Obama and Solutions to Clean Up the Coal Plants?

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Obama and Solutions to Clean Up the Coal Plants?

Postby WalkerARCHITECTS » Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:12 am

It is odd to read about the same barriers in 2014 that we read about in 2008. Looks like nothing has changed. CO2 Energy Storage is one of several ways to offset the cost of Carbon Capture and Sequestration. It is similar to CAES Energy Storage and all the principles are well established.

Today, power plants can legally emit carbon pollution without any federal restrictions. To address this problem, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering legislation to block EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to require pollution controls. So there will be politics and obstruction if all goes according to the plan of Climate change deniers.

Not much has changed since April of 2008 when I proposed CO2 be used in place of air in a CAES application. The DOE still ignores me. The debate about how to clean up coal is driven on one side by the global climate change problem and on the other by the fear that the costs of cleaning up the Fossil fuel mess will be to costly and will impact the profits of those invested. This issue is all about money. So far to continue the pollution at the expense of the people on the planet so a few can enjoy the profits seems to be a currently successful practice and an evil obstruction of reason in denial of the physics.

It is of course a physics problem we need to solve but the economic problem must also be solved. My idea is to solve both.

Let me explain the current conflict that is emerging regarding the clean up of new coal plants that is required under current law.

A number of false arguments have been repeatedly made to support and justify this misguided proposal. This list of facts identifies some of the key arguments that Republicans are relying upon and explains why they are false.

Republican Claim #1: Under EPA’s proposed standards, the United States will be the only country in the world that requires carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) at new coal-fired power plants.
“Why should the U.S. be the only country in the world that has standards so stringent on emissions that practically you cannot build a new coal powered plant? . . . Why are we taking these extreme efforts that would basically eliminate coal from new opportunities only in America?”
– Rep. Whitfield (R-KY), November 14, 2013

The Facts: House Republicans are wrong that no other countries require new coal-fired power plants to use CCS. In fact, both Canada and the United Kingdom have adopted carbon dioxide (CO2) emission standards that require new coal-fired power plants in their countries to use CCS. The Canadian and United Kingdom standards actually require new coal-fired power plants to capture more CO2 than EPA has proposed for new coal-fired power plants in the United States. Canada will even require some of its existing coal-fired power plants to use CCS or retire, while EPA has proposed to require CCS only for new coal-fired power plants, at this point.

For comparison, EPA has proposed emission standards for new coal-fired units of 1,100 pounds CO2 per megawatt hour (lbs CO2/MWh), if met over a 12-month period, or 1,000 to 1,050 lbs CO2/MWh if met over a more flexible 84-month (seven-year) period; Canada has adopted an emission standard of 926lbs CO2/MWh for new coal-fired units; and the United Kingdom has adopted an emission standard of 992 lbs CO2/MWh for new fossil fuel-fired units.

Republican Claim #2: If EPA requires new coal-fired power plants to use carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), it will be impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in this country.

“Under EPA’s proposal, when it becomes final, it will be impossible to build a new coal powered plant in America because the technology is not available.” In reality the technology is available they just do not like the price of it.

The Facts: House Republicans are wrong about the availability of CCS technology. The technologies needed for CCS – CO2 capture, transportation, and storage underground – have all been used. commercially in the United States for decades. According to the Global CCS Institute, there are currently 12 large-scale CCS projects, which integrate these technologies, operating in the world today, including seven projects in the United States.

These 12 projects do not include coal-fired power plants. But CCS has been successfully demonstrated pilot-scale at coal-fired power plants in the United States and abroad. The first two commercial scale coal-fired power plants with CCS are scheduled to come online this year: Southern Company’s 582 megawatt Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi and SaskPower’s 110 megawatt Boundary Dam Project in Saskatchewan, Canada Both of these plants will capture a greater portion of their CO2 emissions than would be required under EPA’s proposed rules Other commercial-scale CCS projects at coal-fired power plants are also being developed in the United States. If a utility wants to build a new coal-fired power plant with CCS today, there are companies that would be happy to sell them the technology. The reality is that the argument is about the cost.

Republican Claim #3: The United States is already doing more than any other country to reduce our carbon pollution and address climate change.

“America does not have to take a backseat to anyone on cleaning up the emissions.” – Rep. Whitfield (R-KY), January 14, 2014

“We’ll make things cost more in the United States by having the government raise the costs. We will get a level playing field in the United States, but an un-level playing field with all of our competitors across the world.” – Rep. Griffith (R-VA), January 14, 2014

The Facts: House Republicans are wrong that the United States is leading the world in addressing climate change. In the last few years, the United States has made more progress reducing carbon pollution than many other countries. But we are still lagging behind many developed nations, most notably the European Union.

