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Coal - March 15

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Report: Burying greenhouses gases will be key

Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor
To halt catastrophic climate change, the US has less than a decade learn how to capture and store carbon dioxide.
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Should the United States bury global warming?

Yes - and quickly, says a major new report. Coal is key to America's energy future. But burning it is one of the biggest factors in climate change. So the solution is to capture the carbon dioxide it produces and store it underground.

Here's the challenge: To begin to curb climate change, the US needs to learn in less than a decade how to capture, compress, and then pump the carbon dioxide miles underground. The quantities are massive: the liquid CO2 equivalent of 20 million barrels a day - roughly equal to the amount of oil the US uses every day.

How to bury CO2 on that scale is no small question, says a panel of top researchers convened by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Without more detailed knowledge of the technology that captures it most cheaply, and the geology that would store all that CO2 without leaking, coal power will remain a huge engine of global warming, the researchers say in their report released Wednesday.
(15 March 2007)


MIT coal report co-chair Moniz says more urgency, funding needed for coal technology

Monica Trauzzi, E&E TV (video and transcript)
Can coal, the nation's most abundant generator of electricity, continue to play an active role in the United States' energy policy if caps on emissions are mandated? A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology report, "The Future of Coal: Options for a Carbon Constrained World," seeks to answer this question and provide guidance for policymakers.

During today's OnPoint, Ernest Moniz, professor of physics and engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, former undersecretary at the Department of Energy and co-chair of the MIT report, discusses various technological options for clean coal and urges the United States to focus on more than one clean coal technology.

Moniz discusses how Congress should approach this issue, how much more funding should be appropriated, and he comments on the Bush administration's FutureGen project.
(15 March 2007)
It should be noted that all the research into carbon sequestration is a de facto subsidy to the coal industry. -BA


Mine mirrors nation's descent into hell

Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald
Despite medieval conditions, Afghan miners consider themselves lucky, Paul McGeough writes in Pul-i-Khumri.
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...Hacking away at the southern extremity of a deep gallery running off the No. 3 shaft, Mohamed Mazan stands light years away from the sophisticated engineering and mine-safety techniques revealed to Australians who last year became glued to the unfolding drama of the Beaconsfield mine rescue in Tasmania.

In Karkar it is every man for himself. There is no occupational health and safety officer, no dust suppression and no communications with their reluctant engineers. For all their sweat and blood, they get just two or three dollars a day.

Even by Afghanistan's harsh standards, Mohamed Mazan states the obvious: "It's not enough to feed my family and to get my children's school books. But there's nothing else to do … so I'm lucky."

...These days, [the stockpile of coal] grows by a miserable 50 tonnes a day. In the 1980s, Karkar was the country's flagship mine - producing as much as 165,000 tonnes of coal a year.

Yet change is on the way for these hard-bitten miners.

Along with other mines around the country, their communist-era workers' co-operative has been sold from under the Karkar workers to a Kabul-based investment syndicate. The deal is part of a hugely ambitious plan to harness Afghanistan's mineral and hydrocarbon wealth. British and American geological survey teams are updating earlier Soviet research that points to rich deposits of gems, precious and base metals, and oil, coal and gas.
(15 March 2007)


Study: Coal industry faces bleak future

H. Josef Hebert, AP
The coal industry faces a bleak future unless ways are developed on a commercial scale to capture and store carbon dioxide in the campaign against global warming, according to a study released Wednesday.

The report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says coal, which accounts for half of the country's electricity production, will remain the fuel of choice to produce electricity in the United States because it is relatively cheap and abundant.

But if carbon limits are imposed to address climate change, that could change unless the government and industry develop a program to capture and store the tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide that now spew from coal-burning smokestacks into the atmosphere.
(14 March 2007)
Calorie writes in a comment at The Oil Drum (Drumbeat):

Regarding the article Study: Coal industry faces bleak future, the co-chairs of the MIT study, John Deutch and Ernest Moniz, have a long op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal: A Future for Fossil Fuel (paid subscription required)

The essay argues for putting a price on CO2 emissions (either tax or cap and trade), which will 1) reduce demand for electricity, 2) provide incentives for nuclear and renewable fuels, and 3) make technology to reduce CO2 emissions more economic. It also discusses technologies for carbon sequestration, e.g. Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC), oxygen-fired supercritical pulverized coal combustion, and fluidized bed combustion. The authors then say "neither government nor industry will make the required level of technology investment -- so long as the current administration does not adopt serious carbon reduction policies in a timely fashion."

This piece takes up over half a page in the two-page op-ed spread, and is the lead guest opinion piece today. It is significant, in my opinion, that the WSJ has prominently published an opinion piece that does not dismiss global warming (don't count on the unsigned editorials to support this position anytime soon, however), but accepts it as scientific consensus and then goes on to discuss solutions.

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