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Energy Secretary Chu Endorses "Clean Coal" 464

Posted by timothy
from the was-then-is-now dept.
DesScorp writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Energy Secretary Steven Chu is endorsing 'clean coal' technology and research, and is taking a pragmatic approach to coal as an energy supply. '"It absolutely is worthwhile to invest in carbon capture and storage because we are not in a vacuum," Mr. Chu told reporters Tuesday following an appearance at an Energy Information Administration conference. "Even if the United States or Europe turns its back on coal, India and China will not," he said. Mr. Chu added that "quite frankly I doubt if the United States will turn its back on coal. We are generating over 50% of our electrical energy from coal."' The United States has the world's largest reserves of coal. Secretary Chu has reversed his positions on coal and nuclear power, previously opposing them, and once calling coal 'My worst nightmare.'"
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Energy Secretary Chu Endorses "Clean Coal"

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  • "Clean Coal" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gringofrijolero (1489395) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:26PM (#27589561) Journal

    Oxymoron of the century.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      (Score:0, Troll)

      The president of North American Coal has mod points today. Fine, let's put you downstream from the mine, and then you can tell me how "clean" your coal is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gnick (1211984)

        Clean coal is clearly an oxymoron - There's no such thing as clean coal.

        Just like there's no such thing as clean nuclear (gotta do something with that waste), clean wind (service roads are a bitch and transporting energy requires infrastructure), clean sun (break-even on solar panels just sucks, but ovens and water-heaters are OK), etc...

        We've got tons of coal that's (relatively) easy to mine and (if not clean) not nearly as bad as it used to be and its environmental impact isn't all that much worse than a

        • Re:"Clean Coal" (Score:5, Informative)

          by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:57PM (#27589981) Journal

          Just like there's no such thing as clean nuclear (gotta do something with that waste)

          Actually, the French [wikipedia.org] have been recycling [wikipedia.org] their spent nuclear fuel for years.

          • Re:"Clean Coal" (Score:5, Informative)

            by resonance378 (1169393) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:26PM (#27590403)
            From the recycling article regarding the US and reprocessing. "In October 1976, fear of nuclear weapons proliferation (especially after India demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities using reprocessing technology) led President Gerald Ford to issue a Presidential directive to indefinitely suspend the commercial reprocessing and recycling of plutonium in the U.S. This was confirmed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. After that, only countries that already had large investments in reprocessing infrastructure continued to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. President Reagan lifted the ban in 1981, but did not provide the substantial subsidy that would have been necessary to start up commercial reprocessing."
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dbIII (701233)
            If you actually had read a little more about the reprocessing efforts in France you would not be holding them up as a shining example. Still, it is a start, deals with the worst of the waste, and someone has to make the messy and expensive mistakes first.
            For permanant storage there is also things like Synrock - but anyone that suggests the entire waste problem has been solved is either lying to sell something or has been fooled. The answer is that instead of pretending that it all happens by magic and is
          • nuclear power (Score:3, Informative)

            by falconwolf (725481)

            Just like there's no such thing as clean nuclear (gotta do something with that waste)

            Actually, the French [wikipedia.org] have been recycling [wikipedia.org] their spent nuclear fuel for years.

            And "France Acknowledges Massive Radioactive Pollution at La Hague [naturalscience.com]".
            Or "PRESS RELEASE" [ieer.org]
            "Vice-President Cheney Wrong About French Nuclear Repository Program, Independent Institute Asserts"
            "French Public's Opposition to Nuclear Waste Repositories as Deep as that in the United States"

            Then there's the matter of whether nuclear power is profitable.

        • Re:"Clean Coal" (Score:5, Informative)

          by bjourne (1034822) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:12PM (#27590183) Homepage Journal

          We've got tons of coal that's (relatively) easy to mine and (if not clean) not nearly as bad as it used to be and its environmental impact isn't all that much worse than a lot of the "green" sources.

          Bullshit. [wikipedia.org]

        • Re:"Clean Coal" (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Smidge204 (605297) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:28PM (#27590441) Journal

          Perhaps if you understood what's "dirty" about coal power, the term "clean coal" would make more sense.

