Clean(?) Coal

by Rud Istvan

Many climate policy debates come down to coal as an electricity fuel, including the EPA’s proposed coal power plant CO2 regulations.

This post focuses on issues surrounding new coal plants. Those just proposed for existing plants are also controversial and legally dubious, but for different reasons.

Coal has been burned as fuel for a long time. One of the earliest known references is by the Greek Theophrastus: [1]

“Among the materials that are dug because they are useful, those known as anthrakes [coals] are made of earth, and, once set on fire, they burn like charcoal. They are found in Liguria … and in Elis as one approaches Olympia by the mountain road; and they are used by those who work in metals.”

Romans were exploiting coal in Britain by the second century AD. Marco Polo described 13th century Chinese coal use as “black stones which burn like logs”. Coal took off as the primary fuel of the industrial revolution with the development of steam engines. And industrializing London found in the 19th century that burning coal horribly smogged its air and blackened its buildings.

Burning coal is inherently ‘dirty’. During the Carboniferous era [2] when most coal formed, woody plant matter got buried in acidic swamps and peat bogs. The low pH from initial decomposition protected the remaining organic matter from further decomposition. It also released hydrogen sulfide (swamp gas) that leached metals into the muck that became coal. So coal inherently contains varying degrees of ash (silica and carbonate), pyrite (iron sulfide), arsenic, mercury, and other impurities.

If nothing is done about the impurities, burning coal to make electricity and steel remains a dirty business. China’s Beijing and India’s Dehli readily prove that today. This is a big global problem, since China has been the world’s largest coal consumer for decades. As domestic coal consumption in the US declines thanks to natural gas, US coal exports to China are rising and expected to double.[3] It is low sulfur ‘clean coal’ from Wyoming, which helps China’s pollution problem.

Slide1The original meaning of clean coal was literally to clean it (or to mine cleaner coals from places like Wyoming). Coal can be pulverized and washed to remove some ash and pyrite (the source of SO2 and acid rain) before it is burned. Bag houses and electrostatic precipitators remove residual fly ash, wet scrubbers desulfurize, and activated charcoal removes mercury and arsenic before the (invisible but for scrubber steam condensation) flue gas is discharged. In the US, these methods have steadily reduced coal pollution for decades.


China is getting serious about its notorious air pollution. It is shutting old polluting steel mills. It is building the largest, most efficient ultra super critical (USC) coal generating plants in the world (160 of them, at a rate of about 3 per month through 2016), complete with powdered coal pre-washing plus flue gas scrubbing. The first such complex came fully on line at Yuhuan in 2006-2007. It produces 22 billion kwh/year. Its 4 boilers were built by a joint venture between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Harbin Boiler. A Siemens and Shanghai Electric JV built the 4 1000MWe turbine/generator sets. Siemens reports Yuhuan thermal efficiency is a world record 45% (for coal).


The first US USC coal plant came on line February 2013. SWEPCO’s Turk plant in Arkansas produces 600MW from a single unit and cost $1.8 billion, or $3000/MWe (a US capital cost benchmark). Its thermal efficiency is 42% compared to the US installed base average 34%, cutting emissions by a fourth.

Some coals, for example those in the US Midwest, are extremely dirty. They are difficult to sufficiently clean before/after combustion. That led to a different notion of clean coal, pre-combustion gasification. This allows impurities to be physically and chemically separated from the resulting syngas prior to combustion. Since the syngas fires a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) unit with about 60% efficiency (compared to USC coal at 42-45%) it cuts fuel costs and net CO2 emissions further (but not nearly as much as burning natural gas). Duke Energy built the world’s first commercial plant at Edwardsport, Indiana.


The intent was to utilize locally abundant, cheap, dirty Indiana coal. The facility came in almost $1billion over budget, $3.5 billion for a single 618MW CCGT or $5660/MWe. It came on line June 2013. It causes Indiana consumers to pay about 19% more for (blended rate) electricity than if the CCGT had simply been natural gas fired. But Indiana preserved an estimated 170 coal mining jobs.

CO2 itself is now (erroneously) deemed a pollutant.[4] That has given rise to yet another notion about ‘clean coal’, near zero emissions using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Southern Companies was persuaded to build the world’s first such ‘clean coal’ plant in Kemper, Mississippi. It relied on $700 million of federal subsidies. It would source dirty but locally abundant and very cheap ($10/ton) lignite (the lowest rank ‘brown’ coal), clean it through syngasification like Edwardsport, and then after CCGT combustion use carbon capture to sequester some of the exhaust CO2 ‘pollutant’ in depleted Louisiana gas fields.

It’s a transformative project,” said John Thompson, a director of the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based environmental group.[5]

It has not turned out well. WaPo just pointed out this transformative project cost $5.5 billion for 582 MW, or $9450/MWe! It is $2.5 billion over budget and a year late. Southern Companies has already written off $1.2 billion. And the Sierra Club is still trying to block it — only capturing 65% of CO2 is not ‘clean’ enough.


If one really means this kind of ‘clean coal’, better not to burn it at all. The only zero emission dispatchable base load option (other than hydro) is nuclear. (Wind and solar are intermittent.) Southern Companies is also building the first new US nuclear reactors in 30 years, and is receiving no federal subsidies for them. Vogtle 3 and 4 are safe(r) gen 3 Westinghouse AP1000 designs providing 2200MWe at a cost of $10.5 billion. That is $4772 per megawatt, half of Kemper and 85% of Edwardsport. But it still costs 60% more than Turk or what the Chinese are building (although most future fuel costs are avoided).

The EPA cannot legally impose emission standards on new coal generating plants unless there are reasonable means to achieve them. CAA §111, 42 USC 7411, Standards of performance for new stationary sources, requires that any standard be based on “adequately demonstrated” technology. The tests for “adequately demonstrated” include feasibility and cost. Courts have generally held that technically feasible means ‘commercially available’, and that cost cannot be “unreasonable or exorbitant”. [6] Kemper was technically feasible only because close to depleted Louisiana gas fields (most coal generating stations are not). But it has very publicly failed on cost. The EPA specifically used Kemper to support its proposed rule.

And so the Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP) arose. It is also a coal syngasification, CCGT generation, CCS facility. Estimated cost is now $3.5 billion (up from an original $2.5 billion), $8750/MWe. It relies on a $450 million federal grant plus $637 million in investment tax credits. It is only 400MW, but would supposedly capture 90% of CO2 combustion gas. It would sell the CO2 for enhanced (tertiary) oil recovery in nearby Permian Basin oil fields. TCEP isn’t going well either. On 1/13/14, contracted electricity buyer CPS Energy (a San Antonio utility) pulled out citing the much lower capital cost of natural gas fired CCGT ($800-1300/MWe). In May TCEP requested yet another years extension for ‘re-evaluation’ before construction. A massively subsidized un-built plant without a utility customer is what the EPA now principally relies on to justify its proposed ‘clean coal’ rule. The administration is in effect ‘buying’ justification.

Non-US CCS projects have not gone well either. Norway promised a demonstration project in Mongstad. It would have taken CO2 from a small 280MW CCGT gas fired facility and inject it into depleted Norwegian North Sea oil and gas fields. It was ‘only’ going to cost $1.3 billion ($220 million over original budget), or $4640/MWe. On 9/20/13 a new Norwegian government announced it was halting the project previously described as Norway’s AGW ‘moon landing’. Mongstad turned out to be another CCS crash landing.

Swedish utility Vattenfall received $63 million in EU subsidies for a CCS pilot program at a conventional coal fired plant at Jänschwalde, Germany. It was scheduled to come on line in 2011, but was postponed to 2016. On May 4, 2014, Vattenfall announced it was writing off 10 years worth of CCS research, cancelling Jänschwalde, and keeping the EU subsidy.

In the UK, DRAX proposed a medium sized ‘White Rose’ plant experiment (450MW CCGT gas fired with CCS) projected to cost £2 billion, or $7300/MWe. This made UK political sense, since £1 billion was to come from EU subsidies. Engineering delays caused the EU to waffle, so the UK announced it would provide £40 million for 18 months of further engineering feasibility studies, but not £1 billion of co-‘investment’. It appears White Rose is dead, but not yet buried.

There aren’t any ‘clean coal’ CCS projects anywhere for the EPA to rely on as required by 42 USC 7411. CCS is not commercially viable, even if there happens to be a handy depleted oil or gas field nearby. Yet the EPA’s proposed limits on new coal plant CO2 emissions mean no modern USC coal plants could be built without CCS. The EPA intent is to ban them using these extra legal means. Proof is in the EPA’s own regulatory impact analysis, which says there is no impact since no coal CCS plants will be built! [7] ‘Clean coal’ is a stark example of the increasingly distorted politicization of ‘climate policy’. The Chinese supposedly have an appropriate curse for their US coal supplier: May you live in interesting times. The Obama administration has certainly created interesting times. The US climate ‘legal wars’ are only beginning.


[1] Theophrastus, On Stones (16), from Massie and Keyser, Greek Science of the Hellenistic Era, p. 228. ISBN 0-415-23847-1

[2] It lasted from ≈360mya to ≈300mya, beginning with evolution of lignin in plants (e.g. bark bearing trees), ending with evolution of lignin digesting fungi. Floudas et. al., Origins of Enzymatic Lignin Decomposition…, Science 336: 6089 ff (2012)

[3] America’s Dirty Secret

[4] This is legally possible because of a poorly drafted CAA definition in 42 USC 7602. Until Congress fixes the statute, the courts have upheld the EPA’s right to do so under it. See Massachusetts v. EPA, SCOTUS 2007

[5] Drajen, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 9/19/13

[6] Sierra Club v. Costle, 657 F.2d 298, 383 (1981)

[7] The RIA is available at

Biosketch:  A brief biosketch for Rud Istvan can be found [here].  Rud Istvan’s previous posts @ Climate Etc. can be found [here].

JC notes:  Rud sent this post via email, I suggested some minor edits.  Previous Climate Etc. posts on coal:

As with all guest posts, please keep your comments relevant and civil.

