing more than political opportunism at its finest.
Both candidates have well thought out platforms on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Obama is promising to invest in a skilled clean technologies workforce to help workers and industries adapt to clean technology development and production. And Clinton is promising a $50 billion fund to invest in alternative energy.
But all these great ideas will do little to offset the promise of “clean coal.”