          =Smidge=

        • Just like there's no such thing as ... clean sun (break-even on solar panels just sucks,...

          Photovoltaic cells actually reach energy breakeven (more energy out than it took to build them) after only a couple years (depending on technology). Claims that it took more than the life of the panel proved bogus.

          But that's not the point.

          The purpose of the panels (and their supporting systems of mounts, batteries, inverters, ..) is to deliver high-quality electric energy to a location. As such the proper comparison

        • Re:"Clean Coal" (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Maxmin (921568) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @07:16PM (#27592493)

          We've got tons of coal that's (relatively) easy to mine and (if not clean) not nearly as bad as it used to be and its environmental impact isn't all that much worse than a lot of the "green" sources.

          Oh, is that [nytimes.com] really true [nytimes.com]?

          Coal mining is a major environmental catastrophe, always has been, always will be. Blowing the tops off mountains to get at it, and parking the burn waste right on the edge of rivers, it's hard for it not to be.

          Now, if Mr. Chu can turn around those practices, I'll applaud him. But nothing I've heard so far leads me to believe they'll address things beyond cap-and-trade.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumPion (805098)

      Obama's definition of Clean Coal = raise taxes on regular coal, and claim that selling carbon credits to non-producing third world countries somehow reduces overall pollution.

  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:27PM (#27589567)

    The dirtier the fly ash.

  • by ivan256 (17499) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:28PM (#27589583)

    ...ideology meets reality.

    • by TheMeuge (645043) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:38PM (#27589715)

      Ideology is all well and good... but the whole concept of a "progressive" president having an energy secretary that claims to oppose nuclear power as well as coal, is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard.

      Renewable energy is all well and good, but the fact is that at the moment, it's not going to provide us with all the energy that we need. So while we should be adapting our infrastructure to support more renewable resources (solar, I am looking at you), we cannot afford to forget that it is nuclear power that promises us the quickest (and cleanest) way to combat our oil dependency. Furthermore, as far as I am concerned, burning any petroleum-derived products for electricity generation borders on the criminal, because while we have plenty of other ways to spin the turbines when the oil runs out, we're going to be deeply screwed when it comes to producing something we've come to take for granted in the modern age - plastics.

      • I know, I know. One should not burn (or transmogrify) one's food. I am just saying corn can be used to make plastic.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        We can always produce plastics from other substances, too... like castor oil [autobloggreen.com].

        • by TheMeuge (645043)

          We can always produce plastics from other substances, too... like castor oil [autobloggreen.com].

          Certainly we can. But at what cost, and on what kind of scale?

          The fact that you can do something in the lab, doesn't make it feasible for global adoption.

      • Chu is not Anti-Nuke (Score:5, Informative)

        by sampson7 (536545) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:32PM (#27590511)

        Chu is not anti-nuke. I don't know where you got that idea, but Secretary Chu has long been a proponent of nuclear power. From a 2005 interview with UC Berkeley's Bonnie Azab Powell:

        Question: Should fission-based nuclear power plants be made a bigger part of the energy-producing portfolio?

        Chu: Absolutely. Right now about 20 percent of our power comes from nuclear; there have been no new nuclear plants built since the early '70s. The real rational fears against nuclear power are about the long-term waste problem and [nuclear] proliferation. The technology of separating [used fuel from still-viable fuel] and putting the good stuff back in to the reactor can also be used to make bomb material.

        And then there's the waste problem: with future nuclear power plants, we've got to recycle the waste. Why? Because if you take all the waste we have now from our civilian and military nuclear operations, we'd fill up Yucca Mountain. ... So we need three or four Yucca Mountains. Well, we don't have three or four Yucca Mountains. The other thing is that storing the fuel at Yucca Mountain is supposed to be safe for 10,000 years. But the current best estimates - and these are really estimates, the Lab's in fact - is that the metal casings [containing the waste] will probably fail on a scale of 5,000 years, plus or minus 2. That's still a long time, and then after that the idea was that the very dense rock, very far away from the water table will contain it, so that by the time it finally leaks down to the water table and gets out the radioactivity will have mostly decayed.