202 responses to “Clean(?) Coal

  1. Marc Wagner

    So CCS is dead! Surprise, surprise! When I first heard of this technology, it sounded pretty lame to me, and that was at least a decade ago. Of course, the nuclear option is not a whole lot better. Instead of sequestering CO2, with nuclear, you have to sequester radioactive waste. In the end, the weak link in all this technology is using steam to turn a turbine – to reach efficiencies of only 45% (best case). There needs to be a better way to convert heat (currently from combustion) directly into mechanical energy. Mechanical energy can be converted to electrical energy with close to 90% efficiency.

    • David Springer

      Yeah. Maybe someone should start researching how to build a better heat engine. /sarc

    • For the energy generated, there is a lot more CO2 than nuclear waste, especially if you go by volume.

    • George Turner

      The Ericsson Cycle (same guy who built the USS Monitor) can deliver Carnot cycle efficiencies, and seems to be quite viable. Here is a 1979 RAND study prepared for the DOE that argues that an approximated Ericsson cycle turbine (essentially a Brayton cycle with continual regeneration and reheat) could be built fairly easily with existing equipment and produce 57 percent thermal efficiency with 1970’s turbine temperature limits.

    • You need to have a talk with Mr. Carnot.

    • George Turner

      The Ericsson and Stirling cycles both get the Carnot stamp of approval. :)

    • Berényi Péter

      with nuclear, you have to sequester radioactive waste

      Not all nuclear technologies are created equal. Our current industrial base is hopelessly outdated, plutonium factories in pressurized vessels with energy as a byproduct at less than 1% fuel efficiency &. need for sophisticated uninterrupted cooling even if offline are Cold War relics, an absolute no-go. We could use a highly efficient fuel cycle instead at low pressure with passive safety, no chance for weaponization &. no long half life isotopes left in waste.

      In that case only tiny amounts have to be sequestered for several centuries, as opposed to gigatons of CO2 with an infinite half life.

      The technology was developed decades ago, then shelved for poilitical reasons, therefore it is RTFM mostly, with some additional R&D to commercialize it, but no insurmountable engineering issues ahead.

      One ton of ordinary granite, the default stuff continents are made of, has the same useful energy content as 50 tons of coal (+ 130 tons of atmospheric Oxygen). Of course there are thousand times better ores than that, plentiful for millennia, it just shows we’ll never run out of fuel, at least not for the rest of Earth’s lifetime.

      People can’t think consistently and that’s a fact.

    • I am in favor of multiple solutions. Those that need coal (steel industry) should use coal. Energy for houses could be a combination of nuclear, solar, wind and passive things like insulation and shading (trees, white roofs in summer, black roofs in winter). I feel that the use of the automobile in metropolitan areas should be limited and replaced with light rail. Telecommuting for those whose work can be done online.
      Places like mountainous regions can keep their pickup trucks and jeeps, but again, in suburban areas, more efficient, single person cars, for those who need to be mobile. Trucks will remain trucks but mayber more fuel efficient?

      There are any number of solutions. But should these solutions be imposed from federal level or locally? Does one have to believe in global warming in order to support them?

  2. It would be interesting to track the causes of the cost over runs.

  3. Good post. Modern coal power plants are (can be) very clean, even with high sulfur coal (but higher costs). CO2 is of course irrelevant and is not poluting at all. CCS is stupid. Waste heat should be used whenever possible or economical (cogeneration – CHP, CCHP, CHPDH etc).

  4. David Springer

    Awesome Rud. Best guest post evah.

  5. David Wojick

    CO2 is a pollutant under the CAA because Congress added causing climate change to the definition in 1990. It is not poorly crafted, just carefully crafted and wrong, and unlikely to be changed any time soon.

    • Sad, but probably true. If the ACO2GW paradigm shifts completely, how long does it take to change the regulations?

    • Curious George

      I wonder .. is then water a pollutant as well?

      • Under the current CAA definition approved by SCOTUS, yes if in a thunderstorm or hurricane before it precipitates out of the Clean Air atmosphere. My god, incipient floods are equally under the perview of the Clean Air Act. Can’t you get the obvious congressional intent?

        This post was supposed to be some ETC in Climate Etc. But it is cutting to the quick of present US regulatory climate absurdities (IMO) yet somehow sure our present Dear Leader disagrees).

  6. David Springer

    Potential market for CO2

    • Marc Wagner

      It is not at all clear t to me that the Joule-unlimited approach of converting CO2 into ethanol and burning it to produce electricity will either reduce atmospheric CO2 or burn any cleaner than methane (natural gas).

      • Well, here’s the deal:

        While CO2 from non-atmospheric sources is far cheaper than extracting it from either the atmosphere or flue gases, it can reasonably be expected that the cost of such extraction will come down. At some point, extracting it from the atmosphere and converting it to hydrocarbon fuels will likely become cost-effective. At that point, it’s carbon neutral.

        As for using recovered CO2 from power plants, the actual ratio of energy gained from fossil CO2 dumped into the atmosphere is far higher, because it’s used twice. And that’s assuming the second use is in a small vehicle that doesn’t recover any CO2.

      • Build a nuclear power plant next to a coal gasifier, use some of the nuke’s heat to drive conversion of CO2 and steam to syngas. Blend with the gasifier’s syngas and feed the full stream into an FT process to make syndiesel at 3€ per liter. All you need is a 1.50€ per liter subsidy. Or wait until oil is $450 a barrel.

      • David Springer

        It’s carbon neutral. The carbon in the fuel comes out of the atmosphere or, equivalently, comes from industrial CO2 emissions that would have otherwise went into the atmosphere.

      • It is only carbon neutral if the whole process needs no net energy , which means it is a perpetual motion machine.

      • It is only carbon neutral if the whole process needs no net energy , which means it is a perpetual motion machine.

        What drivel. It’s carbon neutral if it doesn’t involve adding any CO2 to the atmosphere that it didn’t get from there.

    • David, despite all the money Joule has taken in, it doesn’t scale well. The US presently consumes about 18.5 million barrels of oil PER DAY. Now work out what that means in terms of high insolation land coverage at their projected yields. Might it make some money for investors, maybe. Will it solve upcoming transportation fuel productions constraints? Not remotely.

      • David Springer

        It doesn’t scale well because of need for concentrated CO2. In order to get EROIC down so it’s competitive with oil requires using concentrated CO2 to get fuel per linear foot of bioreactor increased. This is the only real obstacle. Nothing more. Reduction in bioreactor material cost will help somewhat and advances in synthetic biology will help immensely. Theoretically synthetic biology can produce the bioreactors for free. Enough land isn’t a concern as non-arable land and non-potable water are in great inexpensive abundance. It’s inevitable. Synthetic biology is the next great transformative technology. Mark my words.

      • David Springer

        At 20,000 gallons/acre/year yield about 10% of the Texas panhandle supplies all the transportation fuel the US uses. Texas panhandle is sparsely populated used for little other than cattle grazing and windmills, has adequate insolation and non-potable water. The problem is delivering concentrated CO2. Placing suitably sized biofuel plants next to large industrial emitters such as power and cement plants is practical but there aren’t enough opportunities where inexpensive land with adequate sunlight are proximate to large emitters. Alternatively improvements in CO2 sequestration and transport are potential problem solvers but I believe the ultimate solution lies in using synthetic biology to make bioreactors so cheap to produce and operate that they simply get their CO2 from the atmosphere like photosynthetic bacteria have been doing for 3 billion years or more. Theoretically it doesn’t even have to be land based as floating masses of blue-green algae will do just as well. The engineering opportunities that can be exploited with mastery of synthetic biology are mind boggling.

      • Theoretically it doesn’t even have to be land based as floating masses of blue-green algae will do just as well.

        Actually, the concentration of total oxidized carbon (mostly bicarbonate) in the ocean is far higher than the atmosphere. My guess is that bio-reactors that can draw-down CO2 on their own will be feasible floating on the ocean long before on land.

    • It also might be economical to supply it via pipeline. Oilfields, cement plants, and power plants produce CO2. Here is some info on it. Depending on how many gallons of fuel produced per day, it might be possible to ship the CO2 at a lower pressure which might reduce the cost.
      From the article:
      The energy needed for compressing the source gas (from the final scrubbing operation, perhaps using activated charcoal absorbers) at ~2 atm to the desired ~130 atm required for piping works out to ~0.9 MJ/kg-CO2. So for a 20 MW WindFuels plant, so the initial CO2 compression is ~250 kWh/ton CO2. Every 50 miles or so of pipeline, there would need to be a boost compressor that adds an additional ~$0.35/ton amortized capital costs and requires an additional ~50 kWh/ton CO2. This energy may cost ~$40/MWh, as it represents a constant use rather than a variable demand that can be scheduled only for off-peak hours (see our energy market discussion to understand our projections for very low priced off-peak electricity for our electrolyzers). The CO2 will be delivered to the WindFuels plant in a supercritical state at not less than 110 bar (1600 psi) pressure. With plentiful waste heat on site available, this CO2 could be heated prior to expansion through a turbine, allowing a highly efficient recovery of most of the compression energy plus extremely efficient conversion of the added waste heat. So as long as the distance is not too great and waste heat is available, the actual energy penalty for compressing the gas can be negative. (This is basically how a gas turbine power plant works.)

  7. Nice post Rus.

    I have often thought that the west could usefully come together and generously fund for at least 5 years a major research project , like CERN, which was dedicated to researching new forms of energy, improving existing ones and improving battery storage facilities, all with a commercial purpose in mind.

    Clean coal would be one of the useful research strands.

    • Coal is already clean.

      • Edim

        Coal is not clean to those running our respective countries but it remains a useful resource, so needs to be ‘cleaned’ up.


      • Tonyb, do you mean not clean because of CO2 emissions?

      • Edim

        It is not clean because of its various emissions. That includes co2 whatever either of us might personally think of that. It’s those running the country that believe coal isn’t clean for a variety of reasons and they aren’t likely to change their minds. If we want to continue to use what is a very useful resource it needs to be ‘cleaned.’


      • The (bureaucratic) heart has its reasons and
        they are based on power … the other kind. (

    • Rud, not Rus

      Sorry, but my iPad has a mind of its own.

      • Tony, so does mine. And it frequently overrides mine. No harm, no foul.

      • TonyB writes: “Coal is not clean to those running our respective countries but it remains a useful resource, so needs to be ‘cleaned’ up.”

