Clean coal

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"Clean coal" is a term coined by industry and government to describe as yet proven methods of burning coal for producing energy with reduced carbon emissions. The term is actually misleading as burning coal for energy will never result in zero emissions.

The term "clean coal" is also used interchangeable with "carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)".

The are numerous concerns about the use of this term, including:

  • CCS is not yet proven and there is a high risk that it will not actually be possible or viable
  • Carbon dioxide escaping from underground scores could be lethal
  • The United States government recently pulled its participation and funding from the clean coal/CCS pilot project called FutureGen.
  • Burying (sequestering) huge amounts of liquefied CO2 is unlikely to be possible, and keeping it there will be problematic
  • There will be high energy costs (and more emissions) to pump CO2 from sources such as power stations to locations where it may be stored.
  • It will be very expensive to develop and deploy - probably more expensive than proven renewable zero emission solutions such as wind, solar and geothermal energy within 5 to 10 years.
  • Much more coal will have to be burnt to power CCS (up to 30% more)
  • It will never be zero emission
  • It is highly unlikely CCS technology (if it works) will be able to be retrofitted to existing coal fired power stations - these should be decommissioned.
  • Government funding and effort expended on "clean coal" will detract from that for proven renewable energy technologies that are available now
  • The coal industry should be funding CCS, not the taxpayer
  • CCS, if it can be made to work, won't be available for deployment earlier than 2020 (possibly even 2030) so it would be to late to reduce emissions over the next two decades - which is arguably now the critical period
  • We need to set a roadmap to exit from coal fired power, not go looking for reasons and excuses to keep burning it.

Some groups claiming to be "for the environment" such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Climate Institute have recently endorsed "clean coal" and "CCS" as viable options for addressing climate change and receiving government funding.

It is a concern that such groups are participating in industry and government spin which will hijack and confuse real action to address climate change, the end result of which could be catastrophic.

It is inappropriate for governments to fund and promote CCS as a viable solution for climate change that is on par with genuine zero emission renewable energy options such as wind and solar.

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