        Suppose instead that we can reduce the lifetime of the radioactive waste by a factor of 1,000. So it goes from a couple-hundred-thousand-year problem to a thousand-year problem. At a thousand years, even though that's still a long time, it's in the realm that we can monitor - we don't need Yucca Mountain.

        Question: And all of a sudden the risk-benefit equation looks pretty good for nuclear.

        Chu: Right now, compared to conventional coal, it looks good - what are the lesser of two evils? But if we can reduce the volume and the lifetime of the waste, that would tip it very much against conventional coal.

    • by doconnor (134648)

      What's going to happen when the reality of America's dependence fossil fuels meets the reality of climate change?

      • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:44PM (#27589801) Journal

        What's going to happen when the reality of America's dependence fossil fuels meets the reality of climate change?

        We'll fully commit ourselves to nuclear and finally have the ammo we need to silence the anti-nuclear crowd?

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:32PM (#27590505) Journal
          I don't think the pro-nuclear crowd has been short of ammo since a little after August 9, 1945...
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        What's going to happen when the reality of America's dependence fossil fuels meets the reality of climate change?

        The answer is obvious, unless I'm missing something. Rich countries will cope with climate change and poor countries will suffer.

        I am not a global warming denier, but I've come to the conclusion that we aren't going to stop it. You'll never get developing countries on board, and the one resource more plentiful than fossil fuel is undeveloped countries.

        So what do we do? Try to estimate the burn rate, model what happens when all the CO2 goes into the air, and prepare our infrastructure for whatever comes out

        • by dc29A (636871) *

          I guess we (rich countries) could also try to suck CO2 out of the air, but I haven't yet seen a proven method.

          Trees?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes, exactly - we're seeing what happens when the ideology of ignorant "Business As Usual" fossil fuel guzzling nimrods meets the stark implacable reality of resource depletion.
    • by lewiscr (3314)
      No. This is what I want to happen when ideology meets reality. He could've gone all GreenPeace on us. Then we'd be really screwed.
    • If you RTFA, the summary is pretty inaccurate. His shift on coal was at most relatively minor, from "I don't know if this can happen" to "If it can happen, it will take a long time to develop." On nuclear, his opinions haven't changed at all. I think his statements contain a remarkable amount of sense.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bwahahaha.. where's your change now!

  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:30PM (#27589605)

    I understand that there is no such thing as truly clean coal, but what is so bad about trying to produce cleaner coal for electricity generation?
    Yes I do support nuclear, but we are pretty efficient at digging up and combusting coal. Why not work harder to scrub it better and deliver more electricity for the plug in hybrids?

    • Global warming (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mangu (126918) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:34PM (#27589667)

      what is so bad about trying to produce cleaner coal for electricity generation?

      In one formula, CO2. Coal is the fuel that produces more CO2 per joule than any other energy source.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wjousts (1529427)
        See Carbon sequestration [wikipedia.org]
        • Re:Global warming (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:11PM (#27590163) Journal

          See Carbon sequestration

          I think the problem with carbon sequestration is that most of the schemes don't pass a sense check. Perhaps if someone were to present a detailed proposal about how it works, I might buy it. However, all of the proposals I've read don't make any sense.

          Examples:
          Bury the CO2 - Why won't it leak back up to the surface?
          Bury Plant Matter - Why not burn the plants instead of coal?
          Convert CO2 into some other chemical, and bury that - The laws of thermodynamics would like to have a word with you.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hedwards (940851)

          And can you point to anywhere in the world where they're actually doing that to a substantial degree? I know there's a few plants in China that are doing trapping some for use in soft drinks, but nobody is doing in on the scale that's necessary to make it clean. And even then the savings are mainly the amount that would be released creating the gas.

