nations strongly support launching 20 largescale CCS demonstration projects around the globe, with the goal of beginning broad deployment by 2020. Just as importantly, the IEA supports the 2020 target date. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the voice of authority on climate change, also encourages an expanded role for CCTs: “They [CCS projects] will work, I see no reason why a technology of that nature will be anywhere beyond human capabilities.” With coal’s dominant position in poverty reduction assured in the decades ahead, he believes all that is lacking for widespread CCS is the political will to commit to commercial deployment by 2020. The benefits involved are profound; Pachauri’s native country, India, has some 400 million people without access to electricity (the IEA reports the figure worldwide is 1.5 billion). From gasification to sulfur-capturing scrubbers, the effect the wide range of CCTs is having on electricity generation is comparable to the influence microprocessors had on computers. “CCTs have been developed and deployed to reduce the environmental impact of coal utilization over the past 30 to 40 years,” says the IEA, the operator of a Clean Coal Center. The U.S. coal industry has a proven track record of developing technological pathways to successfully address environmental concerns.
“We must make it our goal to advance carbon capture and storage technology to the point where widespread, affordable deployment can begin in 8 to 10 years.” – Steve Chu, Secretary of Energy Power plants built today emit 90 percent fewer criteria emissions than those they displace from the 1970s. Since 1980, CCTs have slashed power plant emissions by 54 percent, despite a 71 percent increase in coal-fueled generation. With even steeper reductions on the horizon, the total opposition to coal projects across-the-board greatly impedes the deployment of more advanced plants capable of reining in nearly all emissions. The IPCC confirms current CCT technologies can already capture approximately 85–95 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) processed in a capture plant. The result is a power plant with CCS could reduce CO2 emissions by 80–90 percent compared to a plant without CCS. In 2008, the DOE reported the U.S. has the capacity to store 3,900 billion tons of CO2 at 230 different underground sites. Considering the U.S. emits 6-7 billion tons of CO2 every year, this means ample space exists to store 100 percent of its emissions for approximately 560 years. According to the IPCC, properly managed geological formations are likely to retain more than 99 percent of the injected CO2 for over 1,000
years. CO2 becomes much less mobile over time. Indeed, CCS is a prime example of the unique opportunity we have to simultaneously enhance U.S. energy security and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
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Bond Pearce, Oil & Gas Review, March, 2009.
U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2009 International Energy Outlook, May 27, 2009, available at http://www.eia. doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/.
America’s Power, “Behind the Plug: Using Coal to Neutralize National Security Threats,” 2008, available at http://behindtheplug.americaspower. org/2008/03/using-coal-to-n.html.
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Conclusion Due to record oil prices, the constraints on nuclear energy, the volatility of natural gas prices, and the inherent limitations of renewable energy, coal is the standout choice to: 1) meet the inevitable rise in electricity demand and 2) enhance energy security. CCTs extend our energy self-reliance and will solidify coal’s critical position in the U.S. energy system in the switchover to a low-carbon economy. As the U.S. Air Force puts it, we can “neutralize a national security threat by tapping into the country’s abundant coal reserves.” u Jude Clemente is an energy security analyst and technical writer in the Homeland Security Department at San Diego State University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Electricity Net Generation: Total (All Sectors), 1949-2008,” available at http:// www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/txt/ptb0802a. html. U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory, Natural Gas and Electricity Costs and Impacts on Industry, White Paper on Expected Near-Term Costs Increases, April 28, 2008.
Scott Klara, Director, Strategic Center for Coal, National Energy Technology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, testimony before the Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Oct. 21, 2009. 37