        Perhaps the best way to talk honestly about “clean coal” is to change those that run our respective countries. November 2014 should be very interesting in the USA. Other countries have already changed those running the country, partly based on unpalatable, unpopular so called “green” policies.

    • Tony, my next book (if it ever gets done) has many alternative energy essays on nuclear, solar, wind, and biofuels ( and methane hydrates, and fracked shales, and hydrogen, and….) Of all those, only nuclear has real future hope. The problem is that all government funding (except in China) is going toward what are likely dead ends. Too complicated to post here. Fission and fusion (both strong force) and LENR (weak force). NIF and ITER are jokes. Only China is doing government scale research on LFTR while building hundreds of USCnplant in the meantime. Bill Gates is funding TWBR, but even he is not government scale support. LENR has a tiny bit of NASA support. Another energy policy mess. Mostly the Etc. in Climate Etc.

      • But if we take CTS and drive the price down using CPTYs we could induce a weak counter rotating DCF IRR with positive colitis for the energy sector.

      • Not sure how fusion is a ‘strong force’ and a joke at the same time! Also Uranium is a finite resource: Some folk estimate we have enough for 2070 with increasing demand; ie somewhat less than gas or coal. LFTR relies on neutron bombardment to convert the Thorium into Uranium, which is the big challenge that some folk just seem to gloss over.

      • Also Uranium is a finite resource: Some folk estimate we have enough for 2070 with increasing demand; i.e. somewhat less than gas or coal.

        No!. That’s a misunderstanding. It is based on currently known, uranium deposits at current uranium prices and using current Light Water Reactor technologies and no reprocessing. Using closed fuel cycle there is sufficient uranium (and not even including the much more plentiful thorium) to power a world with 1 billion population using the USA’s current average energy (total not just electricity) for around a million years. And we’ve not even considered nuclear fusion.

        Nuclear fuel is effectively unlimited.

        Write that down!! :)

      • Correction: “1 billion population” should read 10 billion population.

  8. Don’t forget the killer fogs in London

  9. Curious George

    An email from John Podesta, Counselor to the President, 6/02/2014 states: “Power plants currently churn out about 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the air we breathe, and contribute to hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and thousands of heart attacks.”

    I asked the Counselor to explain what “carbon pollution” he means. No answer yet. I am beginning to doubt the quality of advice the President gets from his Counselors.

  10. Solar and wind, even if intermittent, displace coal burning when they’re operating. They just don’t replace the need for the conventional plants.

    If you accounted properly, adding solar (say) reduces your coal emissions, which ought to count as cleaner coal generation, even though it’s done by running the coal plant less.

    The capital cost is higher, of course, which counts against cost.

    • Rhhardin

      Britain is contemplating paying factories to shut down production when energy demand is at its peak in order to keep power going for domestic households


      • That doesn’t affect the pollution budget, just the capital cost budget (you don’t build enough to power everybody worst case).

      • Tonb, British companies are thinking of having their own power plants and going off grid because of fears of supply.

      • It would make more sense to provide tax breaks aimed at paying the labour force a bonus for working 12 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays, and then run 3 to 4 extra shifts from 2100 to 0600.

      • That’s a novelty; they usually just move to China.

    • A green electric grid for the domestic market.
      A black electric grid for industry.

      Protects the bulk of the industry’s supply while offloading the fluctuating costs on to the ecoconscious public.

      … Actually we do something like that here in Ontario. Industry gets cheap power at the inconvenience of occasional interruption during unanticipated shortages. Public underwrites the cost of the fluctuating supply and demand. Hence canceling 2 gas plants at 1 billion dollar cost to save 2 politicians seats at election time.

    • Solar and wind do not simply displace coal burning when they operate, because of the variability of renewable output.

      Long periods without wind or sun require 100% availability of dispatchable plants. This means that wind and solar energy are extras on the grid. Therefore all energy costs must be taken into account to calculate the real savings of current renewable technologies compared to a grid without them. It is becoming clear that these savings are zero to negative.

      Net balancing must be done by coal or gas plants, to keep grid voltage and frequency between narrow bounds. Constantly changing thermal plant output due to wind variations is inefficient, causes extra wear and tear and burns extra fuel. In addition the lifecycle costs of wind power are so high that total wind energy savings at average grid power penetration of 10% are of the order of a few percent. At higher penetrations the savings become negative, due to the increasing power variations.

      Solar during its lifetime of 25 years never earns back the cost of production, maintenance, installation etc.

      • Net balancing must be done by coal or gas plants, to keep grid voltage and frequency between narrow bounds.

        Even today, that’s not entirely true. There are several technologies that can do this, though AFAIK none is cost-effective yet except stored hydro.

        Stay tuned though! There’s a large variety of different technologies being pursued for this function; chances are more than one will turn out to be cost-effective within a decade. IMO.

  11. What”s good about coal? And what’s bad about coal?

    What”s good about coal?

    1. It’s the cheapest way to generate electricity for most countries

    2. The world has hundreds of years of coal reserves

    3. It’s easy to store (left in the ground or in stockpiles at the power station), so it is a reliable and secure source of energy.

    4. Technology is mature and can be built economically in even the poorest countries.

    What’s bad about coal?

    1. It is dirty and polluting

    2. It causes 150 to 600 times more fatalities than nuclear and most renewables per unit of electricity supplied

    3. It requires a lot of infrastructure for supplying it to the power station.

    3. If CO2 is a real problem, then it is one of the worlds largest emitters of CO2.

    • michael hart

      I’m surprised Rud didn’t mention that Germany is building more coal-fired generation capacity.

  12. I doubt that many of the climatariat drive round in forty year old Fords. That would be taking re-cycling to the wrong extreme, surely.

    Yet Australia, metallurgical coal mine to the world, is forced to rely on aging facilities for power while its customers cannot afford to waste precious Australian coal by burning it in clunkers. Maybe our Green Betters feel the more coal we waste the more taxes we pay. And that solutions which actually solve will never bring back those grand old days of serfdom.

    CCS is a useless and hyper-expensive rigmarole, meant to stifle modernisation of coal power gen. (It’s kinder to believe in conspiracy than to believe that anyone has ever taken CCS seriously.) Yet global coal consumption continues to soar, as it must.

    But it never was about the carbon, was it? Those good ol’ oil boys must be partying like it’s 1956. Exxon and Boone Pickens are asking super-popular Miss Green for the next dance.

    Great post, Rud.

  13. Very informative post. I know little about coal power, but now I think I know at least a little more than a little. Thanks.

    • You are welcome. This is the other face of climate policy, and one where I have been active professionally since 2005.

  14. Well there is a technology currently under development that usefully converts about 80% of the energy in a fossil fuel. Curiously, the patented approach uses a nuclear reactor to pull it off.

    A helium-cooled graphite reactor drives a helium turbo-compressor that rotates the decoupled air compressor of a combustion turbine. Technically, the working and cooling fluids of the combustion turbine are separated, allowing both processes to be optimized. This is a brand new thermodynamic cycle.

    With the reactor compressing air, most of the combustion turbines power goes directly into a generator (normally, about half of a combustion turbines power is used to compress air). That’s how such high fossil fuel efficiencies are obtained.

    Because the hybrid is derived from a combined-cycle plant, gasified coal can be used. The partial use of nuclear energy allows the hybrid to easily meet the EPA’s proposed regulations for coal plants.

    While technically a Small Modular Reactor, the hybrid will produce well over 900 megawatts of electrical power, which allows economies-of-scale to achieve very competitive power prices.

    Relative to conventional approaches, nuclear wastes are reduced by about 90% while coal wastes are reduced by about 80%.

    An initial information submittal was made to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well as the Department of Energy early in the spring. A major submittal to the NRC will occur late this summer.

    • Interesting. I have seen this approach tried in conceptual engineering designs in the past. The extra heavy oil industry could use a simple nuclear reactor to generate high pressure steam which could be used to recover the heavy oil as well as in the upgraders used to make syncrude. This would allow them to take 8 degree API crude and make a really clean low sulfur 34 degree API blend. The approach would drop emissions enormously, making the total well to wheels emissions lower than those needed to produce light oils.

  15. To control CO2 near levels that are now being proposed, 80-90% of remaining fossil fuel reserves have to be left in the ground. That would be mostly coal. The problem only exists if these targets are not to be met. In fact this could be one way of helping meet those targets, which is to legislate dirty coal into oblivion. This is good in the long run, and the time scale of its phase-out, which is still many decades, will allow other technologies to take over. Don’t underestimate technological advances, especially under the pressure of a changing climate that only becomes more obvious with time.

    • jimD, the problem is that we need those technologies NOW. Construction lead times are 5-10 years. The big issue is liquid transport fuels. See previous posts. Already too late to avoid difficulties starting a decade from now. For Coal and gas for electricity generation, the geophysics say we have maybe 40 years to figure out an alternative. That is where realistic nuclear research needs to go stat. None of this driven by CAGW even though there are weak intersections.

      • It’s OK Rud, the poor don’t need liquid fuels or electricity

      • It’s interesting how technology continues to increase our recoverable oil. I’m not saying you are wrong about the 40 years – I don’t attempt to predict oil production. I would be interested in whatever you have to say about this particular increase.

        At any rate, from the article:

        Crescent Point’s Torquay Discovery Reignites Southeast Saskatchewan

        Just when you thought The Bakken couldn’t get any better — it does.

        Oil producers are now “cracking the code” on the Torquay, or Three Forks formation below the Bakken, and coming up with incredible economics — these wells are paying back in only seven months.

        This news has completely re-invigorated the Canadian side of the Bakken. And on the US side, the Three Forks is causing industry to leap-frog estimates of the amount of recoverable oil available — by about 57%.

        It’s hard to imagine that the #1 oil play in all of North America could have such a huge increase in size — usually this happens in increments. This map from the Province of Manitoba shows how much potential theTorquay/Three Forks has — it ranges from 1.5-7x as thick as the Bakken!

      • Rud, it doesn’t have to be now. Coal can be phased out at 20% per decade for five decades to meet the most likely proposed targets. This is an area where the fossil-fuel supporters are trying to scare people with economic alarmism and sudden energy-shortage shock tactics that just don’t stand up against the actual proposed timelines. We can phase new energy in over those five decades, nuclear being in the mix.