          Other forms of power plant are doing so, but I'm not aware of any large scale trials, let alone actual use, of this particular technology. And I'd go so far to s

      • Re:Global warming (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:43PM (#27589785) Journal

        In one formula, CO2. Coal is the fuel that produces more CO2 per joule than any other energy source.

        I guess you missed the part where he said we need to invest in carbon capture and pointed out that even if we abandon coal (not likely but let's assume so for the sake of the argument) that the Chinese and Indians won't? Seems to me that if we can make carbon capture work we can sell it to them and get some exports going once again. What's not to like?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by homer_s (799572)
          I guess you missed the part where he said we need to invest in carbon capture and pointed out that even if we abandon coal (not likely but let's assume so for the sake of the argument) that the Chinese and Indians won't? Seems to me that if we can make carbon capture work we can sell it to them and get some exports going once again

          You're assuming that we Indians would want the carbon capture technology. Al Gore is not a huge box office draw in India.
          • by Shakrai (717556)

            You're assuming that we Indians would want the carbon capture technology. Al Gore is not a huge box office draw in India.

            He will be when you have massive famines and can't feed your population. Most of the studies I've read suggest that India won't make out very well if we encounter runaway global warming.....

      • Re:Global warming (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tyr.1358 (1441099) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:37PM (#27590591)
        Absolutely right. CO2 is the one chemical that can't seem to be scrubbed out. I work for Babcock Power, and I can tell you that Alcoa Is working with us on some technology to handle that. But the guys I know working in that department say that the technology is at least 7 years away. Management won't task more of us on the project either. We sell systems that we can guarantee will remove 98% of mercury, several SOX, carbon, sulfur and Sulphuric Acid, aluminum, but not CO2. It's the one thing left coming out of smoke stacks in america. I love how we sell 90 of these things every year but people keep complaining that there is no clean coal. After we get rid of the CO2 I swear I expect them to complain about the water vapor next. And no that was not a joke. I would like to point out that the real problem is in how the government classifies a station as "clean". Lets say that power company a has 30 stations. They each generate "points" on a point system developed by the feds. There is a chart that says they must have a certain number of points, depending on the number of stations, that will qualify them to be clean. These companies will invest in our systems to the minimum extent possible to qualify, and then leave the other stations dirty. It is usually less than half of their systems. There is so much I could tell you guys, I had no idea you were interested in clean power. I thought this was a technology site, but I guess it is more broad than that. BTW those wikipedia articles are almost completely wrong, the systems I am working on don't work anything like how they describe, not even close. The ones from our competitors don't work that way either. If those articles are what slashdot is basing it's opinions on I can understand why there is so much confusion. The funny thing is that we are based in MA, and we are selling more of these in the middle east than we are here in the US. They pay us in gold. Real gold. They have so much money floating around over there that they can invest in hundreds of these systems every year, and that is where the real innovation is happening. The power industry in India far outpaces our own, it's actually amazing how much work they have done in the last two decades. If the point system went away, if a legislator grew the balls to do it that is, then all of the power grid in america could be clean within 5 years. The problem is they don't have to buy any more than they need to qualify for the tax credit. That is equivalent to Toyota only putting in enough seat belts to qualify for a tax credit, instead of putting them in every seat because it is the right thing to do.
    • by DrMrLordX (559371) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:40PM (#27589751)

      One of the problems is mining of coal. That isn't as clean or safe as it could (or should) be. The mass strip mine operations have given way to mountaintop removal which gets really ugly if the mining company can't (or won't) control runoff from the site. That's a very good way for people's water supply to turn orange if they use local wellwater for anything.

      The other problem is the amount of energy it takes to store up CO2 somewhere. Realistically speaking we're going to need lots of dense (preferably mineral) carbon in the future for when carbon nanotubes (and similar carbon nanomaterials) take off, and burning coal sort of makes it harder to utilize all the raw carbon locked inside. Anthracite can be up to 98% pure carbon. Converting all that into CO2 + energy and then attempting to produce nanotubes from all that CO2 is sort of backwards. Better just to harvest all the raw carbon and throw the rest away.

