"Energy and Global Warming News for April 21: Coal is [cough, cough] clean"
Center for Public Integrity: The ‘Clean Coal’ Lobbying Blitz
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) spent more last year–$9.95 million–than any other group solely dedicated to climate lobbying. ACCCE is “a collection of 48 mining, rail, manufacturing, and power-generating companies with an annual budget of more than $45 million,” as this terrific article explains.
This is an important week for legislative efforts to preserve a livable climate. The nation’s capital is inundated with arguments pitting those proposing energy and global warming legislation against proponents of “clean coal,” an oxymoron, which is at least 10 years from being feasibly and affordably scalable, if not 20 or more (see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?“). E&E News has more:
Ads displayed at Washington subway stops and airing on national television call “clean coal” a myth. Tell that to President Obama, his Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress.
Five months into an advertising war on coal, the phrase “clean coal” not only endures, it has become political shorthand. Everyone — from Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — refers to clean coal or clean coal technology. Environmentalists call the ‘clean coal’ rhetoric dangerous, saying it creates complacency about the need to move toward true carbon-free energy. Policymakers, environmentalists say, know that coal remains one of the most polluting sources of energy.
The word war over coal is escalating. There are billions of dollars at stake, as Congress moves toward historic legislation that could decide winners and losers in the green energy economy. Already, there are signs of small victories by the coal camp.
“To a certain extent, it is a propaganda war,” said Kenneth Green, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. “The coal industry believes the environmental community wants to put it out of business. The environmental groups are afraid the clean coal concept is appealing enough to lawmakers, it will stymie their progress in getting rid of coal.”
Coal’s boosters and its critics are vying to shape public perception about the fuel. For coal, winning the battle could mean securing billions of dollars for years to come. Coal companies want federal money for research on removing and sequestering carbon emissions and to preserve their position as dominant players in the United States’ energy supply. Meanwhile, environmentalists are hungry to minimize the role of polluting fossil fuels and capture federal money for wind, solar, other renewable power sources and conservation efforts.
Both sides are spending tens of millions of dollars in the fight.
A coalition of coal backers spent about $38 million on advertising last year and another $9.9 million on lobbying. That compares with the $93,000 spent annually on lobbying from 2002 through 2007.
Groups that say “clean coal” is not economically viable have also escalated their efforts. After coal supporters ran television ads last fall, a coalition of environmental groups joined with Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection and started the Reality Coalition. It began airing ads declaring, “There’s no such thing as clean coal.” That slogan is based on the fact that no commercial-scale plant exists that removes and sequesters carbon emissions from coal.
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The best way to encourage the development of renewable energy is for the government to promise stable, long-term tax credits, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a Q&A with the New York Times.
Chu said a decade-long commitment to tax credits would prompt long-term investments as they had in Europe.
But when asked about the idea of imposing a carbon tax, a prospect favored by many environmentalists, he rejected it. “Well, we’re not talking about a carbon tax,” he said. “President Obama and I are not talking about a carbon tax.”
New York Times
The chase for stimulus dollars now includes a sprint up Capitol Hill, quite literally.
The stimulus package has $2.5 billion for batteries and hybrids, and one of the many companies seeking a slice, AFS Trinity, arrived in Washington on Sunday with two Saturn Vue S.U.V.’s “” “crossover” vehicles that General Motors sells as hybrids, but which AFS Trinity has extensively modified as plug-in hybrids.
New York Times
Coal accounts for 70 percent of China’s energy supply, and coal production in the country “” where one new coal-fired power plant is built, on average, every week “” provides more energy than crude oil production from the Middle East.
Not surprisingly, China passed the United States as the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter in 2007, and by 2020, China’s energy consumption could easily double.
How then, to control Chinese “” and hence global “” carbon emissions?
The main message is simple enough: “China will need to decide for itself how to proceed,” the report says, “but its actions, more than those of any other country, will shape the global approach to the cleaner use of coal that is urgently needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”
It’s the reason why chemists envy green plants: by using photosynthesis, plants can easily fix the carbon dioxide that is so plentiful in air to make biomass, or organic compounds. Chemists would also like to be able to simply produce carbon compounds out of CO2 from air. In contrast to the usual sources of carbon used today””fossil fuels and natural gas””carbon dioxide is a renewable resource and an environmentally friendly chemical reagent.
Unfortunately, its carbon-oxygen bonds are too strong to be broken easily. Researchers working with Yugen Zhang and Jackie Y. Ying at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have now developed a novel reaction scheme by which CO2 can be efficiently converted into methanol under very mild conditions. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, it is based on an N-heterocyclic carbene catalyst and a silane as the reducing agent.
The critical role of forests as massive ‘sinks’ for absorbing greenhouse gases is ‘at risk of being lost entirely’ to climate change-induced environmental stresses that threaten to damage and even decimate forests worldwide, according to a new report released April 17. The report will be formally presented at the next session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) taking place 20 April-1 May 2009 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.
Scientists at Harvard University have found that tropical cyclones readily inject ice far into the stratosphere, possibly feeding global warming.
If the West continues to heat up and dry out, odds increase that the mighty Colorado River won’t be able to deliver all the water that’s been promised to millions who rely on it for their homes, farms and businesses, according to a new study.
Less runoff the snow and rain that fortify the 1,400-mile river caused by human-induced climate change could mean that by 2050 the Colorado won’t be able to provide all of its allocated water 60 percent to 90 percent of the time, according to two climate researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego.
The more parched the landscape, the more difficult the choices will be for those with dibs on the Colorado’s water and those in charge of divvying it up, said Tim Barnett, lead author of the study.
“The dry year scenarios in the future are going to be absolutely brutal,” he said.
The number of people affected by extreme weather has doubled in 30 years and is expected to reach 375 million a year by 2015. Damage done to Burma’s largest city, Yangon, after tropical cyclone Nargis tore through swaths of the country. Oxfam is calling for a fundamental review of the humanitarian aid system.
Emergency organisations could be overwhelmed within seven years by the rising number of people in poor countries affected by floods, droughts, heatwaves, wild fires, storms, landslides and other climate hazards.
Analysis by Oxfam International of the 6,500 climate-related disasters recorded since 1980 show that the numbers of people affected by extreme weather events, many of which are linked to climate change, has doubled in just 30 years and is expected to increase a further 54% to more than 375 million people a year on average by 2015. The figure does not include people hit by other disasters such as wars, earthquakes and volcanoes.
Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten