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The point is this.  Even if the US were to theoretically eliminate coal from its energy derivation, other nations will use it with little care or concern for the carbon it puts up and out, because a) they own coal, or b) because it is cheaper...  Some countries rely heavily on coal — South Africa, 93 percent; Australia, 78 percent; China, 79 percent; India, 68 percent; and Germany, 41 percent. Therefore, since 1/3 of all global electricity is and will continue to be derived from coal, it makes great sense to find the way to keep that carbon sequestered....

Because every forecast calls for it.  Coal will always be used. Therefore instead of dismissing coal, we must find a way to stop its carbon from going into the atmosphere..  That is her brilliance.
Clean coal is being ignored.   Assuming that with enough solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, hydroelectric, and natural gas, coal won't be needed anymore. Already many burners have converted from coal to natural gas over the past 8 years.  The air quality here in the USA is becoming much cleaner.  

However, as I speak, coal is being pulled out of Wyoming and West Virginia, being railroaded to the coast and being shipped overseas.   To nations with too little finances to afford the switch over to natural gas...  coal is still being burned, carbon dioxide is still adding to the atmosphere, the earth is still getting warmer....

Let us put it another way...  If any contact with tap water could cause cancer, would you drink bottled water? Probably.  Would you cook in bottled water?  Maybe.  Would you use bottled water to brush your teeth?  Perhaps but unlikely. Would you use bottled water to fill your bathtub to bathe?  Doubtful.  Would you use it to flush your toilet?  No.   In other words you would still use a certain amount of tap water.  If one's goal was to eliminate tap water into the home to eliminate cancer, though one could cut it down, they would never eliminate it.

It is the same scenario with coal... Therefore to assume that coal mining will go away is unrealistic.  That is why we need investment in finding a way to solve the clean coal issue...
This is evidence of a new way of thinking.  Up to now, eliminating coal burning has been the prime green way of cutting carbon emissions...  That preferred policy does not accept the blaring fact that coal will never and can never be eliminated... If eliminated one place, it pops up in another. Therefore, work in the direction of cleaning coal's emissions is worth persuing,

Here we are seeing a new way of thinking.  Instead of working from the bottom up, we seek to work from the top down.  Asking first:  what single item would do the most to cut carbon emissions across the globe? The answer is to make coal less polluting.  If you want results, and our climate today seems to demand results be forthcoming rather quickly, you need to fix coal so it does not pollute....  Otherwise you will only be dancing around the edges of a bigger problem... You will say we are doing all this work and nothing seems to change.

Studies show the costs of addressing climate change would double without advanced coal technology. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) simply must be part of the equation.

The usual retort against clean coal technology, is to say: “there is no such thing as clean coal.”  And to an extent they are right....  Coal is dirty in its extraction, transport, and in dispensing its leftovers.  But, here is the too infrequent answer to that imperative statement.  It is framed here as a question: “doesn't it make sense to seek out how to have what coal is left be burned in a way that won't emit excessive carbon dioxide?
And that underlies the brilliance in the realism of one Natalie Tennant, running for Senate in WV this fall.

Our current energy policy neglects one huge third of the problem. That needs work too, if the effects of carbon dioxide are to begun to be countered in our lifetimes...

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Comment Preferences

  •  Right at the top, where you list how much (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marleycat, OHdog, 350Energy

    energy those nations get from coal, you don't provide any links to where you got the information.

    You note that Germany gets "41%" of it's energy from coal.

    But this piece at the site, by Fred Pierce notes:

    Lignite (brown coal) burning is higher today than at any time since the 1990s. It generates 26 percent of the nation’s electricity, more than solar and wind combined. No other nation burns so much.
    So, I have to ask, please provide a source for your numbers or I will not be able to accept that you didn't just pull them out of thin air.

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 01:40:00 AM PDT

    •  Simple explanation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marleycat, Odysseus

      Lignite is only one type of coal.  Other types are sub-bituminous, bituminous, and anthracite.  2 of the 4 types are most typically burned in power plants.  Most WV coal is bituminous, and most WY coal is sub-bituminous.  Anthracite is too valuable, and lignite is too crummy (ND and TX burn it anyway).  Germany burns lignite because that's what they've got, but imports better coal to burn as well.  They are currently increasing the size of their coal powerplant fleet to deal with their decision to close their nukes.