  16. From the article:

    The report, which assesses companies and the environment, examined 172 S&P 500 companies in nine states—both in conservative states and liberal-leaning ones. The states highlighted were: California, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

    The proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations, announced a week ago, are intended to cut carbon pollution from U.S. power plants by 30 percent by 2030. And instead of imposing a blanket standard, the rules allow states to reduce emissions based on a list of options.

    “The ball is in the court of the states,” said Carnac with the Carbon Disclosure Project.

    Not all agree that the proposed rules are good for business, and some describe them as job killers. The “regulations issued by EPA add immense cost and regulatory burdens on America’s job creators,” said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue, in a prepared statement. “They will have a profound effect on the economy, on businesses and on families.”

    But Carnac notes some corporate leaders already are taking statewide, leadership roles in climate change.

    The carbon project conducts extensive analysis of climate-change measures among public companies. The project’s analysis is the latest report to show human-induced weather shifts already are being felt. Water is more scarce in some places, while it’s raining more in others. Heat waves are growing in frequency and severity. Wildfires are intensifying.

    • The problem for us serfs is that business and government have teamed up against us. Businesses have money for the politicians to run elections (although it didn’t help Cantor – still can’t believe it!) and politicians have tax breaks and other legal goodies for businesses. Warren Buffet just doubled down on wind and solar because he needs the tax breaks that come with it.

  17. Nice post.

    All I can say is give me potable water and electricity or give me darkness, misery, and a short, brutish, and disease ridden existence.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  18. An excellent article. The only flaw is that while the EPA cannot legally do what it is trying to do, legality does not seem to be an issue with this administration. By the time a company would win in court, they would be bankrupt.

    • I’m hoping the Democrats in the Southern US coal states get upset enough to Cantor the current Dem Senators. That would be great.

      • Even if Manchin deserted his party and took the others with them (never happen with Warner and Kaine), it would not be enough to stop Obama. They need 2/3rds to convict and the balls to do it.

      • If it takes balls, Congress has lost from the get-go.

  19. From the article:

    Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore criticized new EPA regulations that he says are “all about politics,” and “almost nothing about science” that “will punish the red states,” and “benefit people in the blue states” in an interview with the Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney on Wednesday.

  20. Great post Rud! This ain’t bupkis.

    To me, the case against coal on the basis of CO2 is bullsh.t

    What do you think about Berkley Earth’s PM2.5 argument.

    Steve Mosher, what do you have to say?

    • PM 2.5, to the extent real, is an argument against diesel. That is all. So Europe would be getting it all backwards. My problem is that the medical case against PM 2.5 is weak, very weak. Remember when butter was bad and margarine was good, until tranfats were bad and butter was good again? Climatology is not the only discipline with lots of unreproducible ‘science’. As for the PM 2.5 asthma/allergy case, please look up the competing hygiene hypothesis. Young kids are just too clean, so need to eat more dirt and breathe more PM 2.5. I haven’t a clue as to what is right. But suspect nobody else does either.

      • michael hart

        Much of the hygiene hypothesis rests on early exposure to foreign proteins derived from plants, bacteria, viruses etc that do not cause significant illness. The healthy immune system ‘educates itself’ to ignore such events if they occur in early childhood. I doubt that inorganic particles on their own can account for it.

      • Steven Mosher

        The case is pretty clear.

        a 30 year experiment

        This paper’s findings suggest that an arbitrary Chinese policy that greatly increases total suspended particulates (TSPs) air pollution is causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion life years of life expectancy. The quasi-experimental empirical approach is based on China’s Huai River policy, which provided free winter heating via the provision of coal for boilers in cities north of the Huai River but denied heat to the south. Using a regression discontinuity design based on distance from the Huai River, we find that ambient concentrations of TSPs are about 184 μg/m3 [95% confidence interval (CI): 61, 307] or 55% higher in the north. Further, the results indicate that life expectancies are about 5.5 y (95% CI: 0.8, 10.2) lower in the north owing to an increased incidence of cardiorespiratory mortality. More generally, the analysis suggests that long-term exposure to an additional 100 μg/m3 of TSPs is associated with a reduction in life expectancy at birth of about 3.0 y (95% CI: 0.4, 5.6).

        I suspect Rud would not live North of the River. he would choose south of the river.

        That is the threshold question.

        If one enters this debate with a open mind ( I dont know if PM2.5 is dangerous) and then one is exposed to the data from the study,
        how is your mind changed in light of the data? would you choose to live North of the river. or not?

        It is easy to play the skeptic, but given a choice: North or South, which would you choose.

        and thats not the only study


        ABSTRACT Air pollution has been associated with cardiovascular mortality, but it remains unclear as to whether specific pollutants are related to specific cardiovascular causes of death. Within the multicenter European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE), we investigated the associations of long-term exposure to several air pollutants with all cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, as well as with specific cardiovascular causes of death.
        Data from 22 European cohort studies were used. Using a standardized protocol, study area-specific air pollution exposure at the residential address was characterized as annual average concentrations of the following: nitrogen oxides (NO2 and NOx); particles with diameters of less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5), less than 10 μm (PM10), and 10 μm to 2.5 μm (PMcoarse); PM2.5 absorbance estimated by land-use regression models; and traffic indicators. We applied cohort-specific Cox proportional hazards models using a standardized protocol. Random-effects meta-analysis was used to obtain pooled effect estimates.
        The total study population consisted of 367,383 participants, with 9994 deaths from CVD (including 4,992 from ischemic heart disease, 2264 from myocardial infarction, and 2484 from cerebrovascular disease). All hazard ratios were approximately 1.0, except for particle mass and cerebrovascular disease mortality; for PM2.5, the hazard ratio was 1.21 (95% confidence interval = 0.87-1.69) per 5 μg/m and for PM10, 1.22 (0.91-1.63) per 10 μg/m.
        In a joint analysis of data from 22 European cohorts, most hazard ratios for the association of air pollutants with mortality from overall CVD and with specific CVDs were approximately 1.0, with the exception of particulate mass and cerebrovascular disease mortality for which there was suggestive evidence for an association.

      • You are arguing from the Procrustean perspective … If the shoe doesn’t fit then force it

        Maybe the anticipated ‘shoe size’ is an impossibilty? As in it doesn’t come together (converge) as a crisp timeless description (never reaches equilibrium at multiple scalings timelines and limit locations, concurrently(

        Being crisply describable doesnt ensure that the measure is useful. Being useful, doesnt ensure that it can be crisply described.

    • Steven Mosher

      Pm 2.5 is a killer.
      Rud is wrong

      • Craig Loehle

        Sorry Mosh,
        to compare an extreme case like China that you cite with the case in clean US cities is simply silly. Of COURSE extreme air pollution kills–I’ve been to Beijing and started coughing after just a few days. But the air where I live and where most people in the US live is very clean and pm2.5 can not rigorously be shown to be contributing to mortality or asthma. A little cinnamon on my food is great, a whole mouthful leads to choking and even the hospital. Every spice we eat is toxic in large enough amounts. Eat a jar of mustard? I don’t think I will, thanks.

      • Pierre-Normand

        Craig Loehle, you are assuming without argument that there is a well defined treshold exposure rather than a smoother exposure-response relation. Some studies favor the latter. See for instance: Estimating Particulate Matter-Mortality Dose-Response Curves and Threshold Levels: An Analysis of Daily Time-Series for the 20 Largest US Cities, Am. J. Epidemiol. (2000) 152 (5).

        “Numerous studies have shown a positive association between daily mortality and particulate air pollution, even at concentrations below regulatory limits. These findings have motivated interest in the shape of the exposure-response relation. The authors have developed flexible modeling strategies for time-series data that include spline and threshold exposure-response models; they apply these models to daily time-series data for the 20 largest US cities for 1987–1994, using the concentration of particulate matter <10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) as the exposure measure. The spline model showed a linear relation without indication of threshold for PM10 and relative risk of death for all causes and cardiorespiratory causes; by contrast, for other causes, the risk did not increase until approximately 50 μg/m3 PM10. For all-cause mortality, a linear model without threshold was preferred to the threshold model and to the spline model, using the Akaike information criterion (AIC). The findings were similar for cardiovascular and respiratory deaths combined. By contrast, for causes other than cardiovascular and respiratory, a threshold model was more competitive with a threshold value estimated at 65 μg/m3. These findings indicate that linear models without a threshold are appropriate for assessing the effect of particulate air pollution on daily mortality even at current levels."

      • Really?

        A whole mouthful of cinnamon might lead to the hospital, so therefore particulate matter in the air from burning coal doesn’t increase mortality rates?

        I love me some logic of a “skeptic.”

      • Steven Mosher


        “to compare an extreme case like China that you cite with the case in clean US cities is simply silly.”

        Did you see me doing that?


        dont be stuck on stupid.
        Our principal argument is that China should shift to NG for health reasons. In the US we already see a shift to NG for economic reasons.
        we’d encourage it to go faster for POTENTIAL health and climate benefits.


        “But the air where I live and where most people in the US live is very clean and pm2.5 can not rigorously be shown to be contributing to mortality or asthma.”

        We have a choice.

        Go forward with coal in the US or switch more aggressively to Natural gas.

        There are two uncertainties

        A) the uncertain climate effect of more C02 from coal
        B) the uncertain health effect at low pm2.5 concentration

        1. we do not have to show the bad effects rigourously to make a wise
        2. if one wants to argue from ignorance ( we cant show X) then we
        cant show that any level of PM2.5 is safe and we cant show that
        c02 increases wont cause disaster.
        3. under no case are there proven health or climate benefits from sticking with coal.

      • Steven Mosher


        you also need to understand how pm25 kills. a pm25 particle might typically be made of combinations of heavy metals ( for example Pb)
        The particles lodge in the lungs and toxins leach into the blood stream.
        So, it depends upon what material (toxin) the particle consists of.
        pm25 just tells you the particle size, not what it is made of.

      • Mosher is correct. pm 2.5 is an ideal delivery system for polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.(PAHs)

        There are chlorinated PAHs as well

        Yum. I suggest all those who think pm2.5 is not a big deal, send your GrandKids to live in Shanghai.

