Politicians in many countries love environmental showcase projects. Especially in Europe, governments try to appear as dedicated to environmental protection as possible. The EU climate dictatorship pushes energy suppliers and governments to reduce CO2 emissions by expanding the European emissions trading program. Therefore, all major CO2 emitters are busily trying to reduce their carbon footprints to avoid paying too much money by auctioning CO2 emissions permits. Generally, this development is to be appreciated. The more it’s surprising that some European countries are embracing coal again. Too many coal-fired power plants are under construction all over Europe. Especially Germany faces a dilemma, cause the idealistic former government decided to phase out all emissions-free nuclear power plants. Of course there are other ways of generating green power, but Germany has already numerous wind turbines and solar panels (, though they’d never be economical without hefty government subsidies driving up electricity prices as electricity generation is insufficient due to a lack of sunshine) . In fact, there aren’t many places where new wind propellers could be set up as there are already many of them at all good places and they are ruining the landscape. That’s why many politicians and power companies consider coal a good way to produce electricity. To counter the justified doubts of the sustainability of coal-fired power plants, power companies are spurring lots of money into creative ways to respond to environmental concerns. But carbon capture and storage will not change anything about the fact that burning coal is one of the most harmful ways to generate power at all.
Anyway, the Swedish power company Vattenfall officially launched a new testing facility for CO2 sequestration in Eastern Germany on Tuesday. The €70 million project is considered a milestone on the way to clean energy from coal by Vattenfall and local politicians. The CEO of Vattenfall Europe, Tuomo Hatakka, said: “Today industrial history is being written. Coal has a future, we are convinced of that, but the carbon dioxide emissions from it have no future.” The almost emissions free power plant uses Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology: The coal is burned in pure oxygen, after that, the CO2 is captured, then liquefied and transported to a storage site, where it is pumped into an underground depleted gas field so that it doesn’t contribute to global warming – at least not at the moment. The trucks transporting the liquefied gas 350 kilometers to the place where it is buried run on biofuel, of course. Every day, 4 trucks transport about 240 tonnes of gas. If applied on a large scale, pipelines would be necessary to transport the carbon dioxide gas.
It’s no surprise that this technology is extremely expensive and inefficient. The CCS technology can reduce the amount of electricity produced by up to 40%. This means that more coal must be burned. Besides, it drives up electricity prices even further. Though the WWF considers the CCStechnology as a “technological bridge” until better technologies are available, it’s a very expensive one! Instead of taking babysteps, it takes an ambitious and comprehensive approach to energy independence and sustainability. And this means using all means of energy generation we have. Nuclear power should be part of this approach, as it is extremely competitive and emissions-free. Alternative energy is undeniable the key to sustainability and energy independence, but alternatives must be applied wisely. In my opinion, solar power is the most viable form of energy generation. The sun provides more power to the earth than we could ever consume. Just a small part of the Sahara desert covered with solar collectors would be enough to feed the entire global energy consumption. There are many places where solar power generation is already competitive, e.g. southern California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Florida, large parts of Africa, southern Europe, Australia…. However, government subsidies are essential to encourage efforts. As soon as money is pend on energy from domestic power sources, using domestic technology, jobs are created, the amount of wealth that is transferred to OPEC countries is lowered. Wind power is also close to being competitive in some places, especially along the coast. In Denmark, for instance, wind power accounts for 20% of the country’s energy consumption. Geothermal energy, biomass, combined heat and power plants also make Denmark an energy-efficient place. Denmark was prompted to completely change its energy policies by the 1973 Arab oil embargo. On the occasion of the Yom Kippur War, most oil-exporting countries in the Middle East stopped exporting oil to Western countries. Denmark was hit badly as it was 99% dependent on foreign oil. Today, Denmark is not at all depend on Middle Eastern oil. This shift was brought about by a strategic and relentless effort by the Danish government to get away from foreign oil. High taxes on gasoline and other forms of energy from fossil fuels in combination with subsidies for renewables and domestic oil, the Danes have become very energy efficient. Commuters use public transport or bikes in most cases.
On top of all efforts to make improvements on the side of energy generation, saving energy is even more powerful and much cheaper in the beginning. When I was in Florida last month, I got an impression of how unconcerned people are with energy efficiency. While outdoors, people are sweating at 90°F, inside buildings you ought to wear jacket not to catch a cold. That’s noting but stupid. Cooling down a bit less aggressively would first, make it easier for the body to adapt to the temperature differences and second, would save a tremendous amount of energy and money! Besides from their homes, people can reduce their spending and their energy consumption by driving more efficient cars and cut the amount of unnecessary driving. Especially the urban sprawl is a major cause of extra driving every day.
To come back on the topic, CO2 sequestration has numerous disadvantages: CO2 sequestration is not the solution to the problems we are facing. It just draws off the attention from the need to act. It’s the same with offshore drilling. We don’t need politicians telling us we just need to drill a bit more off our costs and everything will be fine. I absolutely agree that (almost) everything is fine that helps us to reduce our dependence on oil from OPEC countries, but I absolutely disagree that offshore drilling is the solution! First, the ultimate goal is to get away from any kind of fossil fuel in order to combat global warming. Second, we will still need oil in the future for chemistry, aviation, etc.. These industries cannot switch to alternatives. Cars can. We have to switch to alternatives wherever it is possible AND economical. As you can read in numerous posts, electric cars are almost ready to replace cars with inefficient combustion engines that pollute the environment.
And again I got a bit sidetracked… Another concern many experts have about carbon storage, is that it can not be considered absolutely safe. A leakage could have deadly consequences for the people living in the surrounding. Moreover, in the course of time, carbon dioxide gas could gradually be released into the atmosphere. Nobody can promise that the storage would be permanent. Furthermore, the CO2 gas needs a few times more space to be stored than the coal that is burned. Therefore, we would soon run out of space if coal sequestration were applied on a large scale. Environmental groups claim that big power companies just want to get the permission to build more coal-fired power plants by featuring a couple of green projects every few years.
Read more:Today, for the first time in Europe CO2 gas was injected below the surface at Europe’s first CO2 stoaring test facility in Germany While Germany is taking all its nuclear power plants offline, the EU’s climate policy is aimed at a mix of nuclear and renewable energy sources Coal on the comeback trail? Various forms of CO2 storage – and unforeseeable consequences Mediterranean Union will feature flagship initiatives such as solar energy development in sunny North Africa Wrong-Way Driver Germany http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hfx2TGZ_bPozS5H3l1QCqu8pUjng http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,203293,00.html