|Updated: Nov. 25,2005|
Every day we are bombarded with phrases like "critical oil shortages, we must find new ways to generate electricity. record shortages of natural gas and oil are a daily problem in the power generation industry", and many sadder laments by politicians and those in the power generation and energy industries. However, the US has between 200 and 300 years supply of coal, which could theoretically provide ALL of our power and fuel requirements for hundreds of years. The primary blockade to use of coal is the green movement claim that it is a "dirty fuel". Politicians have bought into this argument completely. They are sold on the fact that they must develop solar energy, or wind energy. Considering all of the hot air in Washington DC, I can see their fascination with wind energy, but in California, where the largest generator of wind energy in the US (Southern California Edison) is generating more electricity from wind that any other region, it costs between $0.25 - $0.35/KWH. The technology is not even close to being developed that would make either solar or wind generated electricity competitive to oil generated electricity, even if oil were over $100/barrel.
The fact that the lowest cost power generation in the US (Kentucky at $0.06/KWH) is produced by coal fired power generation stations, has no bearing on their "logic". They would rather generate power at rates of $0.20 - $0.50/KWH, and keep the greenies in their voting block. The fact that giant strides in reducing the emissions of coal being used in power generation has no place in their energy policy is evident, painfully so, when we pay our electricity bills. Coal cleaning, processing and power generation technologies have reduced the emissions from coal generated electricity drastically in the last 20 years. Plans by the Department of Energy to produce Hydrogen Gas from coal is one of the great potential energy sources in our country. Hydrogen is the cleanest burning fuel available on this planet. Many businesses and state governments have placed money into research for clean coal technology, and some of it is paying dividends for those states that use it.
*Peabody Coal has a project which will remove 99.5 percent removal of sulfur dioxide, 98 percent of SO3 (sulfuric acid mist precursor), 98 percent of nitrogen oxides, and 90 percent total system of mercury from plant emissions, while turning the byproducts into a high-quality high-value granular fertilizer. But still greenies and politicians in their pocket say it is a "dirty fuel". *A Florida utility, Southern Company Services, will build a 285-megawatt coal-based gasification plant to demonstrate use of an air-blown integrated gasification combined cycle power plant based on the transport gasifier, which employs Kellogg Brown and Root's catalytic cracking technology that has been used successfully for over 50 years in the petroleum refining industry. The total cost for the demonstration project is $557 million, of which DOE will contribute $235 million as the federal cost share. Even though our government is financing part of this effort, most in the environmental lobby are against any use of that dirty word, coal, in any process in industry.
*Two Texas companies, Pegasus Technologies and Texas Genco, will demonstrate advanced multi-pollutant controls, including mercury reduction, at an existing 890-megawatt utility boiler at Jewett, Texas. Using non-intrusive advanced sensor and optimization technologies, the demonstration project is intended to minimize emissions while maximizing the electric power generating efficiency of the plant. A "cold-side Electrostatic Precipitator" rated at approximately 99.8 percent particulate removal efficiency and a wet limestone Flue Gas Desulfurization system rated at approximately 90 percent SO2 removal efficiency will also be used to reduce air emissions. Both of the devices would potentially be capable of removing mercury from the unit's flue gas. Pegasus will receive $6.08 million in DOE funds to conduct this $12.16 million project. Again, even though our government is financing part of this effort, most in the environmental lobby are against any use of that dirty word, coal, in any process in industry.
*And last, but not least, under development by the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy, is a virtually pollution-free energy plant. Unlike today's single purpose power plants that produce only electricity, a Vision 21 plant would produce multiple products - perhaps electricity in combination with liquid fuels and chemicals or hydrogen or industrial process heat. It also would not be restricted to a single fuel type; instead, it could process a wide variety of fuels such as coal, natural gas, biomass, petroleum coke (from oil refineries), and municipal waste. It would generate electricity at unprecedented efficiencies, and coupled with carbon sequestration technologies, it would emit little if any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Coal could provide all of our energy needs for hundreds of years. If coal does not play a very significant part in our future energy production, we face a energy bleak and very costly future. If we continue to do nothing substantial about our energy crisis, brownouts, blackouts and utility bills higher than monthly mortgages are in store. Other countries do not have abundant coal reserves, so they must use other power sources, but we have the answer right in our mountains and hills, and valleys - coal. We should use it. By the time it runs low, the technology will be advanced to a point where solar, geothermal, and other renewable energy sources will be very cost effective, and economically feasible.
In the past 30 years I have heard many speeches that we were going to develop this resource and clean coal technology, because it is such an abundant source of energy for us, but there has been little action in this regard. With $75- $80 for a barrel of crude becoming a stark reality, I would think that our politicians would realize that the time to increase the use of coal, and clean coal technology, in the generation of electricity, and perhaps even other fuel uses, is upon us.
I think, that perhaps, they are waiting until they see the buzzards circling overhead, then they will realize that they should have acted sooner, by plucking their heads from the sand and using the gray matter between their ears.
* Source - Department of Energy
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