The European Union measures its emission reductions from a 1990 baseline. Measured from that baseline, the European Union’s emissions were 18.4% below 1990 levels in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. In contrast, emissions in the United States were 8% above our 1990 levels in 2011.

The United States generally measures our emission reductions from 2005 levels. Measured from that baseline, the performance of the European Union has been somewhat better than the United States, though the emissions trajectories have been similar. In 2011, European Union emissions were 11% below 2005 levels;11 in the United States, they were only 7% below 2005 levels.

Other nations have also adopted comprehensive policies and long-term climate targets, which we lack in the United States. For example, New Zealand has a target to reduce carbon pollution by 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.13 South Korea has adopted a carbon cap-and-trade system.14 And South Africa plans to institute a carbon tax to help reduce its carbon pollution by 34% below business as usual by 2020 and 42% by 2025.

Republican Claim #4: The market is working to lower emissions, which are at their lowest level in 20 years.
“We know that CO2 emissions in America are the lowest that they have been in 20 years.” – Rep. Whitfield (R-KY), January 14, 2014

The Facts: House Republicans’ claim that carbon pollution in the United States is at its lowest level in 20 years is also both unsupported and highly misleading.

Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions grew – not fell – in 2010 and 2011, the two most recent years for which comprehensive data is available. It is true that in 2012, energy-related CO2 emissions were at an 18-year low, in part due to increased use of natural gas instead of coal in the power sector. But this is only part of the picture. Energy-related CO2 emissions are just 79% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, declines in energy-related CO2 emissions do not necessarily reflect trends in overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, there is evidence that the recent declines in energy-related CO2 are reversing. According to. the Energy Information Administration (EIA), CO2 pollution from the energy sector increased by 2% last year due to fuel switching in the other direction (from natural gas back to coal). EIA estimates that energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States will be higher than today’s levels in both 2020 and 2040.

The Republican claim is also highly misleading because it implies that the United States is making the kind of progress necessary to combat climate change without additional regulation. Assuming no new policies to reduce CO2 emissions, EIA predicts that U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020 and 2040 will be 9% and 7%, respectively, below 2005 levels.18 This is far short of the 80% reduction that scientists say we need to achieve by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change

Republican Claim #5: Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are an insignificant part of the overall climate problem.
“2/10 of one percent of the CO2 emissions in the world come from our coal-fired power houses. We’re going to put at risk hundreds of thousands if not millions of jobs in America when we know this isn’t the problem.” – Rep. McKinley (R-WV), January 14, 2014

“I think Mr. McKinley made a great point. 805 billion tons of CO2 emissions each year, about 3.5 percent of that is man-made, and fossil fuel, U.S. coal plant emissions, amounts to, like, 2/10 of a percent.”
– Rep. Whitfield (R-KY), November 14, 2013

The Facts: House Republicans are wrong that CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are an insignificant part of the climate problem. The United States is the world’s second largest carbon polluter. We are responsible for nearly 20% of the world’s carbon pollution. Coal-fired power plants alone account for roughly a third of our country’s carbon pollution. Together, the most-polluting 50 U.S. power plants emit more than 2% of the world’s energy-related CO2 pollution. In fact, these plants collectively emit more pollution than virtually every other nation in the world.

House Republicans have a fundamental confusion about the global carbon cycle. They confuse nonhuman fluxes of CO2 with excess CO2 emitted as a result of human activities, such as burning coal and other fossil fuels. Just as a light touch will push over a heavy object that is carefully balanced on a knife-edge, so do human carbon emissions threaten to imbalance the global carbon cycle. Emissions of CO2 from nonhuman processes are balanced by absorption of CO2 by oceans, plants, and soil. These nonhuman emissions do not add net CO2 to the atmosphere, and thus do not cause climate change. In contrast, when humans burn coal and other fossil fuels, we release carbon into the air that had previously been stored in the earth after accumulating for millions of years. There is insufficient natural capacity to reabsorb most of these emissions over human timescales of decades to thousands of years, so the emissions from burning fossil fuels are accumulating in the atmosphere. It is this process that the world’s scientists have concluded is responsible for climate change.

Republican Claim #6: China isn’t doing anything to address climate change.
“Do you think the Chinese are considering this policy of adopting this amendment? No they are not. Do you think that any of the other Asian nations or the emerging economies of Africa are going to consider this when they do it?”
–Rep. Griffith (R-VA), January 14, 2014

“These jobs that are shifted, the carbon leakage that occurs when these jobs go to Brazil and when they go to China and when they go to India, those countries don’t have our standards, yet all of that carbon goes up in the same atmosphere.”
–Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), January 14, 2014

The Facts: House Republicans are wrong that China is not taking steps to address climate change. In fact, China is taking many steps to reduce its carbon pollution. China has shut down inefficient power sources and required energy efficiency measures. China is also making investments in renewable energy. In 2012, China invested $65 billion in renewable energy projects, while the United States invested just $36 billion. China now has the most installed wind energy generating capacity of any country in the world. Likewise, China is deploying solar energy at a faster rate than is the United States.

