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Clean Coal Con

Want to save some money and help balance the federal budget? I’ve got a line item for ya. The U.S. Department of Energy is giving MSU $85 million dollars to suck a million tons of naturally-occurring CO2 out out of the ground, liquify it, pump it six miles, drill a 4,000-foot hole in the ground and pump the stuff back in.

“It’s a big science experiment,” said George Hudak, underground injection control director for the Montana Board of Oil and Gas.

Because they have such great confidence in Clean Coal, energy companies will provide an additional 15% of the cost. You and I will provide the $85 million. Sorry, but Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) doesn’t exist. It has never been proven for more than small test projects. The International Energy Agency estimates,

“that for CCS to deliver any meaningful climate mitigation effects by 2050, 6000 projects each injecting a million tonnes of CO2 per year into the ground would be required. At the moment, it is not clear that it will be technically feasible to capture and bury this much carbon, i.e. whether there are enough storage sites, or that they will be located close enough to power plants.”

CCS doubles the cost of building a coal-fired electric plant. It costs 40% of the energy produced just to liquify, pump and store the produced CO2. That means that for every three plants built using CCS, you have to build an additional plant just to provide the power for storing the carbon. Any CO2 pumped thousands of feet into the ground has to stay there FOREVER. Even a small leak could be catastrophic for the environment. The proposed MSU project would monitor for leaks for two years following the project.

As long as CO2 is in geological sites, there is a risk of leakage. While it is not currently possible to quantify the exact risks, any CO2 release has the potential to impact the surrounding environment; air , groundwater or soil. Continuous leakage, even at rates as low as 1%, could negate climate mitigation efforts. Remediation may be possible for CO2 leaks, but there is no track record or cost estimates for these measures.

Now, granted, $85 million is less than a drop in the bucket when we are talking $Trillions, but to quote the late Senator Everett Dirksen “A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to real money.”  Republicans scream and holler about government waste, but that only seems to apply to social spending that benefits people. Spending that benefits giant oil corporations who make billions in profits is never on their radar. Clean Coal is nothing more than a PR gambit to slap a “green”  label on the dirtiest source of energy on the planet.

“Carbon capture and storage is a scam. It is the ultimate coal industry pipe dream,” said Emily Rochon, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace International. “Governments and businesses need to reduce their emissions—not search for excuses to keep burning coal.”

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