Witness as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee discusses clean coal: how awesome is it? Should we give it a gazillion dollars, or alternatively, a fajillion? Tough questions!


9:32 [Carl] Bauer [director, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Energy Department] Given current technology and coal consumption, the US has about 250 years of coal use.

Um, no. Not according to NAS:

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It is clear that there is enough coal at current rates of production to meet anticipated needs through 2030, and probably enough for 100 years, the committee said. However, it is not possible to confirm the often-quoted assertion that there is a sufficient supply for the next 250 years.

Note also:

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9:43 [Jeffrey] Phillips [program manager for advanced coal generation, Electric Power Research Institute] … CCS will significantly increase cost of producing electricity, by about 80%. Some means to induce CO2 capture without penalizing the owner of such a plant must be used. We have identified R&D pathways that would dramatically reduce the cost of CCS to only 10% by 2025. With current levels of funding we will not get there. It requires significant but not unprecedented increase of investment over the next twenty years. Even if we were able to drive CCS costs to zero, plant owners would be reluctant to deployment because of liability fears.

So we, the public, are going to pay the huge bill to figure out how to clean up coal, because we don’t want to “penalize” the people running the dirty coal plants. And even if we spend so much goddam money on this that we reduce their extra costs to almost nothing, they’ll still be “reticent,” y’know, for accounting reasons.

This is insane. The coal industry is not some precious princess that we collectively have to shelter and nurture and protect from harm. It’s a rapacious, destructive, dirty holdover from a couple of centuries ago. If it can’t hack it in the 21st century — without enormous largess from the very American public it’s poisoning every day — then let … it … die.