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Coal - March 22

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Global boom in coal power - and emissions

Mark Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor
A Monitor analysis shows the potential for an extra 1.2 billion tons of carbon released into the atmosphere per year.
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Forget the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Disregard rising public concern over global warming. Ignore the Kyoto Protocol.

The world certainly is - at least when it comes to building new electric-power plants. In the past five years, it has been on a coal-fired binge, bringing new generators online at a rate of better than two per week. That has added some 1 billion tons of new carbon-dioxide emissions that humans pump into the atmosphere each year. Coal-fired power now accounts for nearly a third of human-generated global CO2 emissions.

So what does the future hold? An acceleration of the buildup, according to a Monitor analysis of power-industry data. Despite Kyoto limits on greenhouse gases, the analysis shows that nations will add enough coal-fired capacity in the next five years to create an extra 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year.

Those accelerating the buildup are not the usual suspects.

Take China, which is widely blamed for the rapid rise in greenhouse-gas emissions. Indeed, China accounted for two-thirds of the more than 560 coal-fired power units built in 26 nations between 2002 and 2006. The Chinese plants boosted annual world CO2 emissions by 740 million tons (see chart). But in the next five years, China is slated to slow its buildup by half, according to industry estimates, adding 333 million tons of new CO2 emissions every year. That's still the largest increase of any nation. But other nations appear intent on catching up.

"Really, it's been the story of what China is doing," says Steve Piper, managing director of power forecasting at Platts, the energy information division of McGraw-Hill that provided country-by-country power-plant data to the Monitor. "But it's also a story of unabated global growth in coal-fired power. We're seeing diversification away from pricier natural gas and crude oil. Coal looks cheap and attractive - and countries with coal resources see an opportunity that wasn't there before."

For example, the United States is accelerating its buildup dramatically.
(22 March 2007)


Despite Climate Concerns, Germany Plans Coal Power Plants

Deutsche Welle
European Union states agreed earlier this month on a binding 20 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020. Yet over 20 coal-fired power plants -- major producers of greenhouse gases -- are planned for Germany.

...Currently, up to 26 coal-fired power plants -- which would burn either hard (anthracite) or brown (lignite) coal -- are either being built right now or are in the planning stages in Germany.

"If all of those plants end up being installed, there is no way we can reach our climate protection goals for reducing emissions," Loske said.

Coal-fired power plants are one of the biggest producers of greenhouses gases, which scientists have said are primarily responsible for global warming.
(21 March 2007)


The Precarious Future of Coal

Kevin Bullis, Technology Review
A new MIT report says that much more effort is needed to develop and test technology that will make clean-coal power plants economical and practical.
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.. The report recommends that much more be done to develop technology for decreasing the impact of burning coal on global warming. The report also challenges some conventional thinking about the best way forward. It criticizes current efforts by the Department of Energy (DOE) and calls for an approximately $5 billion, 10-year program to demonstrate technology for capturing and storing carbon dioxide released by coal-fired power plants. ..

Doing so is "not simply a matter of bolting on a box to capture carbon dioxide," says John Deutch, a professor of chemistry at MIT. Indeed, retrofitting existing plants will require wholesale restructuring, even for advanced coal plants, he says. And although there are a few carbon-sequestration projects going on around the world, none of these has been put together with the sort of careful monitoring required to assure the public and energy investors that long-term, extremely high-volume carbon-dioxide storage is possible. ..

The demonstration projects the MIT researchers envision will take years. Meanwhile, the researchers suggest that governments take action by establishing a carbon-control policy. That will include, among other things, closing a potential loophole that may encourage utilities to build coal plants now without carbon capture in the hope that they can avoid future regulations.
(14 Mar 2007)

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