February 25, 2009

Clean Coal Stays in Obama's Stimulus Package

Bill Georgevich reporting

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Obama talked about it along with John McCain in the presidential campaign. And despite environmentally-friendly cabinet members, clean coal got 3.4 billion dollars in the US 2009 stimulus bill under the line item - Fossil Energy and Carbon Capture. All that money despite the fact that there is no electricity made through clean coal technology and right now that technology doesn't even exist.

A lot of people don't realize that clean coal is a concept not a fact. The sequestration or hiding of carbon in abandoned oil wells is a great idea to relax folks worried about the single greatest producer of greenhouses gases in industrial countries. But the one zero-emission coal test facility operated by the DOE was abandoned after many years for lack of productivity after over 1 billion dollars were spent.

The clean coal concept is very important to the coal industry but it is also very important to countries like the US and China that have very high energy needs and lots of cheap coal. If you could set up a smoke screen that clean coal is coming, you could justify building more coal plants now and promise to retrofit them later when the technology for clean coal is invented and tested. This gives first world nations decades to continue to pollute, something climate change envrionmentalists say we don't have.

Some of this research money in the stimulus bill will go into coal gassification, a method of producing gasoline developed by the Nazis during World War II when they were converting coal into much needed gasoline for their war effort. Billions of gallons of gasoline could be produced from US coal reserves, a process seriously considered during the first oil crisis of the mid 1970's. There are still 2 remaining problems with that technology. It is an extremely inefficient way of making gasoline therefore it would make it very expensive and this technology is a terrible greenhouse gas polluter.

All this points away from coal and towards the refinement of all renewables. Why was the 3 billion+ placed in the new stimulus budget? Obviously the new administration doesn't think this country's energy policy can survive without coal.