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 02:55:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, both of those numbers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marleycat, tardis10

      are for % electricity, not percent total energy.  Coal is typically a very small part of non-electricity energy use these days (except in China), which means these figures somewhat overstate its importance, although it is clearly currently a critical energy source globally.

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 03:02:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So a geology professor writes on what (0+ / 0-)

        appears to be a blog/online news/opinion site and HE doesn't offer any sources either.

        Not really convincing.

        "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

        by Angie in WA State on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:49:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's a source which gives 41% for Germany (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Angie in WA State

          Note that there are some slightly different accounting measures:

          That's a link to the free IEA Key Energy Statistics 2013.
          If you look at the tables (for 2011), it gives the electricity produced by Germany from coal and peat as 272TWh, and the total electricity produced as 602TWh.  That's 45.2%

          As I noted above, Germany is building new coal plants and importing coal.  They burn imported hard coal as well as lignite which accounts for the large discrepancy you thought you had found.

          There really isn't any question that lots of coal is still being burnt, in Germany or worldwide, or that people are still building coal plants.  The question is what to do about that.  If I were dictator of Germany I would not be shutting down nukes and building coal plants.  If I were dictator of Japan, I wouldn't be shutting down nukes and burning raw crude oil.  I'm not, and climate change is not getting top priority in energy decision making anywhere in the world right now.  Some places are doing better than others.

          Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

          by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 07:27:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  there is no such thing as "clean" coal (10+ / 0-)

    only less dirty coal

    "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

    by teacherken on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 04:11:26 AM PDT

  •  While I disagree with some of Tennant's (6+ / 0-)

    commentary, I think 2 things are important to note:

    1) We aren't going to get an anti-coal Senator from WV in 2014 or anytime soon.  We can get one who is a Democrat and willing to be co-operative and helpful in gaining progress on many environmental issues.

    2)We aren't going to get rid of global coal use overnight, even though we need to get rid of it ASAP; we can make faster progress on reducing coal impacts if we work on BOTH elimination AND mitigation.

    Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

    by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 04:42:27 AM PDT

    •  I partially agree (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unfangus, Sylv, deepeco, tardis10

      Item 1 I certainly agree with. I very much want to keep Democratic seats, and I understand her approach as someone running in WV.  But it should represent one extreme of policy views, not the center (I would not be ok with this "brilliance" being the accepted norm from D politicians).

      We can and will meet our energy needs without this relic from the 19th century. What I call brilliant is the work of those laying out stategies for 100% renewables (or at minimum 100% non-CO2-emitting) energy sources. Move the Overton window, make progress, move it again.  That's who I cheer.

      Will we need to negotiate with those like Tenant, who are at the other end of the window? Probably. I would accept some small amount of CCS in return for more-rapid retirement of many, many other coal plants.

      But we can't internalize her position into our starting point. If we do, we will just end up negotiating away even more in the end.

      The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these O me, O life? Answer. That you are here–that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. - Whitman

      by 350Energy on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 07:16:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Her position that coal will always be used (0+ / 0-)

        is unrealistic.  That's something I would accept today only from someone in a handful of states (WV being at the top of that list).  As I said, we need to be working on elimination ASAP.  That said, it's going to take a while, and in the meanwhile we should also be mitigating as much as possible.

        Right now, her position is a little left of the center of the Overton window, although it's at the right edge of the Democratic party.  

        Minimizing cumulative global carbon emissions, and building a net negative carbon economy should be our goal.  The U.S. could lead on this issue, the only obstacle is politics.  If we get folks pulling in the same direction, we can do this.  Tennant's gambit is likely to pull folks who are off in the weeds in the left direction.  

        Policy Program: 1)Massively reduced energy consumption (all sectors) via efficiency and local renewable energy (passive and active), 2)Massively increased transmission in U.S. and Canada to allow more efficient dispatch and resource sharing, 3)Massively increased cost-effective renewable generation (mostly utility scale wind, and MW scale rooftop PV), 4)Communication and Control systems for massive demand response, 5)Grid scale, 24 hour hydro capacity to replace intermittent resources: New off-stream (to reduce environmental impact) Pumped storage, new or additional turbines on existing dams, and addition of pumped storage capability to existing hydro schemes, and control of existing conventional hydro for energy storage, 6)Ammonia storage for potential long term grid deficit (equivalent of a few weeks of grid output), created by solid-state ammonia synthesis, reversed for fuel cell generation at low levels of need, used in existing natural gas combined-cycle plants for significant cumulative deficit, 7)Electrification of direct combustion uses, 8)OTR Truck freight to rail (massive rail and signal/control investment), 9)Urban transit, intercity HSR, biodiesel or syndiesel jets, 10)Plug-in strong hybrids transitioning to all-electric. 11)Carbon capture from seawater, and sequestration as simple liquid hydrocarbon (with geologic storage).

        Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

        by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 08:12:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The difference (0+ / 0-)

        Is that you assume coal will be replaced. What if it isn't? What then?

        Having some type of process that eliminates carbon dioxide from coal would do wonders for cutting back CO2 from today's level.

        Your idea of replacing coal with renewables is ideal. I hope you get there.  But what if you are wrong?

        What if the EIA prognosis is correct and we continue to supply between 30 and 40% of the worlds energy by burning this "relic of the 19th Century?"

        That is where her brilliance comes through.  We can't wait! We need to do both! If the current trend continues of ignoring coal, such as even expressed by people here in some comments, it will result (if no changes are made), in having up to 40% of our energy kick CO2 out the gazoo into our atmosphere.

        WE have to tackle coal..

  •  Coal: Nature's Carbon Sequestration Program (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    350Energy, unfangus, deepeco

    The coal that we burn today became coal starting about 400 million years ago.  The US has been blessed/cursed with more coal reserves than any other country in the world (Wikipedia) with 27% of the world's total.

    Coal is the worst carbon pollutant (

    Pounds of CO2 emitted per million Btu of energy for various fuels:

    Coal (anthracite)    228.6
    Coal (bituminous)    205.7
    Coal (lignite)    215.4
    Coal (subbituminous)    214.3
    Diesel fuel & heating oil    161.3
    Gasoline    157.2
    Propane    139.0
    Natural gas    117.0

    Large scale renewable forms of energy (primarily wind and solar) are most easily turned into electricity, and we need to build them as quickly as possible to replace coal produced electricity.  As fast as we can build solar and wind, we should retire our coal fleet entirely.

    The "good" news is that coal plants are already being closed by the hundreds all across the country.  This is almost entirely due to the current low cost of natural gas that has been brought about by widespread fracking.  

    But that is problematic too because natural gas is methane and pound for pound, methane is an even worse greenhouse gas than CO2.  Methane is, however, a "short lived" pollutant as it eventually oxidizes to become CO2 (it only lasts  about 12 years in the atmosphere - on average where-as CO2 is essentially forever).  More natural gas production is resulting in more methane leakage into the atmosphere.

    I know West Virginia and I really feel for the people of that state.  It is already a poor state and what we have to do is only going to make them poorer.  Whatever actions we take, prudent governmental relief needs to be appropriated to fundamentally change the economic model of West Virginia.  WV is a beautiful state.  Maybe we should all take vacations there (I know that won't change things fundamentally).

    But the United States must lead.  Inevitably, leading means changing the status quo, and that means telling someone somewhere in our country to stop doing what they are doing, and this is inevitably going to fall harder on West Virginians than almost anyone else.  

    If we, the world's largest energy consumers (per capita) with the world's largest reserve of coal tell the world that we are going to leave it in the ground - ALL OF IT, FOREVER - we would get the world's attention.  We would then have the basis for obtaining a comprehensive international agreement on limiting greenhouse gasses that would actually have a chance of saving the planet from devastating climate change.

    Scientists are not certain whether or not we may have already triggered an irreversible cycle of excessive global warming.  I'm one that votes we at least try in the hopes that it isn't already too late.

    You matter to them IF YOU VOTE!

    by nuketeacher on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 06:10:10 AM PDT

    •  Massive and rapid wind buildout (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, nuketeacher

      would be a very effective way of quickly reducing GHG emissions, albeit not to zero, yes.

      I'd like to see the U.S. go carbon negative, and that is physically and financially possible.  It isn't possible tomorrow.

      2014 coal burned for electricity in the U.S. is up over 2012 and 2013 after gas prices for generation spiked due to high usage and (eventually) low storage this past winter.  Even despite record storage rebuilding we are still below the 5 year average storage at this time of year.

