Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Lower estimate of economically recoverable coal bad news for 'clean coal' plans of industry, utilities

The United States doesn't have as much coal to mine as previously estimated, now that "Government geologists for the first time are applying to coal fields the same kind of math that’s long been applied to other resources, such as oil and gas — that is, how much stuff is economically recoverable?" Keith Johnson writes for The Wall Street Journal. "The conclusion: If coal is cheap, it isn’t so abundant. If coal is abundant, that’s because it isn’t so cheap."

That is not good news for coal and utility companies that hope for "clean coal" power plants that can trap carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. "That’s because capturing coal’s emissions requires a lot of energy," Johnson writes. "A new book by Harvard University’s Belfer Center estimates that clean-coal plants use 30 percent more energy than traditional plants — that is, clean coal plants require more coal to produce the same amount of energy as dirty coal plants. The push for clean coal already faces numerous obstacles, including hefty costs, regulatory uncertainty, and simple geology. If cheap and abundant coal is actually neither, clean coal’s future starts to look even blacker." (Read more)

For the study by the U.S. Geological Survey, click here.

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