Because we know clean coal is a winner
January 20, 2023 3:13 AM   Subscribe

It's Time To Let Coal Die | Climate Town (YouTube, 29m12s)
posted by flabdablet (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
yes, one hundred times yes. For the love of all that is precious... yes.

"Dear Elron Mush, You really wanna make some bank? Go set up some wind/solar farms with battery storage (try iron-air cells, not the most efficient but dead cheap and easy!) Please. Seriously, while you still have the scratch. Your name will be sung down the centuries as the savior of mankind. Even more than if you get to fucking-idiot-idea-but-what-the-hell Mars."
posted by From Bklyn at 4:41 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

Joe Fucking Manchin.

This is a great video, thanks for posting.

One thing skimmed over that deserves scrutiny is the PR campaign. Because this is a culture war thing.

Real America is coal country. Places where you can't park a Tesla. The science doesn't matter, it's about identity. The Marlboro Man was so cool! Real cowboys are too tough to die of cancer. Ignoring the warnings is being fearless and free, rugged and independent. Freedom!

I'm sure the Marlboro Man got millions of people killed. We don't let them make ads like that anymore. The fossil fuel industry is following the same playbook though. We now know that researchers in the industry were the first to learn about climate change, just as the tobacco industry knew about cancer.

Anyway, one bright spot is that it's just not profitable anymore. That's the bottom line. Not for the future of life on earth will they stop, but when the money dries up.

An Australian take on clean coal:
Honest Government Ad | Carbon Capture & Storage
posted by adept256 at 5:14 AM on January 20 [15 favorites]

What surprises me every time I see the numbers run is just how few people coal currently employs. You could employ all the workers, maybe on coal mine and power plant remediation, for years for the money being sunk into the industry by tax payers.
posted by Mitheral at 5:27 AM on January 20 [12 favorites]

Yeah, after some election this century someone worked out that there are fewer people directly employed by the coal industry than there are travel agents. But there's so much more money (at the top, anyway) that the lobbyists get their cut and so we can't "quit" it.
posted by Kyol at 5:40 AM on January 20 [6 favorites]

I tried to watch Weekend at Bernie's once, but stopped after 20 minutes.

Also, I hate Democrat complicity with destroying our planet.

This YouTube video is relatable content.
posted by AlSweigart at 5:41 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

Love ClimateTown so fucking much. Thanks for posting.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:01 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

Eyup. Coal is part of a constellation of "manly" things that loom large in the minds of many Americans, but which are actually tiny.

Manly men work in mines, or in steel mills, or factories, or farms, and do manly things! And since the average American conservative man doesn't work in any of those fields they fetishize those jobs as being absolutely essential to the soul of America. Who cares that fewer than 35,000 people actually work in the coal industry in West Virginia? It isn't the actual people who are important, it's the mythology of the real man doing manly things.

Jobs in green energy or whatever would be weak, womanly, and degenerate, to suggest that coal workers should find jobs in other areas is to attack the very soul of American manhood.

Also Joe Manchin personally gets rich off coal, and he's an immoral, greedy, person who always votes for his own self interest first, last, and always.
posted by sotonohito at 6:08 AM on January 20 [16 favorites]

And since the average American conservative man doesn't work in any of those fields they fetishize those jobs as being absolutely essential to the soul of America. Who cares that fewer than 35,000 people actually work in the coal industry in West Virginia?
A summer trip through West Virginia reminded me just how much that fetish doesn’t extend to actually helping any of the people in that industry below the C-level. The poverty was eye-opening, and the toxic legacy is going to be harming people’s health for centuries, but it seems like the suffering is part of the iconography: they wouldn’t want their kids doing it, of course, but someone has to!
posted by adamsc at 6:36 AM on January 20 [10 favorites]

Can we not just "prove" clean coal (CCS) to be impossible under reasonable physics assumptions?

