Let’s not “give up on coal”
The Democrat Herald has a good editorial describing just how badly the latest Sierra Club anti-coal push misses the mark. Hasso Hering, (the author) describes how simple things like the fact that there’s no coal at Oregon State University appear to have escaped the movement’s organizers.
Hering then notes that if they expect OSU to stop buying their electricity from utilities that have coal in their generation portfolio, they will essentially have to give up on electricity or create their own special utility for their energy. Furthermore, he notes that while coal does have environmental impacts associated with its use, so do all the alternatives.
Newsflash – there is no such thing as a completely environmentally benign energy resource. As an example, Hering notes that a recently proposed solar facility would have carpeted over 1,000 square miles of our Southwestern desert ecosystems. A quick look at other demands for renewable energy developments would require “186,000 50-story windmills, covering an area the size of West Virginia … By comparison, coal plants and the mines on which they depend occupy only a few square miles each.” Hering’s thoughts unfortunately do not consider the thousands of miles of additional transmission lines and billions in additional funding that would be required to tie these new “green” developments into the grid. (note: we’ve discussed this issue in other posts on the Coalblog.)
He does, however, move on to note that commercially-available clean coal technologies are currently providing answers to concerns over CO2 emissions. He describes one example as explained by the Albany branch of the National Energy Technologies Laboratory (NETL). Where oxy-fueled burners are used to combust coal in a pure oxygen environment, the issue of nitrogen oxides no longer exists. At the same time, other pollutants are recovered through compression & filtration processes and so-called waste heat is recycled to help drive the process. The remaining pure stream of CO2 can then be sequestered or used in industrial processes or enhanced oil recovery. (note: Vattenfall’s Schwarze Pumpe station in Germany is a good example of this technology at work.)
Once again, the anti-coal movements are missing the mark. They’re so dedicated to their all-encompassing passion of stopping coal at any cost that they miss some very basic alternatives and options. Options that are not only more affordable, they’re every bit as clean and a LOT more reliable. Hering is right when he suggests that we’re far better off not ‘giving up on coal.’