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Energy Secretary Chu Endorses "Clean Coal"

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the was-then-is-now dept.

Power 464

DesScorp writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Energy Secretary Steven Chu is endorsing 'clean coal' technology and research, and is taking a pragmatic approach to coal as an energy supply. '"It absolutely is worthwhile to invest in carbon capture and storage because we are not in a vacuum," Mr. Chu told reporters Tuesday following an appearance at an Energy Information Administration conference. "Even if the United States or Europe turns its back on coal, India and China will not," he said. Mr. Chu added that "quite frankly I doubt if the United States will turn its back on coal. We are generating over 50% of our electrical energy from coal."' The United States has the world's largest reserves of coal. Secretary Chu has reversed his positions on coal and nuclear power, previously opposing them, and once calling coal 'My worst nightmare.'"

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Peak Oil (0, Offtopic)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589543)

Yawn. Who didn't see this coming a million miles away?

Re:Peak Oil (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589797)

A major political figure completely reversing his stance a subject and is able to provide straightforward and logical explanations for the change? Maybe I'm used to the previous administrations policy of "what we say goes, no matter what" but, yeah, this does kind of surprise me.

Say what you will about clean coal, but he is right about one thing. China is going to keep burning coal until there's no coal left to burn or something cheaper is found. Why not research the hell out of the subject and sell it to them in 10 years when they realize that they're killing their population with pollution? And if they somehow work out a way to have truly clean coal (burning coal with no particulates and no release of CO2) then why shouldn't we use it here at home?

Personally, I like nuclear, solar, and wind for our energy needs. But I think we should be researching every possibility, including clean coal and biofuels. Having a diverse set of energy sources means that when when resource becomes scarce we can more easily shift our focus and continue on.

Re:Peak Oil (5, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589913)

Who's reversing his position? Everyone talked up so-called clean coal during the election.

I agree however; even if we don't use the technology, we can make money selling it to other people.

Re:Peak Oil (3, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590021)

Who's reversing his position? Everyone talked up so-called clean coal during the election.

Of course they did. They wanted to get the electoral votes in swing states like OH and PA.

Your mistake is in thinking that it had anything to do with energy policy.

Re:Peak Oil (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590237)

OK, so they said they would look at clean coal during the election, then did so after in office, and someone they did something wrong?

Nasa to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27590047)

Kill two birds with one stone:

Have Nasa design space ships to go to Mar using COAL as the fuel. As Nasa always does, it will invent innovative technology to solve the problem of the CO2 emissions. They're highly motivated, since Nasa hates global warming (who doesn't?).

When we get good enough at spaceflight, we'll go out to the gas giants and harvest methane.

Re:Peak Oil (2, Insightful)

ControversialMatt (1070718) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590019)

Why not research the hell out of the subject and sell it to them in 10 years when they realize that they're killing their population with pollution?

That of course, would require that China give a damn about their population.

Re:Peak Oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27590265)

This is a troll? China does not give a damn about it's population. This may change in the future, but for now, it would be hard to justify that China really does care much about it's people.

Re:Peak Oil (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27590209)

You fucking idiots are so fucking funny.

Coal technology is already clean, all those images of soot-buried London are well over one hundred years old and long since history. What the politicians meant during the elections is green coal--coal with no C02 emissions--which they selectively refer to as "Carbon"-emissions, conjuring up those very same sooty images. And they do this on purpose.

This isn't about pollution because C02 isn't a pollutant, it's the lynch-pin of all life on this planet. Some argue that clean-coal is a 'solution' to energy demand in a catastrophic-climate-warming-because-of-human-C02-emissions world, but NO ONE BUT FUCKING IDIOTS THINKS THIS IS ABOUT POLLUTION.

Either way, no matter what, China won't ever have to realize they're killing their population with pollution. Even in the c-c-w-b-o-h-c-e world, they're realize it's a little warmer and go about their business because, for fuck's sake, this planet isn't Venus and all that coal and oil in the ground used to be in the atmosphere as CO2 anyway eons before we even got here.

That is all.

Re:Peak Oil (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590235)

China is going to keep burning coal until there's no coal left to burn or something cheaper is found.

