Sat, Jun 15, 2024

Mission Possible: An Environmentalist Looks at Coal and Climate

By Armond Cohen
Executive Director, Clean Air Task Force

Most of my thirty-year professional career as an environmental organization lawyer and then environmental group CEO has been focused on reducing the environmental impact of the global energy system. Yet much of the last ten years of my career has been focused on demonstrating and deploying coal power generation technologies utilizing carbon capture and storage (CCS). What’s wrong with this picture?

Can climate action succeed without CCS?

NEGOTIATORS FROM NEARLY 200 countries will meet in Paris in December to seek a climate change agreement aimed at keeping the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Winter blackouts a danger in ‘rapid transition’ from coal, grid operator warns

The switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation could harm power reliability in Ohio and surrounding states, according to the group that manages the transmission grid for the 13-state region.

PJM Interconnection said in a new white paper that the “rapid transition” as more utilities retire coal plants and turn to domestic shale gas causes concern about the reliability of the region’s generation fleet.

Why We Need CCS, Part 4: Carbon Negative Solutions

As discussed in a previous post, CCS is likely to play a very important role if climate science is eventually proven correct and long-term atmospheric CO2 concentration levels of ~450 ppm are confirmed as a top global priority. The possible role of CCS retrofits to the very young fleet of fossil-fueled industry currently being built in the developing world was discussed as a medium-term possibility in the case where CO2 prices rise very rapidly in the next decade.

Why We Need CCS, Part 3: Coal

In the previous two parts of this series (1, 2), we discussed why CCS is likely to do very well in a future climate constrained world and how CCS might behave in a policy environment of rapid reactive decarbonization through a high and rising CO2 price. In this third installment, we will take a look at the primary reason why we need CCS in the first place: coal.

Why We Need CCS, Part 2: Reactive Climate Change Mitigation

It is important to re-emphasize right at the start of this article that CCS is only a viable option if climate change is a very important factor. If it eventually turns out that long-term CO2 concentrations of 850 ppm are perfectly fine, we can drop all CCS research right now. If 650 ppm is acceptable, I would be satisfied with the current rate of progress. However, if 450 ppm indeed remains a priority, the role of CCS will probably expand dramatically over coming decades.