      • Doug Badgero

        What is the PM 2.5 danger at 12.5? What does the LNT model project mortality is at numbers comparable to US numbers? Whether certain people like it or not those are valid questions. The science says that the linear combination of health risks, such as pollution, calculated as single effect sensitivities sums to greater than 100 percent……obviously the science doesn’t support much of the rhetoric. What is the opportunity cost of spending resources on eliminating all or part of this uncertain risk? Maybe we should simply accept the costs of using coal with modern pollution controls. And China doesn’t need CO2 limits to combat the uncertain impacts of climate change, they need scrubbers, bag houses, and precipitators.

        We accept real risks based on opportunity cost all the time. The poster child for this is automobiles. There is little doubt that we could eliminate many of the 40000 deaths that occur each year due to autos. We choose as a society to accept those losses based on the opportunity cost of eliminating them.

      • Doug, ” And China doesn’t need CO2 limits to combat the uncertain impacts of climate change, they need scrubbers, bag houses, and precipitators.”

        They have them. They just don’t use them.

      • The hubris and hypocrisy of global warming alarmists is palpable and that is what Richard Muller, et al., is shining a spotlight on. “Environmentalists who oppose the development of shale gas and fracking,” Muller said of the greenhouse gas fearmongers, “are making a tragic mistake… [and] concerns are either largely false or can be addressed by appropriate regulation… [S]hale gas is a wonderful gift that has arrived just in time. It can not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce a deadly pollution known as PM2.5 that is currently killing over three million people each year, primarily in the developing world.”

      • Shanghai is a great place to live. Local citizens who can afford it seem to believe that a flushing strategy is partially effective at least. They get out of town regularly and Shanghai has a huge number of (mostly legitimate) massage centers and spas where they try and flush toxins out of their lungs.

        As David Springer noted correctly (in a comment that I otherwise disagree with) on another thread, those native to Shanghai have a life expectancy of 82 years.

        Maybe they know something.

      • ==> “We accept real risks based on opportunity cost all the time. ”

        More of the logic that I love oh so much.

        So because up to a certain point, we accepted the risks of dying in automobile crashes based on opportunity cost, we shouldn’t have adopted the use of seat belts?

        Why adopt any kind of new safety or environmental regulations?

        Are the trade-offs between risks and opportunity costs always static, or is it possible to reassess a risk to cost ratio?

      • @joshua

        So because up to a certain point, we accepted the risks of dying in automobile crashes based on opportunity cost, we shouldn’t have adopted the use of seat belts?

        Besides being a non sequitur, it is also grossly wrong. Since we accept risks of dying in auto crashes, WE CONTINUE TO DRIVE.

        You have never heard of KISS have you?

      • Doug Badgero

        We are not talking about something with a very low opportunity cost and a very certain and significant safety benefit. Perhaps you could formulate a coherent argument on phasing out coal use and its opportunity cost, and the confidence you have in the biological impacts of pollution at the levels that exist in the USA. If not, maybe you should study the economics of power generation and the biological impacts of pollution. Then you wouldn’t need to erect the same old strawman that must be knocked down constantly in this debate.

      • Doug –

        ==> ‘We are not talking about something with a very low opportunity cost and a very certain and significant safety benefit.”

        Of course we aren’t – which is why your simplistic construction doesn’t apply. That was my point.

      • Sorry – I meant to say, of course not. We are talking about a complex and dynamic set of tradeoffs, which is why your simplistic construction doesn’t apply.

        As for the tradeoffs:

      • Doug Badgero

        I offered no argument. Only that there is one to be made.

        Some salient points:
        The study you referenced monetizes CO2 pollution. As much as $100.00 per ton.
        The study offers no discussion, I could find in short order, of the opportunity cost of transitioning from coal. It therefore only discusses one side of the economic equation of transitioning from coal.
        The study monetizes the non-cash benefits of transitioning from coal. It would be very easy for a society to bankrupt themselves by trading cash costs for monetized non-cash benefits.

    • Richard Muller – who was a skeptic but I went to the bathroom and missed it – likes the frack. Quick! Drill before he changes his mind!

      Me, I like coal. Its power comes from far far away and I never get a whiff of it here. Coal is so potent and so bounteous that we can afford to spend the billions so nobody closer to source has to breath toxic fumes. And as plentiful as it is, we should stop frittering it. It’s too good to waste, that Sydney Basin Black. Get efficient with coal. Then get super-efficient.

      Modernise coal and light up the world. (Just don’t expect much third world population growth once you do.) If the good ol’ boys of the oil business don’t like it…they can always try competing. Anyway, they must find all that waltzing around with the Posh Left a bit embarrassing.

      • I also love magical thinking.

        Let’s light up the world by burning coal more efficiently. ‘Cause obviously, that’s going to happen. And no need to address other issues either. Not only will the energy industry in all countries spend the money to burn coal efficiently, all the other problems with energy equality, or the lack of other basic democratic institutional infrastructure around the world, will just disappear with a snap of the fingers.

        Just get rid of the Posh Left and modernization and super-efficiency is a foregone conclusion!!

        All it takes is that we “spend billions,” and we can just get to happen like magic. Why GaryM would probably just fork over a couple of hundred ‘mil just on his own!

      • Yep. That’s what you do. (Unless you don’t, obviously.) Start with something that does NOT suck and invest lavishly in that. Billions wasted on toy technologies and white elephants should have been spent on coal. Public and private investment, subsidy etc should now be directed toward coal. (Don’t know about finger-snapping magic etc and other such odd extrapolations, but these things are achievable by nations acting on their own. Check out some of the new and planned plants in China and Middle Europe.)

        Not being a libertarian or right winger, I expect something as potent as coal to be highly regulated and centralised. The old Chinese situation described by Muller is one of clear misuse, but misuse of resources due to poverty and underdevelopment is still all too common. Billions of people off-grid are misusing all kinds of things daily just to get some warmth or cook a meal. Doesn’t get quantified as “carbon”, you see. We’re not supposed to notice.

        Coal. You don’t muck around with it, and you don’t waste it. And you update and modernise every aspect of it – till it is replaced by something that sucks even less.

        Oh, and totally abolish Earth Hour, the Orgy of Ingratitude. Among other things, it wastes energy…and consequently yummy coal.

  21. George Turner

    As an aside, a novel way to scrub mercury is to bubble the emissions through liquid tin much sooner after the combustion process than the flue. The mercury bonds with the tin to form an amalgam (like your dental fillings), and can be separated out at leisure.

  22. How about just CC, instead of CCS? Could CO2 simply be captured and piped somewhere with an abundance of cheap energy from nuclear or excess wind or solar and chemically turned into jet fuel or something. Could this be the solution to the dreaded renewable duck curve?

    • In theory, yes. But I pointed out more than a few practical difficulties in my first ebook, Gaias Limits.

    • Why capture the CO2 from the combustion process? Why not capture an equal amount of atmospheric CO2 somewhere else in the world where it is more convenient? Instead of planting more trees why not generate more plankton? This can be done by mixing nutrients in the deep ocean into the surface layer where light will support life. The available excess nutrient in the ocean is sufficient to sequester 2000 Gt of Carbon. The energy for mixing against the density gradient can be provided by harnessing the power of hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. A big new commercial fishery would be a spin-off. See

      • Capturing CO2 … if we need 2 … ? Problem solving is what
        we do well, humans that is, NOT guvuhmints but. Yogi Berra,
        Philip Tetlock knew it, guvuhmints don’t know it, we’re better at
        innovating than predicting, you know this!

      • I suppose one can envision a giant donut shaped power plant located over hydrothermal vents with giant steel riser pipes hanging to the sea floor, where they can tap hydrothermal vents. I think they can be anchored with tension risers connected to giant titanium terminator flex joints.

        However it sure seems more practical to build a nuclear power plant.

      • I think it would be hard to find a more convenient concentrated source of CO2 than the exhaust of a power plant.

      • Beththeserf – I like the idea that plants are CO2 limited and need more of it. Years ago I read a paper which said that CO2 concentrations were briefly much higher than now during the Younger Dryas about 12,000 years ago. This was indicated by the density of the stomata in fossil leaves. There is no indication of a similar CO2 blip in the ice-core record which suggests ice-core proxy CO2 data is suspect.

        Fernando – Ecofluidics has devised a Nutrient Megapump which moves the nutrient using the buoyancy of steam and dispensed with the intermediate step of generating electricity. (We could do that too of course.) A major problem is the high exit temperature of the vent effluent – not many materials can withstand 360 deg C salty water loaded with H2S and heavy metals. The whole apparatus would be submerged and be too deep to be affected by storms or passing vessels.

        Canman – yes, it is certainly easier to collect CO2 at the source, but what do you do with it once it is collected? Pumping it down mines and oil wells is limited in scope and, in my view unstable and dangerous when one considers the Lake Nyos event. The same applies to trees as a sink. What do you do once the trees are fully grown? On the other hand carbon in detritus from marine ecosystems falls to the ocean floor or redissolves at great depth. The Ecofluidics scheme merely enhances a natural process much like irrigation on land.

        I agree that the whole idea of CC may well be irrelevant. We set up Ecofluidics in 2007 to enter Richard Branson’s $25million “Virgin Earth Challenge”. We didn’t win but it was a great retirement hobby.

  23. Thank you, Rud, for addressing the technical problems of getting clean energy from dirty coal. Yes, those problems could be solved, but . . .

    A more basic fundamental problem – mistrust of government science – has grown since Climatdgate emails were released in late November 2009.

    Until we find a way to restore faith in government science, society will be dangerously unstable and unable to benefit from technological advances.

  24. Have you heard of the new diesel? With a particulate filter and utilizing DFI technology, these alternate fuel turbocharged I4 and V6 engines deliver V8 power, superior mpg performance and lower emissions than a hybrid.

  25. ‘Government’ science, how about jest ‘science?’ Let’s get
    government out of it, imposing mission briefs like the one
    fer the IPCC’s raison d’etre? .

  26. another example of potentially cleaner uses of coal, a coal-to-liquids plant long in the works, but repeatedly delayed, in Wyoming:

  27. Well played, Sir Rud!

  28. “It is building the largest, most efficient ultra super critical (USC) coal generating plants in the world (160 of them, at a rate of about 3 per month through 2016), complete with powdered coal pre-washing plus flue gas scrubbing.”

    Loving it.

