“I would venture that the cleanest power will not be solar, it will be coal.”

Guess who uttered that piece of nonsense.  I’ll put the answer below the jump — note that the wording of the headline statement contains a tiny clue as to who said it.

227469274_a0fdccd5c8.jpgIn any case, you simply can’t top solar for clean power, especially Concentrated solar thermal power Solar Baseload “” a core climate solution.  As for “clean coal” well, even if it were emissions free, it will never be cleaner than solar — do the words mountaintop removal ring any bells?

And you’d still need to capture essentially 100% of the CO2 and bury it somewhere that never leaks, since  “the burning of organic carbon warms the Earth about 100,000 times more from climate effects than it does through the release of chemical energy in combustion” (see “Why solar energy trumps coal power“).  And CCS is a long way off (see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?“).

So who said it?

As for whether or not renewable power needed a smart grid to help manage its intermittent nature, “I would venture that the cleanest power will not be solar, it will be coal,” he said.

Khosla said that could be done by Calera, a company he’s backed which promises to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and convert it into cement – a technology claim that’s come under some criticism (see Green Light post).

Yes, it’s “Green VC” Vinod Khosla quoted in GreenTechMedia.  This isn’t the first time he’s said stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense:

As for Calera, well, I discuss climatologist Ken Caldeira’s analysis of that company’s process here (see “Exclusive: Does carbon-eating cement deserve the hype?“).

Caveat Emptor.

5 Responses to “I would venture that the cleanest power will not be solar, it will be coal.”

  1. David Lewis says:

    Al Gore seems to agree with Joe on this matter of CCS. But here are a few quotes from Gore’s chapter, Carbon Capture and Sequestration, in his new book, Our Choice.

    On how experts Gore consulted feel about the overall concept:

    “Nevertheless, many feel the stakes are so high that no option that might conceivably help solve the climate crisis should be discarded.”

    On the feasibility of long term storage:

    “Two major studies – one by the IPCC and another by MIT – have both concluded that once the CO2 is appropriately sequestered in these formations, virtually all of it is likely to remain there…. …independent geologists express a very high level of confidence that the CO2, once successfully sequestered, will not only remain safely underground, but will also become progressively safer as time elapses.”

    Regarding the Lake Nyos tragedy as Gore puts it, that is often cited by people trying to stir up fear of what happens if something goes wrong:

    “Experts agree that the tragedy at Cameroon’s Lake Nyos in 1986 is not relevant to the risks associated with carbon capture and sequestration”

    Gore ends this chapter on a note I agree with: “There is actually a fairly simple solution to resolving all the questions and uncertainties about whether CCS is economically plausible and, if so, which techniques are the best ones to use: put a high price on carbon. When the reality of the need to sharply reduce CO2 emissions is integrated into all market calculations – including the decisions by utilities and their investors, – market forces will drive us quickly toward the answers we need.”

  2. mike roddy says:

    Khosla has made so many bad calls the last few years that the best explanation can be found in Taleb’s book, “Fooled by Randomness”.

    At least he was right to get into alternative energy. The problem is that he won’t get the right cost evaluators, and now he’s panicked and got back into coal.

  3. Mark Shapiro says:

    On Google Earth you can see the mountain tops being removed from as high as 500 km altitude. Just look down on West Virginia and Kentucky, and look for the grey splotches invading the beautiful Appalachian green. As you zoom in you can even see the trucks, but you can’t see the polluted streams.

  4. Cyril R. says:

    It is interesting that Vinod Khosla now says coal will be cleaner than solar. A couple of years ago he argued the other way around; with his solar thermal electric investments, he said he would do power cheaper than coal and that solar thermal electric would just ‘be cleaner incidentally’.

    Very funny, that.

  5. sailrick says:

    I just an read an article in Newsweek about Al Gore, I think it was Nov 9th. The article told how Gore was leaning more toward PV solar, because the costs were falling quickly and it would be cheaper than the solar thermal that he previously endorsed as the best energy solution. In fact Joe Romm was interviewed for the article. (though his views on CSP weren’t mentioned)