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 06:37:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't ignore solar (0+ / 0-)

        Here's the deal: Solar is great for daytime but naturally sucks at night.  A lot of people think that this is a major problem for solar.

        Well, it isn't really a problem now, and we do NOT need a whole bunch of storage for night time.  The reason is that electrical consumption is very heavy in the day WHEN THE SUN IS SHINING.  In fact, a large reason for this is because THE SUN IS SHINING, causing air conditioning loads to be very high.

        Solar would have to become the dominant electrical producer before the need for storage would become an issue.

        The rapid declines in prices for solar collectors are causing it to get closer and closer to cost parity with other forms of electricity.  It isn't really there yet, but with government tax incentives it actually is, as long as you leave the cost of storage out of the equation.

        I hope for the day when government incentives are not required for solar to be cost competitive.  It is getting closer and closer every day.

        You matter to them IF YOU VOTE!

        by nuketeacher on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 08:30:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm a power engineer (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I've installed PV as an electrician, I've handled utility interconnection of numerous PV projects (from residential scale to transmission scale) as a utility engineer, and I've worked on utility integration of solar tower thermal.

          I consider utility scale solar and residential scale solar suboptimal for different reasons.  I prefer 100kw to 2MW scale commercial rooftop PV, and as balance of system costs come down and subsidies diminish, I would like to see quick penetration to about 20% of grid energy consumption (higher % of daytime demand) assuming continuing progress on flicker, voltage control, grid disturbance ride-thru, grid regulation issues, and on demand response and DG dispatch.  We aren't there yet.  Subsidies are still massive.  We're also wasting a lot of money on how we are incentivizing wind.  Both of those things are primarily about politics, rather than technology.

          Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

          by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 08:43:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My preferred model for (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            wind involves federal ownership and a carbon tax, and no PTC.  That isn't going to happen, so next best would be co-op and muni ownership and a carbon tax.  Next best would be regulated ownership and a carbon tax.  Last best (but better than nothing) is what we've got, with no carbon tax, PTC to subsidize bankers, unregulated ownership, and RPS.

            Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

            by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 08:51:41 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  40% of energy (0+ / 0-)

      can't be replaced with a swish of a magic wand.

      16.5 quadrillion BTUs of energy were supplied by coal in the US in 2013....

      The U.S. produced .697 Quadrillion Btu of energy from wind in 2009, which accounted for 1.0% of U.S. power generation for that year.

      Wind, Solar, and other would need to make up a deficit that is 23. 4 times greater than all the output we had of wind in 2009.

       If it took 10 years for wind to reach 1%, growing at the same rate it would take 400 years to reach 40%...  Growing at the same rate.  Now we are discovering that the rare earth mineral required for these wind mills and solar panels is in short supply.

      The pie in the sky dreams of an all renewable energy source may happen, but 400 years is a long time. The earth may be like Mars by that time, devoid of an atmosphere ...  

      We can't ignore coal. We need to find a way to use it better, and quickly spread that around.

      •  While I would like to see carbon sinks (0+ / 0-)

        actively pursued, not just in relation to coal, I think you are overstating your case a bit here.

        Renewables were 13% of power produced in the U.S. in 2013.  Nuclear and renewables combined were only slightly less than coal.

        Renewables will continue to grow strongly and offset fossil fuel use.  We will achieve faster progress in mitigating climate damage if we also pursue carbon sequestration, including, but not limited to, sequestration associated with coal plants.

        Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

        by benamery21 on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 06:48:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you for the link (0+ / 0-)

          As you can see,  a  lot has happened in renewables since 2009, my data.

          And for fun, currently renewables and nuclear are 32%.  Coal is 39%.....The US currently has 100 reactors scattered across 65 nuclear plants. 4 were closed for being dangerous and outdated. Vermont and New York each want to close one down as well.

          It would then take 65 nuclear plants to double the output to meet coals demand.  These plants take years and it is highly unlikely that anymore growth here will happen.....

          Therefore one must triple the renewables to remove coal from polluting. That too is highly unlikely.  At the current maximum growth rate, that has been consistent since 2008, it would take over 25 years to triple renewables' capacity.  

          So you are correct.  Doing something about coal right now, will impact CO2 far more than hastening the growth of alternative sources...  And that is why Natalie Tannant was so brilliant to see that... before either you, or me.

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