Sequestering CO2 – Part 2

The issues of CO2 emissions, coal-fired power plants, global warming and global economic growth are so important and so intertwined that they deserve considerably more attention than my short, earlier post on Carbon Sequestration. If you believe, as I do, that:

1. Economic growth is a GOOD thing – in the US, Europe and Japan, in China, India, Brazil, Russia and the rest of the fast industrializing countries, and especially for the poor, sick and hungry majorities in the under-developed parts of the world.
2. Energy, especially electricity and transportation fuel, is the vital ingredient for economic development and growth.
3. Fossil fuels – oil, coal, natural gas – are dirty, from the time they’re brought out of the ground through their ultimate use. However, using them is easy, cheap (in direct costs, at least), and they’re readily available.
4. Alternative energy sources (wind and solar, for example) are attractive for their green-ness and inexhaustability – but be prepared (for the near- and mid-term future, at least) to pay a high $$$-per-unit-of-energy price and an additionally high price for developing the supporting infrastructure.

Bottom line – Like it or not, the world is stuck, for the next couple of decades, with using a lot of coal for creating electricity. That leads to 2 inescapable conclusions:

1. Make sure that we use the coal in the least-dirty way possible. (I can’t bring myself to use the words ‘clean’ and ‘coal’ together.) That means new power plants should use IGCC Integrated Combined Cycle Gasification technology, a process that recovers more energy from a ton of coal and produces emissions that are easier to handle. See my earlier “Clean Coal?” post.
2. Develop viable, useful alternatives for the CO2 that is the inevitable by-product of fossil energy. Sequestration works, but it’s purely a cost, the equivalent of paying to haul your household garbage to the landfill. How about spending some of those $$$ and effort, instead, on creating (perhaps subsidizing) positive uses for CO2? (Such as this idea, for example.)
3. Adopt a combination of energy tax / carbon tax schemes – based on objectiove measures of the FULL, TRUE cost of fossil energy – that produce energy prices reliably and predicably high enough to foster development and maturation of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.

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