True, but there is something to be said for the old adage, "lead by example."

Re:Peak Oil Until now, probably nobody wanted to, (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590035)

since it would be a long train and a long row to hoe.

"Clean Coal" (5, Insightful)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589561)

Oxymoron of the century.

Re:"Clean Coal" (0, Troll)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589647)

Somewhat like "Clean diesel."

Re:"Clean Coal" (2, Insightful)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589739)

(Score:0, Troll)

The president of North American Coal has mod points today. Fine, let's put you downstream from the mine, and then you can tell me how "clean" your coal is.

Re:"Clean Coal" (3, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589853)

Clean coal is clearly an oxymoron - There's no such thing as clean coal.

Just like there's no such thing as clean nuclear (gotta do something with that waste), clean wind (service roads are a bitch and transporting energy requires infrastructure), clean sun (break-even on solar panels just sucks, but ovens and water-heaters are OK), etc...

We've got tons of coal that's (relatively) easy to mine and (if not clean) not nearly as bad as it used to be and its environmental impact isn't all that much worse than a lot of the "green" sources. It's not as nice as nuclear (assuming you're not scared of the waste) or wind (if you happen to have a consistently windy back yard), but it's cheap, plentiful, and efficient. If you have that big a problem with it, find a better solution and then do the leg-work getting it approved, funded, and implemented. I'll applaud you when you're done.

Re:"Clean Coal" (4, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589981)

Just like there's no such thing as clean nuclear (gotta do something with that waste)

Actually, the French [wikipedia.org] have been recycling [wikipedia.org] their spent nuclear fuel for years.

Re:"Clean Coal" (5, Informative)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590183)

We've got tons of coal that's (relatively) easy to mine and (if not clean) not nearly as bad as it used to be and its environmental impact isn't all that much worse than a lot of the "green" sources.

Bullshit. [wikipedia.org]

Re:"Clean Coal" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589935)

Every post ever whining about mods should be labeled Redundant.

You were clearly flaming and offered nothing to the topic. You correctly noticed that you shouldn't have been modded Troll, though. Flamebait would have been more appropriate.

Re:"Clean Coal" (1)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590097)

A family member lives downwind of a coal plant and she says the roughly the same thing "Come live here and tell me how clean your coal is"

The cleaner the coal... (4, Interesting)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589567)

The dirtier the fly ash.

This is what happens when... (5, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589583)

...ideology meets reality.

Re:This is what happens when... (4, Interesting)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589715)

Ideology is all well and good... but the whole concept of a "progressive" president having an energy secretary that claims to oppose nuclear power as well as coal, is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard.

Renewable energy is all well and good, but the fact is that at the moment, it's not going to provide us with all the energy that we need. So while we should be adapting our infrastructure to support more renewable resources (solar, I am looking at you), we cannot afford to forget that it is nuclear power that promises us the quickest (and cleanest) way to combat our oil dependency. Furthermore, as far as I am concerned, burning any petroleum-derived products for electricity generation borders on the criminal, because while we have plenty of other ways to spin the turbines when the oil runs out, we're going to be deeply screwed when it comes to producing something we've come to take for granted in the modern age - plastics.

Corn (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589883)

I know, I know. One should not burn (or transmogrify) one's food. I am just saying corn can be used to make plastic.

Re:Corn (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590213)

On a small scale it might not be so bad. Those regulated-feed corn stoves seem pretty awesome for room heating

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589909)

We can always produce plastics from other substances, too... like castor oil [autobloggreen.com] .

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589969)

We can always produce plastics from other substances, too... like castor oil [autobloggreen.com] .

Certainly we can. But at what cost, and on what kind of scale?

The fact that you can do something in the lab, doesn't make it feasible for global adoption.

Re:This is what happens when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27590009)

Certainly we can. But at what cost, and on what kind of scale?

Since this is chemistry we are talking about, almost any kind of scale is possible... if we are willing to pay the cost.;)

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

doconnor (134648) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589757)

What's going to happen when the reality of America's dependence fossil fuels meets the reality of climate change?

Re:This is what happens when... (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589801)

What's going to happen when the reality of America's dependence fossil fuels meets the reality of climate change?

