Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Energy secretary pick called coal 'worst nightmare'

"President-elect Barack Obama's pick for U.S. energy secretary isn't sold on the idea that technology to capture greenhouse emissions and pump them underground will save the coal industry," writes Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette. Steven Chu's selection concerns observers in the coal industry, which sees clean coal as its future though the technology remains unproven.

"Coal is my worst nightmare," Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, said in an April speech. Ward writes, "Chu said existing pilot projects involving a few million tons of carbon dioxide sequestration are far too small to tell if the process would work on the scale needed." There is concern that carbon dioxide pumped into the ground could escape, or turn acidic and cause cracks in geological formations, leading to leaks. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas reponsible for global warming. To watch Chu's speech, click here.

Carol Raulston of the National Mining Association reminded Ward that Obama has endorsed development of clean-coal technology, and "pointed to a presentation Chu gave to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in October 2007 in which he said, 'Technologies for capturing and sequestering carbon from fossil fuels can play a central role in the cost-effective management of global carbon dioxide emissions.' Environmental groups and other advocates of swift and serious action to deal with the climate change crisis said Chu's comments on coal reflect a clear understanding of the scientific basis for concern and a practical view of the challenges for reducing the energy industry's greenhouse impacts." (Read more)

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