Coal Tattoo

Coal lobby: Are they ‘honest brokers’ on CCS?


It’s been a while, but I have blogged before about how the coal industry seems to want to have it both ways on carbon capture and storage (CCS) … Industry folks want to argue that this “clean coal” technology is here, but at the same time seek delayed time frames to implement greenhouse gas cuts and more government money to test and deploy the equipment.

But I’ve become more interested recently in whether some coal industry lobby groups are acting as “honest brokers” in the discussion over CCS and what it’s role could or should be in dealing with global warming.

So a blog item from our friends at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity caught my attention this morning. It’s headlined, “Clean Coal Technology Has Been Around for Decades,” and here’s part of what it said:

There’s been a lot of buzz in recent weeks about clean coal technology – and unfortunately some of the reporting is just not quite accurate.

One of the biggest misconceptions that persists is the idea that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology is “unproven.”

Unproven? Quite the contrary. CCS and other clean coal technologies have been in use for decades.

Oh, really?

As proof, ACCCE cites the “Weyburn-Midale CO2 Project” and says it has “has been capturing carbon dioxide from a coal-powered plant in North Dakota and storing it in an oil reservoir in Canada since 2000.”

Indeed, the Weyburn-Midale project has received a lot of positive press, including an article in OnEarth, the magazine of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  But what ACCCE didn’t explain is that it is just a test project, like so many other CCS efforts around the country and the world.

ACCCE went on to say:

We’re excited about all the clean coal talk in the news lately, but let’s get our facts straight: clean coal technology works and can be cost-effective.

At best, those are pretty incredible over-statements. What are the real facts? CCS has not been proven to work on anywhere near the scale that is needed to make a major dent in coal’s greenhouse gas emissions and certainly hasn’t yet been shown to be cost effective.

I outlined the possibilities for CCS — and the major hurdles the technology faces — in a major story last year, “The Great Race: Coal vs. Climate” and we’ve had many Coal Tattoo posts and a robust discussion of these issues.

American Electric Power, the nation’s largest coal purchaser, has made it pretty clear that it understands the challenges facing efforts to develop and deploy CCS.  But the coal lobby, through ACCCE, continues to try to convince the American public this is all pretty easy. I noticed that AEP is a member of ACCCE. Maybe AEP would consider asking ACCCE to start being a little more of an honest broker on these issues.