      Understandably that is a different application than energy production but coal will be one of the most attractive sources of carbon for nanotubes in my opinion (up there with graphite).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jbeaupre (752124)
        To make something like nanotubes, you need very pure precursor chemicals. 98% pure isn't nearly pure enough. To get a really pure carbon source, you need to do some sort of fractional distillation. Methane, ethane, etc. So you're looking at sourcing from natural gas, oil, or a synthetic made from coal. Alternately, you can capture CO2 and work a bit of chemical magic there. But anthracite doesn't offer any advantages.
    • If "clean coal" is not an oxymoron, I can't imagine what is. But given the sad fact that coal powers the world, and that change comes incrementally, some R&D on the subject seems like a good thing.

      I'll go on the record as a supporter of clean coal, if it ever comes into being. And cold fusion, too. I'd even support perpetual motion.

    • by ComputerInsultant (722520) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:43PM (#27589795)
      The problem here is that utilities are currently trying to build new "Clean Coal" generating plants that have no carbon capture at all.

      The "Clean Coal" phrase as Chu used it in the article is very different than the "Clean Coal" phrase used by my local utility trying to build a new plant. I would not mind Chu's "Clean Coal", but I do not want what the utilities are currently calling "Clean Coal".
    • by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:47PM (#27589847) Journal

      Why not work harder to scrub it better and deliver more electricity for the plug in hybrids?

      I don't think scrubbing the exhaust of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions is the controversial part, it's the carbon. At the end of the day, coal is nearly pure carbon. As you likely know, burning carbon produces carbon dioxide. This is very alarming to those who are concerned about global warming.

      Unfortunately, the coal industry only has one solution for the global warming crowd. They suggest we bury the carbon dioxide underground. [wikipedia.org] This in itself is controversial, because nobody knows if it will work on such a massive scale.

      Personally, I don't see how they will store it underground without it leaking to the surface. If you are going to store carbon, it's best to store it as coal, or in some sort of plant matter.

    • by doconnor (134648) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:47PM (#27589859) Homepage

      One the problem with "clean" coal is the radioactive waste. For the amount of energy produced, coal created more radioactive waste then nuclear. The difference is it is mixed in with tons and tons of chemically toxic ash, so there is no way of ever disposing of it safely. For nuclear energy the waste is conveniently concentrated and small enough it can be disposed of safely in stable rock.

      Perhaps if we mixed the waste from our reactors with coal ash, people won't be so worried about it.

    • There is definitely nothing wrong with funding more research. The fact is that we have tons of coal plants that aren't going away any time soon - it would be great if we could retrofit these plants. Furthermore, even if people lost their fear of nuclear power, we still couldn't build them fast enough to keep up with demand due to the longer planning and approval processes required. So even with wind, solar, geothermal and nuclear, we are going to have to build more coal plants to keep up with demand.

      The pro

  • This is all political posturing at best motivated by some poll taken in a coal district. There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal. Anyone connected to coal or coal mining who supports Obama would be about as foolish as a gay guy supporting Pat Buchanan.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal.

      Nonsense. They follow the money, just like any other. What is there that's convinced you otherwise?

    • There's NO way this administration would ever actually do anything to support coal

      Care to make it interesting? They said that about wiretaps too (among other issues Obama's reversed himself on).

      Fact is, there's no other energy technology available that can be widely implemented during Obama's administration, even if he's re-elected. You can't build nuclear plants that fast. Solar and wind aren't ready for wide-scale connection to the grid.

      So guess what? You're back to good old coal, with a few twist

      • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:51PM (#27589897) Journal

        You can't build nuclear plants that fast

        Why can't we? Would it have anything to do with the fact that the enviro-nazis and NIMBY bastards successfully stymied the construction of new plants back in the 70s and 80s and in so doing left zero incentive for American industry to retain the plant and equipment to build reactors?

        I read somewhere that there's only one steelworks in the world that's capable of forging the reactor containment walls and they have years of back orders on the books. Of course it didn't used to be that way but the various anti-nuclear movements drove down demand to the point that it wasn't profitable for other steelworks to retain the equipment to produce them. Other parts of the supply chain have been equally impacted.