We'll fully commit ourselves to nuclear and finally have the ammo we need to silence the anti-nuclear crowd?

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

wiggles (30088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589813)

We will be forced to adapt. I suggest we start planning for it.

Does anyone still believe anymore that we will still turn climate change around?

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589875)

What's going to happen when the reality of America's dependence fossil fuels meets the reality of climate change?

The answer is obvious, unless I'm missing something. Rich countries will cope with climate change and poor countries will suffer.

I am not a global warming denier, but I've come to the conclusion that we aren't going to stop it. You'll never get developing countries on board, and the one resource more plentiful than fossil fuel is undeveloped countries.

So what do we do? Try to estimate the burn rate, model what happens when all the CO2 goes into the air, and prepare our infrastructure for whatever comes out of the models. Frankly, it's a self-limiting problem since there is a finite quantity of fossil fuel.

I guess we (rich countries) could also try to suck CO2 out of the air, but I haven't yet seen a proven method.

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

dc29A (636871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590073)

I guess we (rich countries) could also try to suck CO2 out of the air, but I haven't yet seen a proven method.

Trees?

Re:This is what happens when... (2, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589817)

Yes, exactly - we're seeing what happens when the ideology of ignorant "Business As Usual" fossil fuel guzzling nimrods meets the stark implacable reality of resource depletion.

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

lewiscr (3314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589835)

No. This is what I want to happen when ideology meets reality. He could've gone all GreenPeace on us. Then we'd be really screwed.

Re:This is what happens when... (1)

worthawholebean (1204708) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590087)

If you RTFA, the summary is pretty inaccurate. His shift on coal was at most relatively minor, from "I don't know if this can happen" to "If it can happen, it will take a long time to develop." On nuclear, his opinions haven't changed at all. I think his statements contain a remarkable amount of sense.

Change? Change? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589587)

Bwahahaha.. where's your change now!

Re:Change? Change? (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589845)

Bwahahaha.. where's your change now!

Dude... we had change from pro-coal to anti-coal. Now we have change back to pro-coal from anti-coal.

Maybe my math sucks, but that's 200% of the change we expected.

Why you hatin'?

What is so bad about "clean" coal? (4, Interesting)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589605)

I understand that there is no such thing as truly clean coal, but what is so bad about trying to produce cleaner coal for electricity generation?
Yes I do support nuclear, but we are pretty efficient at digging up and combusting coal. Why not work harder to scrub it better and deliver more electricity for the plug in hybrids?

Global warming (5, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589667)

what is so bad about trying to produce cleaner coal for electricity generation?

In one formula, CO2. Coal is the fuel that produces more CO2 per joule than any other energy source.

Re:Global warming (0, Troll)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589735)

Yeah, if you go to the anti clean coal websites, that seems to be their only legitimate complaint. They seem to think because burning coal produces C02, that it can never be "clean". When I think of something being "clean", I do not immediatly think of a substance being free of C02. With that definition, showers don't "clean" your skin and nothing can really ever clean your mouth.

Re:Global warming (1)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589967)

Don't be pedantic. The term clean coal is just as accurate as the term dirty nuke. No a dirty nuke doesn't mean your going to have to wash your dishes for a week to get them crud free it means your going to die of radiation poisoning. Just as clean coal means that you hopefully wont die from fine particulate matter inhalation. The same goes for those who complain about there being no such thing as clean coal. Fine maybe it should be called "cleaner coal" but than again even solar/wind/hydro/nuke etc all generate emissions of some level. "There is no black and white only shades of brown".

Re:Global warming (3, Informative)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589763)

See Carbon sequestration [wikipedia.org]

Re:Global warming (4, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590163)

See Carbon sequestration

I think the problem with carbon sequestration is that most of the schemes don't pass a sense check. Perhaps if someone were to present a detailed proposal about how it works, I might buy it. However, all of the proposals I've read don't make any sense.

Examples:
Bury the CO2 - Why won't it leak back up to the surface?
Bury Plant Matter - Why not burn the plants instead of coal?
Convert CO2 into some other chemical, and bury that - The laws of thermodynamics would like to have a word with you.

Re:Global warming (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589785)

In one formula, CO2. Coal is the fuel that produces more CO2 per joule than any other energy source.

