Clean coal and carbon capture and storage: big myths?
Anarticle in the New York Timesstarts with the huge hunger for energy - and more in particular - coal in China:
China's frenetic construction of coal-fired power plants has raised worries around the world about the effect on climate change. China now uses more coal than the United States, Europe and Japan combined, making it the world's largest emitter of gases that are warming the planet.
(WOW: China's coal consumption = US+Japan+Europe !)
But according to the NY Times, China is making big efforts, and even taking a lead in 'Clean Coal'.
Western countries continue to rely heavily on coal-fired power plants built decades ago with outdated, inefficient technology that burn a lot of coal and emit considerable amounts of carbon dioxide. China has begun requiring power companies to retire an older, more polluting power plant for each new one they build.
Cao Peixi, the president of the
China Huaneng Group
, the country’s biggest state-owned electric utility and the majority partner in the joint venture building the Tianjin plant, said his company was committed to the project even though it would cost more than conventional plants.
“We shouldn’t look at this project from a purely financial perspective,” he said. “It represents the future.”
By adopting "ultra-supercritical" technology, which uses extremely hot steam to achieve the highest efficiency, and by building many identical power plants at the same time, China has cut costs dramatically through economies of scale. It now can cost a third less to build an ultra-supercritical power plant in China than to build a less efficient coal-fired plant in the United States.
I really hope this is true. But I fear we are overly optimistic if we think that this will be enough to change China's world threatening growth in pollution.
1. 'Cleaner coal' does not mean clean coal production. I am very doubtful about the pollution of such plants compared to gas-fired power plants, and of course alternative energies.
2. Carbon capture and storage does not seem on the horizon in China, nor in the rest of the world. Apart from my doubts about the feasibility, the cost is too much.
The New York Times gives an optimistic message about China's steps in power generation from an environmental point of view. I fear however that this is not enough to contribute to a cleaner world, and the reduction of green house gases in the future.