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"60 Minutes" on "Clean Coal" Misses the Innovators

“60 Minutes” aired a pretty blah piece on Sunday night on the problems of capturing carbon from coal plants. While the story interviewed a lot of the big names in both the coal and the renewable energy industries, including Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers, NASA’s James Hanson, Climate Progress’ Joseph Romm and UC Berkeley’s Dan Kammen, it failed to mention any of the new companies and technologies being developed to capture the carbon.

No mention of PowerSpan, which recently raised $50 million from investors like George Soros and NGEN Partners, or GreatPoint Energy, which was one of the most well-funded cleantech startups around. The piece was short, so perhaps they didn’t have time, but they had the perfect opportunity to take a brief look at the new players when Rogers admitted that Duke, despite pledging to reduce its carbon footprint, has not spent any money investing in the technology of carbon capture and sequestration. For more info on CCS, read our FAQ.

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7 Responses to “"60 Minutes" on "Clean Coal" Misses the Innovators”

  1. JTC1321

    Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the face of the environmentalist community, understands the importance of utilizing coal. “When the cost of not using it [coal] is calculated, it becomes obvious that CCS will play a significant and growing role as one of the major building blocks of a solution to the climate crisis.”

    The Bellona Foundation reports on “Why CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS) is an Important Strategy to Reduce Global CO2 Emissions.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) endorsed the use of CCS in 2005, while Nicholas Stern concluded that it will be a crucial technology in his influential 2006 report on the economics of climate change for the UK government.

    The IPCC’s head Dr. Rajendra Pachuari says, ““We have to find a will by which we develop these clean coal projects.” “They [clean coal projects] will work, I see no reason why a technology of that nature will be anywhere beyond human capabilities.”

  2. 10c/kWh for clean coal?? Not any time in the near future.

    Just look at the most recent issue of Gas Turbine World and see the actual plant costs for a 100% Carbon Capture IGSC (Integrated Gasification Steam Cycle). Doesn’t matter if you’re building new or retrofitting existing facilities – the capital costs come out to about $4200/kW….plus transmission costs (another $2200/kW for any transmission upgrades–although to be fair, any new capacity would have to assume those costs)

    $4200/kW is a lot of money! Especially if you consider the costs for PV panels ($6000/kW installed).

    Other ways of reducing emissions – like onsite cogeneration or trigeneration – begin to look a lot more appealing in the face of such high costs, especially when you consider that onsite power largely eliminates (or at the very least defers) big T&D costs: $2200/kW for transmission and upwards of $4000/kW for new distribution upgrades.

    And the numbers for NOx, SO2, HG, and other criteria pollutants may have declined from record levels in the 1970s, but any look at recent eGrid reports or any ISO generation-mix reports reveal that emissions are still woefully high.

  3. Clean coal technologies are already real. Since 1970, electricity from coal has increased over 185%% but emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates have declined more than 80%. Next in line is Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) a well understood technology which will enable us to expand the use of our most significant energy resource—coal. In an energy world dominated by OPEC and Russia, American coal is the epitome of national energy security.

    CCS is an attainable goal. We need a regulatory framework and large scale demonstration projects as soon as possible. A full slate of new technologies has become available and the path to emissions-free coal-based energy is now clear. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) identifies CCS for power generation as “the single most important new technology for CO2 savings”. Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes, “there do not appear to be unresolvable open technical issues.” Carnegie Mellon University researchers estimate electricity from coal with CCS can cost only 10 cents per kWh compared to 12-20 cents for wind. Nothing stands in our way except our own inertia.

  4. Even if we can figure out how to store CO2, it probably shouldn’t be captured from coal. Why?

    If you capture it from a coal plant, you are using high quality, reliable energy to power the capturing. Even though the capture process has no (short-term) time criticality associated with it.

    You’d probably be better off using wind energy to power carbon capture technology, as the intermittent nature of the power source does not affect the process.

    Also, we just found out we have lots more NG than we thought. Perhaps burn that instead of coal in the first place.

    And then there’s all that Uranium and Thorium available….