        Congratulations environmentalists -- you ripped the heart out of the only energy source that could have weaned us off carbon in our lifetimes. Seems a bit shortsighted in retrospect, doesn't it?

        • I generally agree that environmentalists have screwed the planet pretty good on nuclear power, but I think charging them with the crime of driving some steelworks out of business might be a bit off.

          I think the deal is really more that steelworks that could make really thick plates just aren't used that much anymore, and I'd bet principally because the world's warships don't use thick steel plates. While, granted, I would feel a lot safer behind a very thick armor belt as found in an Iowa class battleship, than in a different ship, current naval protection doctrine eschews passive protection in favor of active protection. Instead of armouring ships, you build loads of anti-missile system, electronic warfare, and you also try to avoid detection.

          But once Navy's made that switch, they didn't need the uber thick plates, and really, they were the only really big customers. Other people that use armor of some kind, such as tanks, tend to layer it up with different things - like composites.

          Without the military driving the creation of foot thick plates, who really needs to do it? I really do try and think, just why I would a foot thick steel plate...

        • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:36PM (#27590575) Journal

          Congratulations environmentalists -- you ripped the heart out of the only energy source that could have weaned us off carbon in our lifetimes. Seems a bit shortsighted in retrospect, doesn't it?

          Yes, it's the environmentalists that got us into this mess. Back then, they were saying that nuclear will kill us all. The debate was over.

          Now they are making the same arguments about carbon while adding "but THIS time, we are right!"

        • by winwar (114053) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @04:47PM (#27590743)

          "Would it have anything to do with the fact that the enviro-nazis and NIMBY bastards successfully stymied the construction of new plants back in the 70s and 80s and in so doing left zero incentive for American industry to retain the plant and equipment to build reactors?"

          Nope. It's the cost thingy. It costs big bucks to build a nuclear plant. As a result the power is expensive. So you have to be sure you will need the energy and the price will be competitive in decades to come. And there still is that annoying waste issue.

          It's cheaper to pay people to use less energy (efficiency), build coal plants or add wind or solar in small increments.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by shermo (1284310)

            I find it hard to believe that a capital intensive project like a nuclear power plant would have been economically viable in the 70s but isn't now. Of course this is assuming nuclear plants in the 70s were economically viable, and weren't subsidized.

            To be economically viable basically means cheaper than base load coal, since both stations produce inflexible base load supply. Short run marginal cost is a far larger component in long run marginal costs for coal plants than nuclear plants.

            So in a world of fall

  • by gringofrijolero (1489395) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:32PM (#27589639) Journal

    Will "clean coal" provide health care for the miners? Will it eliminate those nasty, dangerous sludge ponds that occasionally break through their retaining walls? For some reason I doubt it.

    • by the_humeister (922869) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:36PM (#27589687)

      You could say the same about almost any energy capture technology we have right now. Dams destroy river ecosystems. Solar panel production requires nasty chemicals, and their disposal is even worse. Wind farms kill birds. The list could go on.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        There's more to solar [icneer.org] than photovoltaic. In fact, that form will be a niche market for a long time.

        The bird thing is pure BS. Besides the turbines can be placed far offshore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745)

        Industrial Solar Thermal as very little environmental impact..very little.

        Modern Nuclear power generators such as IFRs produce very little waste. The waste it does create has a half life of 90 years. Meaning in about 200 years it's back to background radiation levels.

        So we do have an answer available now.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Will "clean coal" provide health care for the miners?

      Probably more than abandoning coal and thus eliminating the mining jobs.

      Will it eliminate those nasty, dangerous sludge ponds that occasionally break through their retaining walls?

      There's probably an engineering solution to that, and I doubt that stopping the maintenance of the existing ponds (when the plants are closed) will make them stop bursting.