I guess you missed the part where he said we need to invest in carbon capture and pointed out that even if we abandon coal (not likely but let's assume so for the sake of the argument) that the Chinese and Indians won't? Seems to me that if we can make carbon capture work we can sell it to them and get some exports going once again. What's not to like?

Re:Global warming (2, Insightful)

homer_s (799572) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589937)

I guess you missed the part where he said we need to invest in carbon capture and pointed out that even if we abandon coal (not likely but let's assume so for the sake of the argument) that the Chinese and Indians won't? Seems to me that if we can make carbon capture work we can sell it to them and get some exports going once again

You're assuming that we Indians would want the carbon capture technology. Al Gore is not a huge box office draw in India.

Re:Global warming (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589977)

You're assuming that we Indians would want the carbon capture technology. Al Gore is not a huge box office draw in India.

He will be when you have massive famines and can't feed your population. Most of the studies I've read suggest that India won't make out very well if we encounter runaway global warming.....

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589725)

Check out images of mountain top removal mining in Kentucky. Very efficient at the removal of coal from the earth. Very destructive too.

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589941)

Check out images of mountain top removal mining in Kentucky. Very efficient at the removal of coal from the earth. Very destructive too.

I'm not "anti-coal" per se, but just for reference here's a link to "United Mountain Defense" [unitedmoun...efense.org] , a Tennesse anti-mountain-top-removal-mining organization.

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (4, Interesting)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589751)

One of the problems is mining of coal. That isn't as clean or safe as it could (or should) be. The mass strip mine operations have given way to mountaintop removal which gets really ugly if the mining company can't (or won't) control runoff from the site. That's a very good way for people's water supply to turn orange if they use local wellwater for anything.

The other problem is the amount of energy it takes to store up CO2 somewhere. Realistically speaking we're going to need lots of dense (preferably mineral) carbon in the future for when carbon nanotubes (and similar carbon nanomaterials) take off, and burning coal sort of makes it harder to utilize all the raw carbon locked inside. Anthracite can be up to 98% pure carbon. Converting all that into CO2 + energy and then attempting to produce nanotubes from all that CO2 is sort of backwards. Better just to harvest all the raw carbon and throw the rest away.

Understandably that is a different application than energy production but coal will be one of the most attractive sources of carbon for nanotubes in my opinion (up there with graphite).

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589769)

If "clean coal" is not an oxymoron, I can't imagine what is. But given the sad fact that coal powers the world, and that change comes incrementally, some R&D on the subject seems like a good thing.

I'll go on the record as a supporter of clean coal, if it ever comes into being. And cold fusion, too. I'd even support perpetual motion.

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (5, Informative)

ComputerInsultant (722520) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589795)

The problem here is that utilities are currently trying to build new "Clean Coal" generating plants that have no carbon capture at all.

The "Clean Coal" phrase as Chu used it in the article is very different than the "Clean Coal" phrase used by my local utility trying to build a new plant. I would not mind Chu's "Clean Coal", but I do not want what the utilities are currently calling "Clean Coal".

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (3, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589847)

Why not work harder to scrub it better and deliver more electricity for the plug in hybrids?

I don't think scrubbing the exhaust of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions is the controversial part, it's the carbon. At the end of the day, coal is nearly pure carbon. As you likely know, burning carbon produces carbon dioxide. This is very alarming to those who are concerned about global warming.

Unfortunately, the coal industry only has one solution for the global warming crowd. They suggest we bury the carbon dioxide underground. [wikipedia.org] This in itself is controversial, because nobody knows if it will work on such a massive scale.

Personally, I don't see how they will store it underground without it leaking to the surface. If you are going to store carbon, it's best to store it as coal, or in some sort of plant matter.

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (5, Insightful)

doconnor (134648) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589859)

One the problem with "clean" coal is the radioactive waste. For the amount of energy produced, coal created more radioactive waste then nuclear. The difference is it is mixed in with tons and tons of chemically toxic ash, so there is no way of ever disposing of it safely. For nuclear energy the waste is conveniently concentrated and small enough it can be disposed of safely in stable rock.