If coal is burned, we produce 0.986 t CO2 eq / MWh. This 1.0142 MWh / t CO2 eq is almost 20% less than the 1.2 MWh / t CO2 estimate for direct air capture, so EROI < 0.8!  Now CO2 winds up way denser in coal plant emissions, which reduces this 1.2 MWh. You've other losses and costs though, so the EROI should wind up fairly small, like this video and the Juice Media CCS video describe.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:48 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]

Tidiest looking CCS proposal I've ever seen involves chemical looping, where instead of burning a hydrocarbon fuel directly you run it through a fluidized bed reactor to reduce a metal oxide, a process that absorbs energy but doesn't need an air supply and produces only solid reduced oxide (perhaps reduced all the way to metal), carbon dioxide and water vapour as reaction products.

The reduced oxide is gravitationally and/or inertially separated from the exhaust gas stream and the water vapour condenses out, leaving pure CO2 that's easy to capture; then you burn the reduced oxide in another fluidized bed reactor, this one with an air supply, which makes no carbon dioxide, reconstitutes the same oxide you started with, and also yields more energy than you put into reducing it to begin with.

Done properly, chemical looping actually improves fuel efficiency and doesn't add much cost. But it does add some. It's also not, to the best of my knowledge, currently in use at any commercial coal fired electricity generator. Which means that no matter how much R&D gets devoted to it from this point onwards, it's never going to catch up with the ever-decreasing cost of making electricity by tapping into existing large scale energy flows like wind, insolation, geothermal, ocean waves or tides.
posted by flabdablet at 8:24 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]

What surprises me every time I see the numbers run is just how few people coal currently employs.

What takes me aback every time I think about it is the ridiculously small amount of money that the coal industry actually makes for Australia, especially given that coal exports make up a relatively large proportion of our GDP.

Pretty much the entire value of those exports leaves our shores on the same boats as the coal, never to be seen again by any Australian.

The fossil fuel industry's PR game is strong. Then again, so was tobacco's, and I think loudly drawing attention to the similarities is a helpful move.
posted by flabdablet at 8:35 AM on January 20 [8 favorites]

The fossil fuel industry's PR game is strong. Then again, so was tobacco's, and I think loudly drawing attention to the similarities is a helpful move.

Another interesting parallel to draw is between cryptocurrency and “carbon capture”. I classify them both as fakery that claims to do things it can’t do, only empty promises and theft.

I had not actually heard of chemical looping before, and it’s an interesting idea, and a clever way to get down to just the pure CO2 effluent stream with much higher purity. But it doesn’t solve the ultimate fundamental problem of “where in the fuck do you expect to put the CO2?” It’s like somebody invented a great way to easily and cleanly reprocess nuclear fuel rods, and then said “Welp! Problem solved! We just need to find a place to put this nicely separated radioactive waste, not a problem!”

The only way to sequester CO2 is to leave the C buried and unburnt. Nobody wants to hear that though. They just want consequence-free cheap fuel.
posted by notoriety public at 10:02 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]

Not only "where will you put the CO2" but how much energy will be required to transform the CO2 into storable, stable stuff, energy that could have been used for. other. things.? this includes compression of waste streams, heat to activate whatever chemical storage mechanisms you're using, or energy to run cryo - and keep cryo going! I can guarantee that destroys your EROI and requires that you either burn more stuff or take away energy from renewables to the grid.

Carbon capture at scale requires SO much energy (we emit 30+ GIGATONNES per year. think about that, 30 billion tonnes! and it's emitted in such diffuse manner) that we'd need to, like spend 20%+ of world GDP for decades to scale it anywhere NEAR necessary. This would necessitate such a change in the structure of the political system of the world that it is impossible to see without either vast coercion or some messianic-like-cult enlightening us all.

How about just generating a fuckton less CO2 with that 20% of GDP?

Carbon promulgators and profiteers are literally murdering our - and our planet's - future.