    “A Siemens and Shanghai Electric JV built the 4 1000MWe turbine/generator sets. Siemens reports Yuhuan thermal efficiency is a world record 45% (for coal).”

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. It’s like waking up from a nightmare about a Green Witch…and you’re back home in Sanity Land and Toto is wagging his tail.

  29. Rud says: “Southern Company (Georgia Power) is also building the first new US nuclear reactors in 30 years, and is receiving no federal subsidies for them. ”
    The problem I have with Rud’s statement is the inconsistency one can see so much on this Blog towards renewable energy. The U.S. DOE loan program is providing a +$8 billion loan for Vogtle. But this is the same loan program which provided Solyndra funding and people were screaming “SUBSIDY”, “Crony Capitalism”.

    Also, as I have previously provided links to — when the Vogtle units go on line they will receive the same type of tax benefit goodies currently available for wind energy — that Bloggers go ballistic over.

    Loan program to nuclear: Good thing.
    Loan program to wind: Subsidy, Liberals cronyism.

    Tax Credits for nuclear: Good thing.
    Tax Credits for wind: Liberals going wild.

  30. Oh, and we should throw in a little thing called Price Anderson for nuclear also.

  31. Thanks for the easy to understand article and probably doubling of my education about coal.

  32. Interesting article. I agree that CO2 is not a pollutant. It just confuses the issue. I believe that CO2 exhaust (I think that is a good term) should be included in the cost of energy generation (i.e. not as an externality). Since cost is the only metric many people cite as reason to do anything, shouldn’t the cost of “dealing with” CO2 exhaust be included in the company’s costs? Does this not equalize the energy sources?

  33. A very good post and thank you.

    In Shanghai today the air is merely ‘unhealthy’ at 152 2.5 ug. Last week it was mostly between 200 and 300. Shanghai is ringed by industrial plants built over the past 40 years, including major steel plants. Lots of coal burning here.

    Shanghai is busy converting to a service economy but as quickly as they move they have to still accommodate a stadium full of immigrants coming from the farms every week. There is no easy solution in China.

    I have no problem with the U.S. deciding to move away from coal for electricity provision. You can afford it and the lives saved from mining and pollution make it a worthwhile move. Obviously it won’t affect climate change but that’s not really the point, despite the propaganda. America would be better off with nuclear and natural gas. I’m an Obama supporter so I guess that opinion shouldn’t surprise.

    The equation is different here and it seems so obvious I wonder if it’s worth explaining. But basically the lives saved here from access to reliable energy outnumber the very high and very real number of lives lost due to the pollution coal causes. I don’t know how long that will remain true. Neither does anybody else, I’ll wager. The government is pouring resources into alternatives at a rate that would please the Obama administration if done in America.

    But they’re running up the down escalator.

    • Tom, this is why it’s important to research adaptation and geoengineering solutions. However we do have a long term problem. What happens when we run out of fertilizers?

    • Obviously all of the phosphates for fertilizer applications found in easily accessible locations such as bird guano-covered islands in the Pacific have been recently stripped clean. What is left is mined phosphates from places such as Morocco (mainly) and Florida.

      All non-renewable resources follow the same pattern. Strip the easily accessible highest grade forms clean first and then go after the low-grade more highly dispersed stuff.

      Yet still, the deniers have a hard time seeing there is a peak problem or that we are “running out”, because the law of diminishing returns puts a price pressure on the reserves that prevents a total depletion of that resource. It just gets harder to get and more scarce and therefore more expensive, or controlled by fewer nations. The latter is what often leads to resource wars.

      The geological part of the scarcity equation is simple, but the economic part is not predictable … except in the long run, which is that alternatives must be found.

    • The trouble is you need all sources of energy – coal, gas and nuclear. Nuclear is for the long term (not available now), and relying only on gas is not a robust policy. The problem of clean air can be solved in coal plants. To ban coal now, totally and categorically, as the EPA proposed regs are trying to do will put the electricity supply in jeopardy, as it has already done in Britain.

    • Tom: Conc of 250-ug/m3 and respiration of 20-m3 per day = about 5-milligrams per day buried deep into your lungs. No wonder hoiking is the national passtime in China.

      Assume that 100-ug/m3 are PAHs, which is like smoking cigarettes 24/7. The good news is that you are 100% protected from skin cancer since you never realy see the sun.

  34. Here is a novel idea about this CO2 pollutant, let’s use it to feed the Plants, as it was originally designed to do?

    • ++++++++++++++++++++
      Earth uses water, which is much more abundant than CO2 to regulate temperature in wonderful tight bounds that have not changed in ten thousand years. Water, Ice, Water Vapor, Clouds, take care of most of temperature regulation.

      More CO2 can only do wonderful things for how green things grow better while using less precious water.

  35. Today’s Wall Street Journal …

    Dreaming the Impossible Dream
    Keeping up with electricity demand means covering 108,000 square miles with new wind turbines, every year.

    Late last month I emailed Mr. McKibben, asking for his calculations regarding the energy-supply, land-use, or economic implications of his 20-fold reduction plan for hydrocarbons. His response included no math on the quantity of hydrocarbons available, nor any numbers for expected land use, or costs.
    [ … ]
    My email to Mr. McKibben also inquired about the need for refined petroleum products in transportation and aviation. His response ignored aviation but replied that “we’ve made great strides in electrifying vehicles.” The energy he collects from the solar panels on his house, he wrote, can power his Ford C-Max on “most days.”

  36. The essential point is that co2 isn’t pollution. Has the skeptical science community ever stated that simply and directly? Any consensus on this simple statement?

    No, it’s the usual “it’s so complicated” and there is no consensus. Coal is politically hated even by many skeptics. We get into the whole grading of greens from the Mann/Trenberth fanaticism to the moderates who might question climate sensitivity but still check in over at the Sierra Club and fall in line on many other topics. So it’s an issue that divides “skeptics” but in part explains how extremists have ruled on climate policy and are driving for more. So skeptic scientists who realize co2 “pollution” is rubbish tow the line based on political and cultural predispositions. Many skeptics skip over the weaknesses of climate science skeptics under the presumption that the core debate is about AGW when in fact it’s much larger and harder to discuss. There is about a 120 year political game card of hating “big oil” and the cousin “coal” going back to the “robber barons”. If you think a low information public is going to research the various nuances of the question that is preposterous.

    This is another shame on the science community for not making an issue out of the co2 “pollution” claim. It was a defacto endorsement of the AGW hypothesis based on the communities blood lust, green political predispositions or weakness in the face of those talking points. Privately, they’ll rationalize that lead and SO2 are bad things too being reduced and this was a quintessential talking point from the 1970’s when they were sticking their foot in every door possible to target carbon interests whether it Warming, Cooling or anything else. Two of those largely fell by the wayside politically so once again that “science” community reduces itself to hack status and goes along with the premise that co2 is warming the Earth and is therefore “pollution” out of political expedience. There is simply no science proof or confirmation of this claim. Then again, they’re hacks not scientists much of the time.

    The skeptic science community isn’t just smaller it’s weaker in the face of fanatical premises such as co2 being “pollution”. The entire climate/environmental community has to be taken down including many ideologically compromised skeptics.

  37. I have a technical question. I understand that the costly part in CCS is separating the co2 from other flue gases. The question is why can’t we pump the complete flue gases, co2 and all other pollutants, as they are, down into the underground storage. This will require bigger underground storage, but will save the costs of scrubbing and separating co2.
    Is this technically possible?

    • Actually in all these cases that is what they are doing in a fashion. For reasons having to do with minimizing NOx, the fuel air mix fed the gas turbine (whether syngas or natural gas) is tightly controlled. The exhaust is water vapor and CO2, with ratios depending on syngas details. Just cooling the exhaust down for pipeline transport effectively condenses out most of the water vapor, leaving ‘dry’ CO2. There is, of course, an energy cost (fans, pumps, compressors) to not simply letting residual heat carry the exhaust up a stack into the atmosphere. I have seen different numbers but a 30-35 percent hit seems to be a consensus. The MWe reflects that. Is the useful electricity end product capacity, not the gross generation. GE has a lot of on line marketing materials if you are interested in more details.

    • >The question is why can’t we pump the complete flue gases, co2 and all other pollutants, as they are, down into the underground storage>

      On the contrary, the quoted activity is the most expensive part of CCS. Consider the volume of material to be transported 24/7 and “buried” someplace – and that “someplace” is a difficult geological issue, compounding over time

      • Simple problem, simple solution. Make dry ice out of it, pop it in toilets, and flush away.

      • I’m here to say that there are plenty of toilets. Do the numbers.

  38. To the Left both CO2 and humanity are pollutants.

    • Podesta, recently placed in charge of Obama’s climate campaign, is one of the wealthiest people in Washington D.C, the wealthiest city in the US. He operates within a clustered community of other wealthy and like minded people that have little contact with the middle class, and he is known, within that community, to spend lavishly on himself.

  39. Excellent article. The states will bog down the Obama initiative in the courts for at least five years. By that time, we will be knee-deep in a Landscheidt minimum and this debate over CO2 will be over. Abbott and Harper get it. The next Republican president will get it too.

    • You’re minimizing the scope of the AGW politicization peak, it’s not going away. It’s going to proliferate into many other authoritarian themes and the academic community, already massively predisposed to one party rule, a block fueled by massive government backed debt formation and funding is likely to be a fixture of the left-wing coalition both domestically and internationally for the foreseeable future. To paraphrase Richard Nixon lament on Keynesian intellectual orthodox when defaulting on the last shell aspect of the Bretton Woods gold system, “We’re all Soviets now” on executive actions going forward.

      As for the Republic itself on executive power abuse, history of other countries don’t bode well. The usual pattern is that central power increases, becomes more authoritarian regardless of whose ideology holds office. There will simply be more tit-for-tat conflicts and rule making or changing as the usual by product is less democratic participation. This is a declining society to even get to this point of absurdity.

      During times of war in particular the U.S. permitted executive authority to increase. If you consider the long cycle of this it’s been a constant erosion of individual rights in favor of the state since the founding. There were some better stretches but expanding government and cronyism has been constant. We have a monetary policy, banking structure, healthcare system, IRS and EPA all with permanent war-time authority. AGW is really about a massive stealth expansion of government into the energy sector which is massively regulated domestically as a starting point. There’s a substantial one-world-government support in the policy system as well, another form of individual rights erosion.

