In his treatise, “Sustainability and Energy”, Ulf Bossel advised that a characteristic of “below-ground” energy is dwindling EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested). “At some point, neither increased prices nor increased energy conversion efficiency can overcome” when “an energy source becomes an energy sink.”
No longer can we claim ignorance. Denial equates to death on a planetary scale.
Gristmill Guest Contributor Joseph (a.k.a., Joey the Weasel) Romm states emphatically that our most urgent climate policy should be the prevention of dirty coal plants. Which leaves the barn door wide open for bamboozling about clean coal.
This blog does agree with his caveat that, while it may be possible, if highly unlikely, to have a livable climate when burning almost all of the world’s reserves of conventional oil and gas, it certainly spells the end of life on the planet as we know it if we were to burn even half of the world’s remaining coal reserves, with or without a few, drought-killed Aussies thrown into the hopper for the boys in blue.
And, yes, buried (“Whop! about to slip down”) within his post, he acknowledges the possibility that CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) will prove impractical. “My best projection today,” writes Professor Romm, “CCS is going to be both less practical and more expensive than people think.” It certainly is other than a low-cost option; “the jury is out on whether it will be an affordable option.”
Ostensibly, the reason for considering CCS as an option is to lower anthropogenic emissions from power generation, which is the single greatest GHG source. Yet, Romm falls back upon consideration of feasibility and affordability. Romm endorses “a strong effort to find out as quickly as possible if coal with CCS can deliver significant quantities of affordable carbon-free power,” to include:
- An enhanced R&D program for capture technologies at both SCPC and IGCC [Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle] facilities to reduce the costs of capture as quickly as possible
- An accelerated program to gain large-scale experience with sequestration for a range of geologic formations
- A comprehensive national inventory of potential storage reservoirs
- A new regulatory framework for evaluating, permitting, monitoring, and remediating sequestration sites and allocating liability for long-term CO2 storage.
While such suggestions make for nice language, i.e., proposed action that never gets done, the scenario is quite unfortunates (Cue the Syllogism of Doom theme) mainly for future generations, although… (Whoops, there goes the tundra!!)
Professor Romm does have his principles; the policy framework proposed by Berlin and Sussman, “simply goes too far for me.”
I don’t want some utility building a brand-new (traditional) coal plant that could last for 50 to 80 years and “offsetting” that by shutting down some decades old coal plant that wasn’t going to last many more decades anyway.
No, if CCS takes a bit longer to develop than people hope, the country can certainly live without new coal plants for a few years — especially if we have an aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment strategy.
True, Berlin and Sussman are suggesting more BAU (Business As Usual. All plants that begin construction after 2008 could be subject to their proposed standard; would be required to implement carbon capture technology by 2013; and, then would be required to meet all sequestration requirements by 2016.
“They also suggest,” quotes Romm, “while CCS technology is being perfected, plant developers during the first three years, in which the new performance standard is in effect, could have the option to construct traditional coal plants that do not capture and sequester CO2 if they offset on a one-to-one basis their CO2 emissions by taking one or more of the following steps” –
- Improving efficiencies and lowering CO2 emissions at existing plants
- Retiring existing coal or natural gas units that generate CO2 emissions
- Constructing previously unplanned renewable fuel power plants representing up to 25 percent of the generation capacity of the new coal plant.
But, as (Tales from the) Crypt-o-gon has cautioned, “Don’t get taken in by the zombie mind trick which tempts you to engage in worthless political debates.”
Coal, Good to the Last Gasp and Beyond