Perhaps if we mixed the waste from our reactors with coal ash, people won't be so worried about it.

Re:What is so bad about "clean" coal? (3, Insightful)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589997)

For the amount of energy produced, coal created more radioactive waste then nuclear.

Funny you should mention that: linky [theoildrum.com]

Step 1: Mine coal
Step 2: After burning the coal, take the thorium from tailings
Step 3: Use liquid fluoride thorium nuclear reactors to provide energy for a few thousand years
Step 4: Profit...for everyone...

Nothing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589951)

Why not investigate some technological answers to the problem of CO2?

Here's the thing, not only does it environmentally make sense (if indeed, it works). It also makes commercial sense since clean coal technology would sell internationally.

Countries around the world are desperate to reduce their dependence on oil. Look at Germany and France... they have enormous domestic reserves of coal. Right now they are dependent upon Russia for oil imports which puts them in a very difficult position.

Not here yet. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589957)

There is definitely nothing wrong with funding more research. The fact is that we have tons of coal plants that aren't going away any time soon - it would be great if we could retrofit these plants. Furthermore, even if people lost their fear of nuclear power, we still couldn't build them fast enough to keep up with demand due to the longer planning and approval processes required. So even with wind, solar, geothermal and nuclear, we are going to have to build more coal plants to keep up with demand.

The problem I have is the coal companies and politicians keep talking about Clean Coal as thought it is a viable alternative to other clean fuels today, when in fact carbon sequestering is a complete joke so far. It's as bad as claiming that hydrogen powered vehicles are just around the corner. Nuclear waste storage is a much more mature and "solved" problem than CO2 storage, as is nuclear reprocessing.

More Like Kike Koal (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589609)

amirite?

Bring on the coal (0)

cloudkiller (877302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589613)

I, for one, would welcome our pollution-filled overlords. Anything that bankrupts the middle east can't be that bad in my opinion.

I'll believe it when I see it.. (1, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589637)

This is all political posturing at best motivated by some poll taken in a coal district. There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal. Anyone connected to coal or coal mining who supports Obama would be about as foolish as a gay guy supporting Pat Buchanan.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it.. (2, Insightful)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589671)

There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal.

Nonsense. They follow the money, just like any other. What is there that's convinced you otherwise?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it.. (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589717)

There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal

Care to make it interesting? They said that about wiretaps too (among other issues Obama's reversed himself on).

Fact is, there's no other energy technology available that can be widely implemented during Obama's administration, even if he's re-elected. You can't build nuclear plants that fast. Solar and wind aren't ready for wide-scale connection to the grid.

So guess what? You're back to good old coal, with a few twists to make it more palatable to environmentalists.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it.. (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589897)

You can't build nuclear plants that fast

Why can't we? Would it have anything to do with the fact that the enviro-nazis and NIMBY bastards successfully stymied the construction of new plants back in the 70s and 80s and in so doing left zero incentive for American industry to retain the plant and equipment to build reactors?

I read somewhere that there's only one steelworks in the world that's capable of forging the reactor containment walls and they have years of back orders on the books. Of course it didn't used to be that way but the various anti-nuclear movements drove down demand to the point that it wasn't profitable for other steelworks to retain the equipment to produce them. Other parts of the supply chain have been equally impacted.

Congratulations environmentalists -- you ripped the heart out of the only energy source that could have weaned us off carbon in our lifetimes. Seems a bit shortsighted in retrospect, doesn't it?

It wasn't just the enviros on this one.. (3, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590107)

I generally agree that environmentalists have screwed the planet pretty good on nuclear power, but I think charging them with the crime of driving some steelworks out of business might be a bit off.

I think the deal is really more that steelworks that could make really thick plates just aren't used that much anymore, and I'd bet principally because the world's warships don't use thick steel plates. While, granted, I would feel a lot safer behind a very thick armor belt as found in an Iowa class battleship, than in a different ship, current naval protection doctrine eschews passive protection in favor of active protection. Instead of armouring ships, you build loads of anti-missile system, electronic warfare, and you also try to avoid detection.

But once Navy's made that switch, they didn't need the uber thick plates, and really, they were the only really big customers. Other people that use armor of some kind, such as tanks, tend to layer it up with different things - like composites.

