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Another Setback for "Clean Coal" - Sierra Daily
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Sierra Daily

Nov 11, 2011

Another Setback for "Clean Coal"

Sad ponyThe enduring promise of "clean coal"--previously compared in this space to a Magic Pony--also has a lot in common with the White Queen's promise of jam to Alice in Through the Looking Glass: "The rule is--jam to-morrow, but never jam today." Clean coal, to coal boosters, is always just around the corner--except that now it's just around the next corner, or maybe the one after that. As reported in the New York Times, the leading U.S. effort to capture CO2 from coal-burning power plants, FutureGen, "has hit a stumbling block." Due to financial difficulties,  Midwestern power company Ameren, which was to provide FutureGen with its test facility, is backing out of the project. The federal government is financing the effort with $1 billion in stimulus money, but it has to be spent before 2015--now a very daunting effort. Perhaps the private sector will come to rescue? Dream on, says the Times:"[E]xperts on coal-fired emissions say that without government help, it is unlikely that the private sector will risk the money necessary for a first-of-a-kind engineering project."

In other news, California has installed 1 gigawatt of solar power--more than all but five countries in the world--and the cost of producing solar power continues to plummet. It may be "clean coal tomorrow," but it's already solar today.

--Paul Rauber

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