Kyoto – A Perspective (Part 30)

Posted on Fri 05/30/2008 by

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CLEAN COAL (Part 1)

Tell me. Why is it that some politicians come out against methods for the production of electrical power from sources proven to be clean and environmentally friendly, when everybody just knows that they are a good idea. Surely, it would paint them in a poor light.
I mean some guys go sailing, so offshore wind towers in a high wind area might detract from what small leisure they might have in a job where they so diligently serve their constituents. So when a politician from a State nowhere near the proposed wind towers pokes his nose in, why would he do that when the perception might be that he is protesting against something of such obviously good value.
The people standing on the stepladders with the high powered binoculars diligently pressed against their eyeballs see those towers detracting from what they perceive as their ‘quality of life’. So with the backing of all their money, keeping in mind this is where ‘old money’ lives, they hire lobbyists to press their case.
Well, the guy in the yacht, he’s on side already, because, after all, he lives there amongst them.
So lobbyists seek out other senators and congressmen to add weight to the old guy in the yacht with the Scotch in his hand.

Mining Companies don’t just roll into the neighborhood and start digging. No, they have to get approval from the Federal agencies and the State agencies. Those bodies give the okay after all the relevant checks, and then haggling over the price of their approval. This price is called a ‘Royalty’, and every mining company, no matter what they mine, pays royalties to State and Federal Governments. It’s usually calculated on the amount of product they dig out of the ground, or drill out if it’s oil or any of the gases, and it’s usually paid on the basis of dollars per ton. That (usually) stays the same whether the price goes up or down, and the amount is usually many millions of dollars. All this goes into State coffers and pays for services in that State, so it’s in the State’s interest to keep those large sums rolling in.

The lobbyists meanwhile are searching around for names to add to their list of politicians who are against environmentally conscious methods of producing electrical power.
Consider this then. If a huge plant that is known not to produce any of the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas, then if that plant used the solar or in this case, the wind process, or even hydro or nuclear, and it were to be constructed, then that might mean a cut back in the use for coal, and that cut back in use would lead to a cut back in the mining of coal, with a cut back in the amount of royalties paid to that State.
The lobbyists know only too well that the big coal miners just hate wind power. So Congressmen and Senators from those States with a large income from coal royalties are prime targets.

Distracting excuses are found. You know, like Coast Guard access, shipping lanes, ferry lanes, fishing boat access, tourism, light pollution, noise pollution, the fact that government regulations do not exist for offshore wind plants in the US, so those regulations are being drafted along the same time line as for the development itself, and there might be the perception of haste, or that something vital might be missed, overlooked, or not included. You get the picture. Anything but the real truth.
If someone asks the question referring to coal, then the politician in question is not taken aback. He just mentions that this would be a side issue only of minor concern, and then proudly proclaims that as a Senator or Congressman from that State, then it’s his job to stand up for the interests of the labour force working for that mining company, with all those workers being his constituency. This gives the impression that he actually has those workers best interests at heart and does not want to see those men become unemployed, so he refers to families, mums and their children, and the prospective human interest factor. Anything, as long as it’s not the soiled money grubbing debating point first mentioned by the lobbyist, that being the coal royalty money flowing into that State.

WHAT IS CLEAN COAL THEN?

Sometimes, there might actually be a politician with some concerns that taking this stance might look a little hypocritical, so, still wanting to look like he is concerned about the environment, and in the same breath give the impression to the coal mining companies in his State that he is not turning his back on them, he asks if there might just be another way.

Then, lobbyists for the coal industry sit down with him and discuss just such a way, where he has a win win situation. The lobbyists themselves have no idea of the Science, because all they know is how to wedge lobby. When the rough explanation is delivered, the politician draws up a press release loudly proclaiming that he has the definitive answer. It looks like he’s actively supporting means to protect the environment, and in the same breath to still look after his coal mining friends.

BEHIND THE THEORY.

The Bruce Mansfield Power Plant at Shippingport PA. The large stacks in the foreground have steam coming from the top. Image from Kiyo Kimoda. Click on the image to open in a larger window.

For a huge baseline coal fired electrical power plant producing over 2000MW of power, and let’s substitute a real plant here, the Bruce Mansfield Plant, and I’ve included this one for no reason other than it is a large plant in Pennsylvania. It has three generators each producing 835 MW for a plant total of 2500MW of constant, regular, unvarying, baseline power, something wind or solar can never approach. To achieve that power output, it consumes 6.1 million tons of coal per year, which averages out to 16,700 tons per day, but some days may be less and some days in the Summer peak, it might be up around 30,000 tons. That’s 16,700 tons of coal PER DAY.
So if Kyoto (remember that) calls for a return to 1990 levels and a reduction on that level, and we mentioned way back in an earlier post that this will necessitate the withdrawal of conservatively 50 or more of these huge baseload coal fired plants, then that means a reduction in consumption of 300 million tons of coal, and probably more, because I only dealt with the large baseload plants and have not included those medium level plants for peak power, so now you can see just how much that actually is. Think of revenue to companies, and the wages they pay their labor force, and more importantly, the loss of huge amounts of money in royalties to those coal mining States, and also to the Federal Government, some of which is also returned to the States.
Now can you see just why politicians in those coal States need to be seen to be coming out against any enemy of coal, and so, they need an excuse to make them look good.

THE THEORY IS THIS.

The coal is burned to make the steam. The ash falls to the bottom of the burner, and the smoke goes up the chimney stacks. Between the burner and the stack is the scrubber. Right now, this already removes particulates from the smoke, the nasties containing Sulphur etc.
What they propose to also accomplish in this area is to divert the smoke, extract the harmful CO2 and then allow the remaining white stuff, now pure as the driven snow to gently waft out the top of the stacks. The removed CO2 that has somehow been the only thing extracted from the smoke will now need to be cooled, and then under extreme pressure, liquified. Then, that liquid will be pumped by huge driving pumps down pipes as yet not constructed to areas not yet found, where it will be held in vast tanks also not yet constructed. Then it will be pumped by as yet not constructed rigs and driven far into the ground into as yet unlocated areas where there are seams between solid rock, not yet located, but capable of holding the liquid in a stable condition for thousands of years and more, for all time in reality, and without seeping back into the surrounding strata or back to the surface.

“Wow!” says the clueless politician. “That sounds great. What’s it called?”
“Geo sequestration,” replies the clueless lobbyist.
“Gee what?”
“It sort of cleans up the residue of the coal.”
“Clean coal. Now, that I can sell.” says the clueless politician.

KPPSTony

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