Barack Obama, our President-elect, can't win. Since his energy...

Barack Obama, our President-elect, can't win. Since his energy plan proposes carbon cuts before the technology is in place to achieve the goal, the coal associations are not convinced. Environmentalists are cautious as well and argue that his "clean coal" plan does not add up.

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Coal will always be an important energy source. Development and improvement of the tools that are required to make it cleaner is not a contradiction to alternate energy production methods. In reality, long-term energy demands will continually grow, making a diversified fuel mix necessary. All resources must be developed fully. This includes coal, which will be subject to increased pressure now that Washington is under Democratic control.

Harmful emission levels can be reduced up to ninety percent through the use of certain clean coal technologies. Other technologies which will boost the efficiency of power plants by releasing carbon gases in a form that easily captured and sequestered, will potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Many within the environmental community are balking and saying that the concept of clean coal is a myth. They point out that scientist believe that capture and storage of carbon is decades away, and is so far unproven. Environmentalists believe that to extract coal would turn into an ecological nightmare, therefore sustainable energy sources should be the choice

While campaigning for the presidency, Obama walked a fine line in regards to this issue. During an interview in January he told the San Francisco Chronicle that if regulatory limits we're placed on carbon emission, the construction of the coal-fired plants would be discouraged. These limits would make it necessary for the utilities to either add newer technologies or purchase credits in order to be in compliance. A firestorm was ignited among coal advocates in regards to Obama's use of the term "bankrupt".

During the same interview Obama states that any notion that entertains the ridding of coal as a viable fuel source is an "illusion." Coal, in fact, provides more than half of the nation's electric generation mix. However, his campaign quickly put his remark in the context of a cap-and-trade program.

A plan of this nature would require that utilities meet specified emission targets or be forced to purchase credits if the limits are exceeded. The ultimate goal is to encourage coal-dependent utilities to construct modern plants. Harmful emission levels can be minimized and carbon can be potentially captured and sequestered in modern plants.

Information found on Obama's campaign website, states that his administration will "use whatever policy tools are necessary, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities a stringent cap on carbon will also make it uneconomic to site traditional coal facilities and discourage the use of existing inefficient coal facilities."

While our president-elect opposed the efforts of the Bush administration to rewrite our nation's clean air laws in a manner that would make it very easy for utilities to pollute, he voted in favor of financing more innovative uses of coal. Coal liquefaction can be used as motor fuel. Since this technology does not limit the emission of greenhouse gases, the green movement opposes this plan.

"Obama has stepped carefully when it comes to coal, aware there are political landmines on all sides," head of Clean Air Watch, Frank O'Donnell says. "He has made it clear he wants cleaner air and reduced global warming emissions. But he has also said coal must be a part of our energy future. Can we dramatically reduce carbon emissions while still producing most of our power from coal? No one really knows for certain."

John McCain, Obama's former rival and the main sponsor for the legislation mandating carbon caps, made an attempt to capitalize on Obama's reference to "bankrupting" coal. As an environmental steward, McCain stated that he wanted to preserve coal-related jobs.

McCain's comments we're well received by the coal industry, which opposes mandatory carbon caps. The coal industry supports the efforts to enact such rules prior to having technologies in place that are available commercially would damage both jobs and the economy. The industry says that the addition of renewable energy sources plays a crucial role but will not supplant coal use.

This issue claims center stage in Congress too, where a key committee post has just been appointed. This post will determine the legislative priorities of the panel and decide which global warming policies to open for debate. An advocate of stringent environmental rules, Henry Waxman, D-California, recently defeated John Dingell of Michigan, the long-time House Energy and Commerce Chair who pushed for gradual cuts in carbon emissions.

"As we work to secure passage of federal climate legislation and provide for the technologies that will be needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, the National Mining Association also will seek to protect the more than 116,000 family wage jobs in U.S. coal mining and the millions of American consumers and businesses that rely on coal as an affordable, secure and reliable source of electricity," says the trade group.

The utility market place is gripped by uncertainty. Wisconsin state regulators rejected a proposition made by Wisconsin Power and Light to construct a 300 megawatt coal plant that would also be capable of burning up to 20 percent biomass. Regulators rejected the $1.26 billion plan, stating that the utility had options that we're less costly and that looming carbon caps made the plan too shaky.

More stringent regulations for the coal industry will likely be a result of the environmental issues. These rules will be instrumental in the advancement of critical technologies that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. While industry remains unsure, Obama is very committed and maintains that the campaign plans he has supported are viable.

Read more about Clean Coal Technologies Market Potential

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 at 8:49 am and is filed under Coal, Global Warming, Policy, Power.You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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