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Argument: "Clean coal" is too expensive to significantly cut emissions

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Spencer Hunter. "'Clean coal' plants hitting snags Higher construction costs, global warming are hurdles". Columbus Dispatch. 11 Jan. 2008 - Plans once touted as environmentally friendly ways to burn coal to produce electricity are falling victim to rising construction costs and the unknown expense of trapping global-warming gases. For clean-air advocates, the issue is simple: "There's no such thing as clean coal," said Bruce Nilles, who directs the Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign.

For consumers, however, the whole thing might seem a bit more complicated and expensive.

Clean is the word that power companies use to describe coal-fired plants they want to build to address our insatiable demand for electricity. These plants turn coal into a gas and release far fewer toxins than traditional plants.

But how clean is clean? And why are plans to build these plants falling apart?

Spiraling construction costs and questions about carbon dioxide emissions -- a leading global-warming contributor -- already have delayed plans to build dozens of traditional coal-burning power plants nationwide. Plans for at least 11 coal-to-gas plants have been scrapped or delayed.


Matthew Wald. "Mounting Costs Slow the Push for Clean Coal". New York Times. 30 May 2008 - For years, scientists have had a straightforward idea for taming global warming. They want to take the carbon dioxide that spews from coal-burning power plants and pump it back into the ground.

President Bush is for it, and indeed has spent years talking up the virtues of “clean coal.” All three candidates to succeed him favor the approach. So do many other members of Congress. Coal companies are for it. Many environmentalists favor it. Utility executives are practically begging for the technology.

But it has become clear in recent months that the nation’s effort to develop the technique is lagging badly.

In January, the government canceled its support for what was supposed to be a showcase project, a plant at a carefully chosen site in Illinois where there was coal, access to the power grid, and soil underfoot that backers said could hold the carbon dioxide for eons.

Perhaps worse, in the last few months, utility projects in Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota and Washington State that would have made it easier to capture carbon dioxide have all been canceled or thrown into regulatory limbo.

Coal is abundant and cheap, assuring that it will continue to be used. But the failure to start building, testing, tweaking and perfecting carbon capture and storage means that developing the technology may come too late to make coal compatible with limiting global warming.

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