“The evidence is mounting internationally that so called clean coal will never be achieved as an economical alternative to Renewable Energy,” said Matthew Wright Beyond Zero Emissions Lead Campaigner.
The FutureGen Industrial Alliance has released an Initial Conceptual Design Report to investigate the feasibility of a ‘clean coal’ plant.
Beyond Zero Emissions believes that the report is largely an attempt to just promote coal burning as a necessary part of future global energy and in response has produced a document called the ‘FutureGen Conceptual Design Retort’.
The main aim of so called ‘clean coal’ is to capture the carbon that is ordinarily emitted into the atmosphere by conventional coal-fired power plants, and sequester it in underground reservoirs using a hypothetical technology called partial carbon capture and storage.
The Beyond Zero Emissions ‘Retort’ highlights the fact that the FutureGen plant won’t be fully tested until 2017 and a commercial plant will not be ready until 2022 at the earliest. This means that existing coal-fired plants will be pumping massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere for many years before ‘clean coal’ becomes commercially available, assuming it ever does. On page 5 of the Alliance’s report it states that the project was initiated to determine ‘if ‘ the technology is feasible, yet on the same page this is contradicted by the claim, “When successful, the FutureGen plant… will provide the basis for a new generation of reliable, environmentally benign, coal-fueled power plants…” By preemptively assuming a successful outcome, the Alliance exposes its agenda to promote coal as a “… necessary part of a sustainable, global energy portfolio”, despite their own acknowledgement that the technology to eliminate CO2 produced by burning coal may not be feasible.
“James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has stated that there should be a moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants until the technology to capture and sequester the CO2 emissions is available.” said Mr Wright.
“The FutureGen Alliance’s claim that they will successfully capture and sequester CO2 emissions at some indeterminate date is an attempt to lull us into accepting the continued operation and construction of coal-fired plants in contradiction of recommendations by eminent scientists.” said Mr Wright
As the world’s largest coal exporter, Australia is also keen to prove the viability of ‘clean coal’ with a proposed plant named ZeroGen. The ‘Retort’ comments that “…this initiative by the Queensland government has been a failure to date. Even the coal industry is sceptical about the plan to pipe carbon dioxide from the Stanwell power plant in Rockhampton, 220km away for geological storage.”
As Australia leaves proven renewable technologies sitting on the shelf, wind power is expanding at a phenomenal rate around the world. Wind power capacity increased by 25% globally in 2006, and is expected to grow by an average of 19% per year up to 2010.
This growth rate, and advances in wind power technology, is making wind power competitive with other energy sources. With this is mind, the ‘Retort’ questions how ‘clean coal’ can ever be cost-competitive given that by 2022 renewable energy is predicted to be less expensive than even conventional coal. ‘Clean coal’, with the extra costs associated with transporting and capturing the carbon emissions, will be more expensive still.
Given the long time-scale and a multitude of unanswered questions hanging over ‘clean coal’ technology, Beyond Zero Emissions suggests that it would be preferable for Australia to implement large-scale wind power and other zero emission technologies now.
“The Liberal and Labor parties have been duped by the coal industries mega marketing machine, lead by Rio Tinto and BHP” said Mr Wright.
“Claims by the industry that we’ll have commercially viable Clean Coal by 2015 ahead of the Americans are laughable”
FutureGen Initial Conceptual Design Report
‘FutureGen Conceptual Design Retort’, Beyond Zero Emissions.
ABC Insight “Power Plays” – exposes the unease around ‘Clean Coal’
‘Banning New Coal Power Plants Will Slow Warming’, by Staff Writers, Washington (AFP) Feb 27, 2007
‘Coal sector in pipeline push”, Andrew Trounson,22 May 2007
‘International wind markets expected to grow by an average of 19% per year up to 2010, according to latest GWEC report’, Global Wind Energy Council.
‘Wind Power Gathers Speed’, NOVA, Australian Academy of Science.
Climate Change and trace gases – peer reviewed paper by Hansen et al.
The Earth today stands in imminent peril
No more coal power, says NASA
Rio Tinto to cut coal jobs as drought bites into power
CSIRO submission to the Prime Ministers Emission Trading Task force – to stay below 2 degrees C “we need” to keep below 375–550ppm CO2e – We are already at 430ppmm CO2e in earth’s atmosphere http://www.pmc.gov.au/emissionstrading/submissions/142_sub_emissionstrading.pdf
This media release online and printable pdf format