      So the damage is done even if all the rules are repealed. The pew poll indicates another by-product, total polarization;

      This is the worst backdrop to be “going it alone” on executive authority. It’s just another indicator that this administration had nothing legitimate in the “post partisan” swill of 2008 campaigning. Other than drones and some domestic surveillance expansions I can’t think of a single topic where Obama deviated from his core base. George Bush Jr. spent a good deal of time pandering and cutting deals with the left (No-Child, Medicare expansion, “stimulus” and expanded deficit spending etc.) I would say largely as war policy trade offs and the misguided “compassionate conservative” talking points of the 2000 campaign. If you consider the graph it looks like the 2005 period, the worst part of the Iraq situation politically, was the tipping point. It’s been from bad to worse really all through the chart.

      Beating up on coal already has a built in constituency of low information voters as well as an intellectually dishonest academic support system that will mumble, look the other way on actual science or even contribute to anti-carbon propaganda. If the AGW/CO2 means are dishonest the story goes the “ends” are fully rationalized over with the Deadend Society of the green community. Elite and minion alike. This is another step toward a post-democratic America and we can see who is planning to come out on top and in control. Coal is low hanging fruit in their eyes.

      • I agree the fanatics aren’t going away. They are like vultures waiting for a carcass. But this debate has always been about winning over the fence-sitters, the undecided. Those are the voters who control the fate of politicians and so long as we have elections, we can turf out the idiots. Abbott is a case in point. Harper is nobody’s fool. The UK is about to bolt. New Zealand??? India’s there. So is China. The Obama administration has no credibility on the world stage. It is a gutless wonder. November will tell us much. If Republicans win the Senate, watch Democrats jump off this bandwagon. The pressure needs to be maintained, however. The colder temperatures that are coming — particularly in North America — will certainly help.

  40. Michael Larkin

    Rud, on Judith’s state of the blog post, you mentioned that you were interested in getting feedback on your articles from an educational perspective, and I asked you to give me a link to something you’d written so I could give you that feedback. You may have missed that, because I didn’t see any reply to my offer.

    However, now you have posted this, and I can say that it’s pretty clear and well-written, but in an area plagued by acronyms. For the most part, you explain those the first time you use them, which is good, but even better, I think, would be an opening section in which you list all the acronyms used in alphabetic sequence, along with what they mean. The advantage would be that there would be a single place to go to check if one had forgotten what the acronym meant; hence one wouldn’t have to scroll around or do a search to find the first mention.

    One small exception: I couldn’t seem to find an explanation of MW and MWe. MW is a pretty well-known acronym for megawatt (though no harm in explaining it). But what was MWe? I had to google that and found that it mean megawatt (electrical) output. I also noted that MWt may be used (for megawatt (thermal) output), and I wondered if your MW actually meant MWt.

    Looking at a statement like this:

    “The facility came in almost $1billion over budget, $3.5 billion for a single 618MW CCGT or $5660/MWe.”

    Obviously, there’s some kind of conversion factor involved for MW to MWe, and my first instinct was to divide $3.5 billion by 618, which produces a result of 5,663,430, or several orders of magnitude greater than your $5660. So what’s going on?

    From my point of view, a brief note, again possibly at the beginning, about what MW referred to (MWt?) and how (maybe why, too?) the conversion to MWe is carried out, would have been very welcome.

    Overall, your post is much clearer than the norm (the contextualizing introduction was quite excellent), and all I’m doing is indicating what the naive reader might puzzle about, and might appreciate some up-front explanation for. Difficult to do sometimes in an area where one might be expert, but as a qualified educator who also has a masters in education, this is something I am acutely aware of.

    If one introduces something that might need puzzling out, then it’s advisable anticipate; explain how it works up front so that inquisitive learners don’t get distracted part way through what you write and lose the flow. One shouldn’t give one’s learners any opportunity to get distracted (it’s often the brighter ones who will be). One should try to imagine oneself as a complete beginner when proof-reading what one has written.

    I hope you find my comments useful. I’d be happy to look at a few other pieces you’ve written and comment should you wish. Just let me know.

  41. Society has a problem. The concept of shame has been eliminated in the West. If government school teachers were right about Westerners polluting the globe with our CO2, who would be chagrined? Al Gore uses more energy than a small African nation.

    • More to the topic Wag, has Dr. Curry ever stated co2 wasn’t “pollution”??

      I think that highlights my theme of skeptical weakness both in general and in the technical community. If skeptics can’t form that basic consensus you can see why a climate policy train wreck is only going to get larger. Walking it back in the EU, Canada or Australia are dwarfed by this single totalitarian inclination in the U.S.

      Congress controls taxes and spending. This is effectively a Cap and Trade system which is a tax system bypassing Congress. The Federal Reserve performs the same abuse, Congress delegated the authority of monetary value and now has no say in the monetary value day-to-day. The EPA was created and now can fund itself through taxes which will be called “fees”.

      It’s a huge decline for the Republic but the anti-carbon conspiracy culture is alive and well and can trump such a basic erosion of the Constitution. I think many academics find the Republic a bit of an encumbrance in general anyway. Expert authority always has a better job in a dictatorship as long as it ideologically coincides with the ruler which is the case at the moment. The academic silence to the EPA power grab is noteworthy. Dr. Curry is back benching the key questions which isn’t a surprise. CO2 as pollution should be uniformly CONDEMNED by legitimate science community members. It’s the height of ANTI-SCIENCE and stealth endorsement of the non-empirical, post normal AGW hypothesis. Even many touted as rational and skeptics like the idea of keeping the hypothesis on permanent life support rather then give it the euthanasia it deserves. Co2 pollution acceptance and mealy mouthing prove the point.

  42. John Vonderlin

    “The entire climate/environmental community has to be taken down including many ideologically compromised skeptics.” Wow. “taken down?” “ideologically compromised?” I think this might be my top pick so far for “Over the Top” statements I’ve read on this blog. While there is some question about it deserving the designation because performance enhancing substances may have aided you, based on the earlier sentences’ rambling nature. Still, it was a memorable and climactic end to your screed. Congratulations on your rabid fervor.

    • The Founders had our backs. That’s all over now. We are afraid to face the truth and it is about a lot more than dancing around schoolteachers’ obvious self-interest in promoting global warming alarmism as another means of taxing all goods and services that require energy to provide.

    • JV, what distorted meaning of “taken down” are you trying to build your strawman argument?

  43. Many climate policy debates come down to coal as an electricity fuel… This post focuses on issues surrounding new coal plants.

    Coal is not the issue. It is time to refocus the climate debate: the Left hates our way of life and everything America stands for.

  44. Why are all costs per MW off (low) by a factor of 1000? 1st plant mentioned (SWEPCO Turk) costs $1.8 billion and generates 600 MW. 1.8E9/6E2= $3E6/MW, yet text notes $3000/MW

    • Good catch. AFAIK capital costs are usually quoted in $/kW, such as here, as well as the original report prepared by Black & Veatch for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory the numbers were taken from.

  45. Quote from Alex Eptstein, Center for Industrial Progress “…every indicator of quality of life, including quality of environment, is up—because every new Calorie of cheap, reliable energy gives us a greater ability to use machines to make any and every area of our lives better.

    A significant part of that “cheap, reliable energy” is coal, and as this post points out, even with expanded use of coal, the environment improved.

    Making the cost of energy “necessarily skyrocket” is insanity. To develop alternatives to fossil fuels will require funding that can only come from a vibrant, growing economy. Making energy more expensive – unnecessarrily – will stagnate the economy which will likely stall meaningful development, and pursuing pixie dust in the form of Wind and Solar for baseload power is simply insanity piled on top of insanity.

    Maybe if we get a few more bitterly cold winters along with cooler summers while Co2 continues to increase, and we get a media that starts to honestly report facts, not hysteria, maybe politicians will start to wake up. Problem is, the MSM is too invested in the false science of cAGW, just like they are with Obama, to make any real change in their curent stance.

    This country is already in trouble, and if the proposed regulations do go into effect, it may be the last nail in the coffin.

  46. The climate is what weather was over the last 100 years (or so) when compared to some other period. No one knows what future weather will be. Our best prediction (statistically) as to what the weather will be tomorrow is what it was today! We can on average be fairly certain about that. More than a few weeks out our certainty about the weather drops to almost nothing, excepting of course shamans and rainmakers.

  47. “With hundreds of years of natural gas available from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques, why build another wind turbine?” ~Steve Goreham

    • Not to mention sea-floor methane hydrate clathrate.

      • Jesse Ausubel at Rockefeller University points out, for example, that starting about a hundred and fifty years ago, in the time of Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria, we began to move from wood to coal, from coal to oil, from oil to natural gas and so on. Decreasing our carbon, increasing our hydrogen makes perfect sense, makes environmental sense, makes political sense, makes geopolitical sense. And we’ll continue to do it without any legislation, without any, anything forcing us to do it, as nothing forced us to get off horses. ~Michael Crichton

  48. With a US benchmark of $3000/MWe, Duke’s Indiana plant incurred an added cost of $$1.646bn to save 170 coal-mining jobs. That’s almost $10m per job, and consumers – including businesses – are paying much more for electricity, reducing employment in other areas. On what logic can that possibly make sense?

    Is this expenditure a good argument for government intervention in markets, I ask with a laugh.

  49. Coal has come a long way, in the 20th and 21st centuries as a clean fuel. Of course, when coal burns it produces CO2, an invisible non toxic gas we all produce in our lungs. Our previous prime minister, Julia Gillard, was famous for describing carbon dioxide as a pollutant apparently unaware that it is the stuff of life – there would be no life on earth without CO2, Our present Prime Minister, Tony Abbott does not make the same mistake.

    So obviously our Prime Ministers and Presidents are not up in science. So the critics of our education systems have a point.

    Meanwhile our TV stations spread the ignorance by showing pictures of supposed power stations belching black smoke into the atmosphere and implying it is CO2 when it is obviously soot.