Don't let breaks-the-laws-of-theromdynamics BS fake science/engineering distract you from that.
posted by lalochezia at 11:14 AM on January 20 [7 favorites]

it's the mythology of the real man doing manly things

Previously (courtesy of Pater Aletheias)

imagine a better world
posted by elkevelvet at 11:51 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

Wind Power and CCS are in direct competition the clean coal economists have written about this. The Manchin bill re-instated CCS leases offshore USA, and mandated that oil leases be let before offshore wind could be allowed.

Exxon leased 44 lease blocks --an area the size of multiple new england states--for Offshore CCS, in lease sale 257. This was blocked by Gulf residents, then the Biden admin, then the Biden admin flipped, and the residents sued, and won on the basis that the USA was not assessing hte climate impacts of using the ocean this way.

But the Manchin bill got rid of that lawsuit. Now, future oil lease sales are targeting the areas in the Gulf of Mexico that are viable for offshore wind.

The Manchin Bill expanded the 45Q tax credit. DOE and USA have spent millions on this failed technology.

And Kemper Coal is back, baby! Leucadia is back! all of these million dollar failures from 2008 are back in business, thanks to the 45Q tax credit.

And, somehow, that bill is reported on as a 'climate bill'?

And let's not start on "Hydrogen" , which is the "Clean Methane". DOE is all in on Hydrogen, using these same injection wells.

Where are the injection wells? over half of them are proposed for Louisiana, not the most geologically stable part of the US--in fact, probably the least geologically stable state in the union. We have hundreds to thousands of faults that are likely to be activated by pressurizing old formations.

There are over 240,000 existing wells in Louisiana, most of which are drilled much deeper than the ~7,000 ft "caprock" that is supposed to contain the CO2.

But sure, EPA is willing to give permitting authority to this state whose LDNR allowed Bayou Corne to happen?

Please stop CCS. it's a false solution.
posted by eustatic at 12:20 PM on January 20 [5 favorites]

Iverson, 2015.

Burn coal ? The supply-side case for carbon capture and storage

T. Iverson, M. Belfiori Published 2016 Environmental Science
The paper studies the optimal environmental policy of a coalition of countries for which renewable energy and fossil energy with carbon capture and storage (CCS) comprise alternative forms of carbon abatement

This paper outlines the challenges to the viability of CCS, and renewables and renewable growth are a major problem for the business models.

The Manchin Bill was the solution to that.
posted by eustatic at 12:23 PM on January 20

I don't know much about chemical looping, but I imagine that impurities are going to be somewhat of a problem. Coal is mostly carbon but there's a fair bit of Other Stuff in there too - IIRC sulfur content is an important metric on the quality of crude oil and coal, but also just about everything else you can find in the Earth's crust, including all kinds of heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and so on. Oh, and radioactive stuff. Even relatively inert and harmless material like silicon and calcium will need to be separated out from the waste stream. Looping may be an efficient but you're still going to need to sequester all the toxic, elemental byproducts in addition to the "clean" CO2.
posted by rustcrumb at 1:33 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]

I really recommend the podcast "Australia if you're listening" which explores the history of coal there. (If you're looking for it, it's called "Russia if you're listening" at the moment, looking at the war in Ukraine.)
posted by freethefeet at 1:58 PM on January 20

And, somehow, that bill is reported on as a 'climate bill'?

Because it is a climate bill -- the most sweeping climate bill ever passed in this country.

Some giveaways to Manchin were the unavoidable price of getting it passed. But even those giveaways aren't going to be able to keep the coal industry alive as renewable energy ramps up. And the benefits to renewables in the bill are a huge shot in the arm to that industry.

Renewables already generate the same amount of electricity as coal in the U.S. And while renewables are growing, coal is declining. Green energy is winning, even if it's not happening as quickly as many of us would like it to.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:32 PM on January 20 [6 favorites]

Let's ban coal AND animal agriculture while we're at it.
posted by neonamber at 7:41 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

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