Monday, November 3, 2008

The hype—and hope(?)—of clean coal

If you click this space, it will bring up the picture. Be sure to come back again!
The latest The Week magazine has an article, Briefing: The hype—and hope—of clean coal (from which the picture is sourced.) Now usually this is one of our favorite magazines. They include exerpts from news sources both right and left, American and foreign, so that in a short time, you can feel pretty well informed, or know where to look for more information.
I think, however, that they failed miserably on this article, so I told them so in a comment on the website. Unfortunately there are no Letters to the Editor in the magazine itself, but the website provides the opportunity. Here is my comment:

There are 2 things you forgot in this article, that make it entirely impossible to ever make "clean coal:" the "cradle" and the "grave."

The "cradle" part is that you have to get the coal out of the ground in the first place.
You mentioned swing states Ohio and Pennsylvania as two states with a lot of coal. Have you ever been there to see the coal mines , or in Kentucky or West Virginia, which are even harder hit? Try looking at or to get an idea. These are organizations of the people who live there.

The "grave" is that CO2 has to be stored.There are 2 major issues here:

  • In large quantities, CO2 lies below the oxygen of the atmosphere if it escapes. That means, that if a bubble of CO2 should escape, it could lie as a deadly blanket over the earth, asphyxiating all animal life (that includes people) in the area. This has already happened at least once, in Africa. See 1986: Hundreds gassed in Cameroon lake disaster.
  • Not to mention the fact that we would need enormous secure cavity volume to contain all the CO2 that is produced.

Like nuclear, the "grave" part of the lifecycle hasn't really been solved yet, and it will prove extremely difficult. The "grave' could easily be not only the grave of CO2 or spent fuel, but of thousands of people (and other life!)

Feel free to write a comment on their site as well, or add it here, and I'll add it to their page.

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