Without the military driving the creation of foot thick plates, who really needs to do it? I really do try and think, just why I would a foot thick steel plate...

Re:It wasn't just the enviros on this one.. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590171)

I didn't say they drove the steelworks out of business. I said they left them with little incentive to retain the equipment needed to build reactor containment walls. Now there's only a single supplier for those containment walls and they cost a fortune and have a huge backlog. Hmm.....

The point about warships is well made and something I hadn't considered. Still, you can't deny the fact that the suppression of new nuclear plants in the 70s and 80s contributed to the problem. The containment walls aren't the only bit of equipment that was affected. We gutted an entire industry because of a handful of very loud people and probably gutted whatever chance we had of averting runaway climate change in the process. It infuriates me to even think about it.....

Re:I'll believe it when I see it.. (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590121)

Why can't we? Would it have anything to do with the fact that the enviro-nazis and NIMBY bastards successfully stymied the construction of new plants back in the 70s and 80s and in so doing left zero incentive for American industry to retain the plant and equipment to build reactors?

Ha! I think those nutcases have been put out to pasture, long overdue. At this point, I think it's more that nuclear plants are kind of complicated and aren't something you slap together in a year. Retrofitting existing combustion facilities, on the other hand, might have a quicker impact. If that sort of thing matters to you. And if you happen to be a president with one eye on the polls and one eye on the calendar, it does.

There's also problems in that running a nuclear plant requires immediate access to large amounts of water for cooling towers, which limits where they can be placed.

Congratulations environmentalists -- you ripped the heart out of the only energy source that could have weaned us off carbon in our lifetimes. Seems a bit shortsighted in retrospect, doesn't it?

It's funny, actually, the environmentalists have started falling over themselves lately to support nuclear. For very much the reasons you state.

Cooling towers (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590225)

There's also problems in that running a nuclear plant requires immediate access to large amounts of water for cooling towers, which limits where they can be placed.

Nuclear plants can be placed anywhere. If they are water cooled, cooling towers are not needed. If they use dry cooling towers, water is not needed.

Re:I'll believe it when I see it.. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589961)

They are going to tacitly approve of it for at least 4 years (or do you think that the EPA is going to go a-knocking?).

Re:I'll believe it when I see it.. (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590173)

There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal.

Actually, Obama has lots of ties to the coal industry.

Illinois has a fair amount of coal underneath it (see Kidder and Peabody companies) with almost half of the counties having some exploitable coal deposits underneath them (An Illinois State Geological Survey study that mapped the coal deposits in the states funded part of my graduate school at the University of Illinois. In fact, the ISGS is one of the many recipient of federal DoE funds studying carbon sequestration).

But to get back to my original point, Obama took mucho money from the coal firms, both during his Senate and Presidential campaigns. This is why in each of his energy speeches he makes sure to mention "clean coal" technology. It's pretty obvious that Obama political operatives forced Chu to change his stance on the matter.

Now, more importantly, why do you think that Obama and his administration would oppose clean coal? I know you right wingnuts always assume that Democrats == environment => hate coal, but anyone with half a brain to do research knows that this isn't the case with Obama. Don't you idiots bother to do research? Or are you too blinded by Obama Derangement Syndrome to do that anymore?

Re:I'll believe it when I see it.. (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590227)

There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal.

Sure there is. Unionized minors are right up their alley, vote-wise. His party is all about pandering for those votes, and that's fertile ground for more of them. Just watch.

There's more to coal than just burning it (4, Insightful)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589639)

Will "clean coal" provide health care for the miners? Will it eliminate those nasty, dangerous sludge ponds that occasionally break through their retaining walls? For some reason I doubt it.

Re:There's more to coal than just burning it (3, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589687)

You could say the same about almost any energy capture technology we have right now. Dams destroy river ecosystems. Solar panel production requires nasty chemicals, and their disposal is even worse. Wind farms kill birds. The list could go on.

Re:There's more to coal than just burning it (2, Informative)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589907)

There's more to solar [icneer.org] than photovoltaic. In fact, that form will be a niche market for a long time.

The bird thing is pure BS. Besides the turbines can be placed far offshore.