    • >belching black smoke into the atmosphere and implying it is CO2 when it is obviously soot<

      Nope. The photographers deliberately wait for a combination of sunlight and photographic filters to produce that effect. Deliberate dishonesty – I've observed them doing it. Soot and other particulates are trapped to specific, defined, regulated levels and dumped under stringent conditions

      China is steadily working its' way to cleaner particulate emissions over the entire country. Raw coal specifications for power stations are contracted on very stringent requirements during the steady replacement of older stations for the newer ones (as accurately described here by Istvan)

      • I could be wrong(no, never!), but I believe that China often installs scrubbers but doesn’t always use them because they cut production. Tom might help me here.

  50. T. Boone Pickens is building out nat gas service stations and nat gas trucks are rolling off the assembly line. Clean Energy Fuels is the company. They are spending a lot of money to build the stations, but should do OK.

    Nevertheless. T. Boone would love to get some government money.
    From the article:

    It would take 10 years to remove even 400 MMbbl without disrupting the market. Selling that oil would result in a profit, because it was purchased at $28/barrel [$28/bbl] and today oil is $103/bbl. That is a big profit, one of the few big profits I’ve ever seen the government have.

    Profits from the reserve could be used to develop energy in America by switching all the heavy-duty trucks to natural gas. A $30,000 tax credit would roughly cover the incremental cost for converting from diesel, which is twice as expensive, to natural gas engines.

    The government should use the cheapest fuel for our federal vehicles. That is its fiduciary responsibility. By making sure we use the cheapest fuel-which also happens to be 30% cleaner-we could reduce our imports by 3 MMbpd. That would put a dent in the 4-4.5 MMbpd we import from OPEC.

  51. More on energy, the Eagle Ford technology is improving. From the article:

    Thereafter, in February, 2013 Venado publicly announced that it had acquired its non-operating partner’s 50% working interest and that it now controlled a contiguous 124,000 acres in the Horseshoe Project area. It also stated that the early indications from its Eagle Ford wells (as well as other operators in the area) was for EURs in excess of 300Mboe per well with an IRR of over 50% based on $6 million “development well cost”. Finally, Venado also announced that it had received an initial equity commitment of $275 million from EnCap Investments, L.P. and Riverstone Holdings, LLC. (Note: EnCap has backed many other start-up E&P companies such as Halcón Resources [it has a seat on Halcón’s board of directors] and, together with EnerVest, created EV Energy Partners, L.P.)

    Now flush with cash, Venado went out and spud the first of four Eagle Ford wells completed in 2013. These wells had an average lateral length of 6,345 feet, averaged 1,594 lbs of proppant per lateral foot and averaged 24.4 bbls of fluid per lateral foot. They also averaged flowing pressure of 1,206 psi with an average choke of 14/64. The average IP rate for the wells was 484 boe (94.8% oil).

  52. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Why are folks here Climate Etc ignoring 12 JUNE: HUG A CLIMATE SCIENTISTS DAY!

    A big hug goes out to you, Judith Curry! Thank you for sustaining this fine forum!

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  53. stevefitzpatrick

    Nice post. Clear and informative. The interesting thing for me is the huge capital cost associated with CCS. It clear that CCS is a non-starter economically. If climate sensitivity turns out to be high enough to require substantial CO2 emissions reduction (which is possible but not yet clear) then reducing coal use gives the most CO2 reduction bang for the energy buck.

  54. Ingvar Warnholtz

    Good post.
    If carbon dioxide is a pollutant as well as a greenhouse gas, then surely water vapour must fall in the same category. Pity we cannot tax that as well.

  55. Well, today we can’t blame mixed-up threading on Fan’s emoticons. Was previous blame mis-attributed?

  56. The climate obsessed definition of clean coal is “unused coal”.
    Until the climate obsession loses its political credibility their extremism will prevail.

  57. The bottom line is that coal as it is used today with scrubbers, but not for CO2, is plenty clean enough.

  58. catweazle666

    The first clean air legislation banning the burning of sea coal – a particularly dirty variety – was introduced by King Edward I in 1272.

  59. “Southern Companies is also building the first new US nuclear reactors in 30 years, and is receiving no federal subsidies for them.”

    False. US nuclear plants enjoy AT LEAST six subsidies:

    1) The EPA’s Carbon Dioxide regulations are a form of federal subsidy for the nuclear industry. Nuclear advocates have a double standard in decrying any subsidies for their competition – primarily wind but also other renewable forms of power generation. Then, the nuclear industry happily accepts subsidies of their own, not just the EPA boost from regulating coal-fired plants out of operation. The nuclear industry also receives subsidies in the form of:

    2) huge construction loan guarantees from government, approximately $8.3 billion for the Vogtle plant alone.
    3) government legal relief from radiation liability, under the Price-Anderson Act, (this is the biggest subsidy of all – absent this subsidy, no nuclear power plants would ever be built)
    4) regulation that no lawsuits during construction will be allowed (with a minor exception),
    5) regulation to raise electricity prices during construction to avoid interest costs on construction loans; South Carolina has already increased rates to pay for nuclear construction, now seeks another increase.

    6) operating regulations that are routinely relaxed to allow plants to not spend money to comply.

    see “US Nuclear Plants Are Heavily Subsidized” at:

    • @Roger Sowell

      1) The EPA’s Carbon Dioxide regulations are a form of federal subsidy for the nuclear industry.

      No Roger, it is not a subsidy. It is a cost advantage as the regulations are a penalty against fossil fuels. But no money goes from the government to the Nuclear industry for it.

      Indeed, only #2 is a Subsidy. The others are definitely cost advantages, but not subsidies.

      It is time to stop abusing the term “Subsidy”.

    • @ philjourdan:

      A subsidy is defined as:

      “A benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction. The subsidy is usually given to remove some type of burden and is often considered to be in the interest of the public. “ — investopedia.

      The word “usually” in the definition implies that other, non-cash and non-tax reduction forms also are used to benefit the group or individual.

      It is time for all to recognize that the US nuclear industry exists ONLY due to being heavily subsidized, in at least six ways that I wrote above.

      • @Roger Sowell – You concentrate on the wrong word. Look again and see if you can spot the correct one.

        “A benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction. The subsidy is usually given to remove some type of burden and is often considered to be in the interest of the public. “

        Did you see the key word in there?

        Tax reductions are not “given”. Not taking is not the same as giving. I would think twice about using investopedia as a source since they do not understand that simple fact. The only way that not taking taxes is giving something is if you start from the premise that all wealth belongs to the state. IN some states it does (notably Communist ones). However, that is not the case here. It is only the states after the forced confiscation of it. lack of confiscation is not giving. A thief who leaves you with the $20 in your shoe has not “given” you anything.

  60. From the article:

    Former U.S. Representative and House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt tells TheStreet’s Joe Deaux that the House and Senate won’t pass the Obama administration’s new EPA proposal to curb carbon emissions. Gephardt says it “makes no sense” to eliminate coal, which produces about 40% of power in the United States. Instead, Gephardt recommends spending more money on research for clean coal technologies. The representative argues that the poor will greatly suffer if coal as a power source is significantly reduced. He adds that the utility companies are showing the most progress with cleaner coal.

  61. Frederick Colbourne

    The blog mentions that EPA is permitted by law to declare CO2 as a pollutant. This reading of the Clean Air Act ignores that full text of section 111(d). That section states that the EPA may declare a substance as a pollutant for the purpose of protection of health and welfare.

    The purpose of Congress is clear The legislation was designed to allow the EPA to apply new science to known substances and old science to new substances if and when these became a threat to health and welfare.

    Conditions implied by the section:
    1) For point sources of pollution, the threat must be immediate and identifiable.
    2) The benefits of regulations must be measurable within the bounds of reasonableness.
    3) The beneficiaries of the regulations must be mainly the inhabitants of the Untied States, its possessions, territorial waters and countries covered by bilateral or international treaties.

    The main objection to the regulations is that the EPA has declared CO2 as a pollutant for a purpose not permitted under the Clean Air Act: climate control.

    The health and welfare impacts of emission is not immediately and directly connected to the point-source emitters of CO2. The health and welfare benefits are not measurable with a reasonable degree of precision or accuracy. Most of the benefits will accrue to inhabitants of foreign countries not covered by treaty.

    Finally, the President has made it clear that the purpose of the proposed regulations is not to improve the health and welfare of Americans but to demonstrate to the world that the US is unilaterally intent on controlling the climate of the Earth as a whole. The reason the President ordered the regulations to be prepared was to override the refusal of Congress to legislate controls on CO2 emissions.

    The proposed new regulations fail the criterion of purpose of the Act and the intent of Congress as it appears within the Act itself.

    The President and the EPA Administrator focus too narrowly on the literal words of one small part of one section of the Act and fail to interpret the meaning of the words within the overall context of the Act when read as a whole.

    Focusing on the power of the EPA to define a pollutant is not statutory interpretation. This is a parody of statutory interpretation.

    The EPA is bound to exercise its power for the purposes established by Congress and not for any purpose that the President deems worthwhile.

    Otherwise, the EPA could declare any substance a pollutant and control any aspect of American industry, agriculture or household products by executive fiat. To that extent the Act conflicts in a fundamental way with the separation of powers and strikes at the very core of American democracy.

    To the extent that the Act allows the EPA to destroy capital assets without compensation to the owners, the Act violates the 14th Amendment.

    The President and the Administrator of the EPA are not merely overreaching the powers conferred on them by Congress, they are attempting to drive a battalion of Mac Trucks through the Constitution.

  62. “SWEPCO’s Turk plant in Arkansas produces 600MW from a single unit and cost $1.8 billion, or $3000/MWe (a US capital cost benchmark). Its thermal efficiency is 42% compared to the US installed base average 34%, cutting emissions by a fourth.”

    Would be interesting to know if that’s a cheaper and more effective way to reduce co2 than building evil wind turbines. Pity the author didn’t compare the two. But I guess that burning coal more efficiently puts less co2 into the atmosphere than manufacturing, installing, maintaing evil wind turbines. It would just be nice to see some numbers.

  63. Big Oil Advocacy : )
    Top ten reasons why business should love a carbon price

  64. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That?

  65. Why are all $/MW costs low by a factor of 1000? E. g. “600MW from a single unit and cost $1.8 billion, or $3000/MWe”. If I divide
    $1.8e9/600MW, I get $3E6/Mw or $3/Watt. Why is this being reported as $3000/MWe?