Our guest blogger is Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
America’s coal industry is blowing smoke on the American public, misleadingly hyping its commitment to cleaning up its act. A series of feel-good ads this year showcased a variety of people straight from central casting saying “I believe in…Clean Coal. America’s Power.” These ads were sponsored by the American Council for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), an industry group comprised of 48 coal and utility companies. ACCCE spent at least $45 million on advertising this year to convince Americans that coal is a clean panacea to the world’s problems.
Despite the ads’ claims, an analysis by the Center of American Progress determined that ACCCE’s companies spend relatively few dollars conducting research on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), the experimental but promising technology that would allow power plants to capture 85 percent or more of their carbon dioxide emissions and permanently store them underground in geological formations. CAP’s analysis found that the 48 ACCCE companies made a combined profit of $57 billion in 2007 while investing over several years only $3.5 billion in CCS research.
ACCCE companies combined made $17 in 2007 profits for every $1 invested in CCS research over several years. This is a very generous estimate, because the analysis includes several projects that haven’t yet begun. Nonetheless, the research funding over a number of years is dwarfed by the profits for a single year. The 18 CCS projects by ACCCE companies have a lifetime cost of $5.7 billion, or one-tenth of the ACCCE companies’ profits in 2007 alone. Of this total cost, the ACCCE companies would eventually spend $3.5 billion on these projects, based on our analysis of publicly available data. The Department of Energy would provide an additional $1.9 billion. [CAP, 12/22/08]
With such relatively small investments in CCS research, it’s no wonder that it may take many years to develop and commercialize the technology. The lack of investment reinforces the notion that the real purpose of the clean coal campaign is to postpone requirements to reduce emissions. Read more