Re:There's more to coal than just burning it (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589995)

Wind farms don't kill nearly as many birds as I do.

Take that nature!

Re:There's more to coal than just burning it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27590007)

You could say the same about almost any energy capture technology we have right now. Dams destroy river ecosystems. Solar panel production requires nasty chemicals, and their disposal is even worse. Wind farms kill birds. The list could go on.

Very true. You also have to remember that you are taking energy from something i.e. Kinetic energy of falling water, kinetic energy of photons, and kinetic energy of the air molecules, etc. What is the consequence of removing this energy from the environment?

Re:There's more to coal than just burning it (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589993)

Will "clean coal" provide health care for the miners?

Probably more than abandoning coal and thus eliminating the mining jobs.

Will it eliminate those nasty, dangerous sludge ponds that occasionally break through their retaining walls?

There's probably an engineering solution to that, and I doubt that stopping the maintenance of the existing ponds (when the plants are closed) will make them stop bursting.

I'm not a big fan of coal plants, mind you - but I don't buy into your arguments. Issues with employee benefits and waste management are completely separate issues and will affect any power-production industry. Solar panel and turbine production involves all sorts of nasties, not to mention employees who can be exploited just like miners can.

Clean Coal (5, Funny)

Vainglorious Coward (267452) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589669)

Jumbo Shrimp
Military Intelligence
Civil Disobedience
Evaporated Milk
Fresh Cheese
Political Science
Reality TV
White Chocolate
Clean Coal

Re:Clean Coal (2, Funny)

ausekilis (1513635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589727)

you forgot "Microsoft Works"

Re:Clean Coal (2, Funny)

invisiblerhino (1224028) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589823)

Microsoft Genuine Advantage

Re:Clean Coal (5, Funny)

Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589767)

Jumbo Shrimp
Military Intelligence
Civil Disobedience
Evaporated Milk
Fresh Cheese
Political Science
Reality TV
White Chocolate
Clean Coal

Slashdot Editor

Cleaner than 30 years ago (2, Informative)

NaCh0 (6124) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589689)

By today's standards, anything they build will be cleaner than the 25+ year old plants. Cut some of the nuclear lawsuit shit and maybe we'd have options other than coal.

Bad dreams (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589693)

It turns out that coal lobbyists were his worst nightmare.

Re:Bad dreams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589743)

They threatened to leave some coal in his bed at night if he didn't get on board. Ever try to remove coal dust/residue?

Chu who? (3, Funny)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589697)

Pfft... call me when one of the big-wigs endorses it, not their secretary.

What About Free Energy?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27589723)

From my understanding free energy [youtube.com] has been available since we went to the moon(officially anyway)...when will these fuckers allow it's use in public?!?

Lesser of two evils (1)

WestFuego (1445963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589749)

In my opinion its more of a "as long as we use coal we might as well try to make it as clean as possible". "Clean coal" is better than dirty coal... Even if its still dirty.

Nuke, baby, nuke (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589777)

It's the only way to get off the energy teat.

Let's nuke! I enjoy! Give nukes to everyone, no coal. Real terrorist-free energy!

Re:Nuke, baby, nuke (3, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589825)

While nukes could reduce energy demand a lot, fuel-air bombs would be easier to clean up after.

Reality hits (3, Insightful)

thule (9041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589809)

Well, well. Some truth about energy! Amazing. Lets take this a bit further and say that if certain groups haven't scared the hell out of people about nuclear, we wouldn't have so many coal plants in the US. We could be selling the coal to other countries. :)

Clean coal doesn't seem that great. (3, Informative)

Hemogoblin (982564) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589815)

From reading the Economist, I've the impression that clean coal isn't actually that great. Check out these two articles:

The illusion of clean coal [economist.com]

Trouble in store [economist.com]

Despite all this enthusiasm, however, there is not a single big power plant using CCS anywhere in the world. Utilities refuse to build any, since the technology is expensive and unproven. Advocates insist that the price will come down with time and experience, but it is hard to say by how much, or who should bear the extra cost in the meantime. Green pressure groups worry that captured carbon will eventually leak. In short, the world's leaders are counting on a fix for climate change that is at best uncertain and at worst unworkable.

Aside, the WSJ isn't really giving us any new information, is it? Obama was advocating CCS during the election, so is it really surprising that his secretary is now advocating it?

Re:Clean coal doesn't seem that great. (1)

mckinnsb (984522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590175)

Aside, the WSJ isn't really giving us any new information, is it? Obama was advocating CCS during the election, so is it really surprising that his secretary is now advocating it?

A little offtopic, but I stopped reading the WSJ soon after it was bought out by News Corp - repackaging old information and re-distributing it to produce FUD seems to be their new penchant.

Obama mentioned his support of CCS several times during the election (although notably late in the election), and his position is pretty clearly stated in his Energy Plan, available at:
http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/newenergy/ [barackobama.com] .

Go to page 6 - the second paragraph from the bottom is clearly titled "Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology".

It does, however, amaze me how the media can restate old information and rattle the chains of the watchdogs. Selective memory is a hell of a thing- and it seems to be a pretty powerful advantage in the media to understand when the populace, or certain sections of it, employ it.

So basically he says... (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589855)

Everything is hard and complicated. Excellent leadership! So kidding everything is hard and complex. Which is why somebody has to make a decision and point us in the direction to accomplish it.

Re:So basically he says... (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589895)

Should be "No kidding ...." :)

Jesus tapdancing christ (5, Insightful)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589919)

Stop burning coal. This isn't the industrial revolution. It's 2009 for pete's sake. Breeder reactors. Pull your superstitions out of your brain and your heads out of your asses. B-R-E-E-D-E-R R-E-A-C-T-O-R-S!

In short, he's saying... (1)

Rycross (836649) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589929)

In short, he's saying that we can't just drop coal and switch over to alternate sources at the drop of the hat, and we can't make other countries do so, so investing in carbon sequestering technologies is necessary. It seems like a perfectly reasonable position. I don't support coal, and greatly support wind, solar, and nuclear (in that order), but I can't reasonably expect our entire power infrastructure to switch over in years, much less decades.

this reminded me (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 5 years ago | (#27589975)

of my co-op at a refinery. there was an entire block of the plant that just sat idle, did nothing, and smelled horrible. my boss told me it was
an old coal-tar extraction plant designed to extract the oil from coal circa 1980. it never panned out to anything more than $4 a gallon gas in 1980, and
was scrapped conveniently keeping the federal funds injected to bring it to fruition.

they had also tried "steam assisted flares" to reduce ozone depleting emissions around that time...which of course made the smoke go away but not the pollutants. federal funding firmly in hand.

clean coal through carbon sequestering is just one more of these technologies energy companies push when an administration critical of fossil fuel shows up, and cant be bought.

Grammar (0, Troll)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590013)

From TFA:

"When you gasify it, you can capture the carbon and sequestrate the carbon..." Mr. Chu said.

I don't know about the merits of clean coal, but anyone who spouts made-up verbs like those must have his head up his ass.

Wouldn't it have been better... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590071)

Secretary Chu has reversed his positions on coal and nuclear power, previously opposing them

Wouldn't it have just been better to have been right in the first place?

Dead end (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590093)

Clean coal is a dead end for two reasons:

Firstly in order to capture and sequester the CO2 you make the energy much more costly, approaching wind power and surpassing nuclear by quite a bit.

Secondly, the period of time the CO2 needs to be sequestered securely in order to avoid having a large impact on the climate is on the order of magnitude of ten thousand years, which is longer than properly reprocessed nuclear fuel. Also, the fly-ash remains toxic indefinitely.

So basically you have to ask yourself if clean coal is worth it, seeing that it will likely be much more costly, and involve greater waste storage problems, than nuclear power. It might be worth it to research retrofitting existing plants with scrubbers and filters, but in terms of our future energy supply coal seems like a dead end.

Education Pays (0, Troll)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27590169)

"'"It absolutely is worthwhile to invest in carbon capture and storage because we are not in a vacuum,"

How gratifying to know that the top of the energy [industry] food chain is educated enough to be aware we have an atmosphere.

As for carbon capture and *storage*, perhaps we can have Mr. Chu's address so we can use his backyard for storage. He's the first d00d of energy, he should get the first load of carbon.

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