      I'm not a big fan of coal plants, mind you - but I don't buy into your arguments. Issues with employee benefits and waste management are completely separate issues and will affect any power-production industry. Solar panel and turbine production involves all sorts of

  • Clean Coal (Score:5, Funny)

    by Vainglorious Coward (267452) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:34PM (#27589669) Journal

    Jumbo Shrimp
    Military Intelligence
    Civil Disobedience
    Evaporated Milk
    Fresh Cheese
    Political Science
    Reality TV
    White Chocolate
    Clean Coal

  • by NaCh0 (6124) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:36PM (#27589689)

    By today's standards, anything they build will be cleaner than the 25+ year old plants. Cut some of the nuclear lawsuit shit and maybe we'd have options other than coal.

  • It turns out that coal lobbyists were his worst nightmare.

  • Chu who? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:36PM (#27589697)

    Pfft... call me when one of the big-wigs endorses it, not their secretary.

  • Reality hits (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thule (9041) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:44PM (#27589809) Homepage

    Well, well. Some truth about energy! Amazing. Lets take this a bit further and say that if certain groups haven't scared the hell out of people about nuclear, we wouldn't have so many coal plants in the US. We could be selling the coal to other countries. :)

  • by Hemogoblin (982564) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:45PM (#27589815)

    From reading the Economist, I've the impression that clean coal isn't actually that great. Check out these two articles:

    The illusion of clean coal [economist.com]

    Trouble in store [economist.com]

    Despite all this enthusiasm, however, there is not a single big power plant using CCS anywhere in the world. Utilities refuse to build any, since the technology is expensive and unproven. Advocates insist that the price will come down with time and experience, but it is hard to say by how much, or who should bear the extra cost in the meantime. Green pressure groups worry that captured carbon will eventually leak. In short, the world's leaders are counting on a fix for climate change that is at best uncertain and at worst unworkable.

    Aside, the WSJ isn't really giving us any new information, is it? Obama was advocating CCS during the election, so is it really surprising that his secretary is now advocating it?

  • Everything is hard and complicated. Excellent leadership! So kidding everything is hard and complex. Which is why somebody has to make a decision and point us in the direction to accomplish it.
  • by Taibhsear (1286214) on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @03:52PM (#27589919)

    Stop burning coal. This isn't the industrial revolution. It's 2009 for pete's sake. Breeder reactors. Pull your superstitions out of your brain and your heads out of your asses. B-R-E-E-D-E-R R-E-A-C-T-O-R-S!

  • In short, he's saying that we can't just drop coal and switch over to alternate sources at the drop of the hat, and we can't make other countries do so, so investing in carbon sequestering technologies is necessary. It seems like a perfectly reasonable position. I don't support coal, and greatly support wind, solar, and nuclear (in that order), but I can't reasonably expect our entire power infrastructure to switch over in years, much less decades.

  • of my co-op at a refinery. there was an entire block of the plant that just sat idle, did nothing, and smelled horrible. my boss told me it was
    an old coal-tar extraction plant designed to extract the oil from coal circa 1980. it never panned out to anything more than $4 a gallon gas in 1980, and
    was scrapped conveniently keeping the federal funds injected to bring it to fruition.

    they had also tried "steam assisted flares" to reduce ozone depleting emissions around that time...which of course made the smok

  • Secretary Chu has reversed his positions on coal and nuclear power, previously opposing them

    Wouldn't it have just been better to have been right in the first place?

  • Clean coal is a dead end for two reasons:

    Firstly in order to capture and sequester the CO2 you make the energy much more costly, approaching wind power and surpassing nuclear by quite a bit.

    Secondly, the period of time the CO2 needs to be sequestered securely in order to avoid having a large impact on the climate is on the order of magnitude of ten thousand years, which is longer than properly reprocessed nuclear fuel. Also, the fly-ash remains toxic indefinitely.

    So basically you have to ask yourself if cle

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <.gro.todhsals. .ta. .deteled.> on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @05:19PM (#27591247)

    ... is the full name of that guy perhaps Mr. Chu Thulu?

If a subordinate asks you a pertinent question, look at him as if he had lost his senses. When he looks down, paraphrase the question back at him.

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