5 Mar 2009

'Capture ready' coal plants are a myth

I've enjoyed the Coen brothers films - just watched 'Burn After Reading' on DVD and was disappointed - but here is a 30 second film also just out from them:

Pic: 'Cool Coal' - see how similar he is to Joe Camel and the Tobacco industry's claims here.

The Coen brothers bring a dose of reality to this subject - and indeed we need it after our own government's Department of Energy and Climate Change released a new report claiming "clean coal" power stations could create 50,000 UK jobs by 2030. Prior to that report being released Greens published figures showing that:

• Investment in wind energy instead of "clean coal" could generate four times as many jobs, ten years sooner.
• A nationwide energy-conservation programme could generate almost three times as many jobs as "clean coal" - while reducing energy demand to such a level that the new coal-fired power stations would not be necessary.

The new report for the Department for Energy and Climate Change estimates the global market from carbon capture and storage (CCS) on coal-fired stations could be worth £2.4 billion a year to the UK by 2030, creating over 50,000 jobs. Last night at the monthly Green party meeting we had a debate that include a brief presentation re CSS - interestingly even if it could be made to work at most it could capture only 70% of the carbon. There are huge problems to overcome like sites for storage needing to be near the plants and how easy retrofitting may or may not be...

Here is what Professor Whitelegg, the Green Party's national spokesperson on sustainable development, said: "If CCS works, and if it proves economically viable, it's still the wrong technology. We're facing a recession as well as a climate crisis, and we need a lot of jobs urgently. The promised 50,000 jobs in CCS by 2030 are far too few, far too late. On the other hand, if we generated the same proportion of our electricity from windfarms as Denmark does, and at the rate of growth Denmark has achieved, we'd create about 200,000 jobs by 2020. And if we bring every home in the UK up to the proper energy-saving standards, this could create 137,000 jobs. Do that, and we'll save so much energy we wouldn't need coal-fired stations anyway."

The Greens argue that comparative studies have always shown renewable energy sustains far more jobs per megawatt than coal. Plus coal means we'd still be dependent on imported energy and vulnerable to potential price changes and disruption as we have been with oil. We need to leave that coal in the ground and invest heavily in energy-conservation and renewables.

As Professor Whitelegg said: "We know how to achieve a zero-carbon economy through jobs-rich green energy policies, so why on earth should we tinker with jobs-poor unproven technology that keeps us dependent on fossil fuels?"

It is a fact that the government's emissions targets always lag well behind the science. The UK needs to reduce emissions by 90% by 2030, and probably more. It is said that will reduce CO2 emissions by 85% compared with current coal-fired power stations - even less by comparison with gas-fired stations. This just isn't enough. And that doesn't include emissions from all the road transport associated with moving millions of tonnes of coal about. Furthermore the new coal-fired power stations may need new or bigger roads, which would mean more emissions and also more external costs as the taxpayer would doubtless pick up the bill for the extra transport infrastructure.

Clearly CCS needs to be trialled and evaluated as soon as possible, so that we can then choose some 'clean' coal or no coal - not this speculative expansion of UK coal mining and new coal power stations which are supposedly "CCS-ready" but are really in the meantime as dirty as ever. An important consideration is to collaborate internationally to make CCS available for developing countries who may otherwise use non-CCS coal. CCS can potentially be used with Biomass as a way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

It would seem that the difference between Greens and the other parties is about Greens wanting to avoid committing the UK to any coal-powered future without first knowing whether it could be made clean. Other parties are happily assuming CCS will be viable without first having the evidence.

See the Greenpeace 'Coalfinger' film here and the Greenpeace action last September here. Greenpeace International have also released a report last year entitled “False Hope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage Won’t Save the Climate,” that shows that “clean coal” is nothing more than a slogan aimed at greenwashing the image of an irremediably dirty energy source. See more here.


Russ said...

here's an alternative



You could call it a fossilised industry. ho ho

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