China is also ahead of the United States in putting a price on carbon. China is starting carbon markets in five cities and two provinces to require carbon pollution reductions. According to Bloomberg NewEnergy Finance, these seven markets will cover 800 million to 1 billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2015, equal to approximately 7% of China’s total emissions, and will create the second largest cap-and-trade program in the world, behind only Europe. Trading in some of these markets has already begun with carbon prices of $10 per ton in at least one area.

China will certainly need to do more to address climate change, but so will the United States and other countries.

Carbon capture technology, as required by Environmental Protection Agency’s draft standard, would force new coal power plants to use more fuel to meet their electricity load. That’s what electric cooperatives told the EPA’s Science Advisory Board in a Jan. 21 teleconference the board held with industry stakeholders to garner feedback on the pending standards. The basis for that conclusion is not available to us. They did not explain why more fuel would be needed, but possibly the power plant design is not compatible with carbon capture strategies.

They are already claiming that it can’t be done. They have not yet tried to do it. Carbon dioxide standards as revised by the Environmental Protection Agency still “effectively eliminate new coal power plants as a future electric generation option,” NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson warned.

Lyle Witham, manager of environmental services at Basin Electric Power Cooperative, told the advisory board that carbon capture and storage for power plants remains economically unviable despite significant efforts to bring the technology on-line.

Carbon dioxide has facilitated enhanced oil recovery for years, and the Environmental Protection Agency touts this as a side benefit of requiring carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) for future coal generation under its proposed rule. However there is not enough of this to offset the costs.

Yet the standards would force new onerous storage and reporting requirements on the use of CCS for enhanced oil recovery, said Kirk Johnson, NRECA senior vice president of government relations. Compliance would be fraught with regulatory uncertainty and risk.

“Contrary to EPA’s expectations, the rule as proposed will discourage the use of CO2 captured by emissions sources in enhanced oil recovery operations,” Johnson said. Because of the costs.

Further, operational changes by those recovering oil could trigger revisions of greenhouse gas “monitoring, reporting and verification” plans required by EPA, and jeopardize a power plant’s compliance with the carbon dioxide standard. “This could force the shutdown of the generation plant,” Johnson said.

Bismarck, N.D.-based Basin Electric conducted a $6.4 million front-end engineering and design study from 2007 to 2010 with the North Dakota Industrial Commission and the Lignite Research Council to determine the viability of a 120-megawatt CCS project at the Antelope Valley Station. The plant is near the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, which has captured and stored more than 25 million tons of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery since 2000.

The study concluded that CCS was not economically viable, even with access to a CO2 pipeline and compressor, available shipping capacity and a $100 million grant from the Department of Energy for the project, Witham said. The search for ways to turn the captured CO2 from a cost to a profit is where the solution will be found. There is no answer in the realm of doing nothing about the serious problem of Climate Change.

EPA’s carbon dioxide standards for new coal-based electricity also appear to conflict with existing energy law, according to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

In a Nov. 15 letter to EPA, the lawmakers said the agency’s proposed standards are “beyond the scope of its legal authority, and we respectfully request the agency withdraw the proposed rule.”

“The emissions standards require carbon capture and storage at new coal plants despite this technology not existing on a commercial scale at any power plant anywhere in the world,” she added. EPA’s new proposal takes “a reliable domestic fuel with a historically predictable cost off the table.”

EPA proposed carbon dioxide standards for new coal-based power plants in keeping with the Obama administration’s climate change strategy. The agency in June is expected to propose another carbon dioxide rule for the nation’s existing coal fleet.

The lawmakers said that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 prohibits technologies that receive federal funding from being regulated under the provision of the Clean Air Act that EPA is employing to reduce carbon dioxide from coal plants. The 2005 energy law deemed technology receiving government assistance as not “adequately demonstrated” and excluded such technologies from regulation under that portion of the Clean Air Act.

Janet McCabe, EPA acting assistant administrator, told Whitfield’s subcommittee Nov. 14 that three federally supported CCS projects in Mississippi, Texas and California have been “adequately demonstrated.” EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide standard for new coal plants has yet to appear in the Federal Register. Once published, the rule is open to public comment for 60 days. The White House has directed EPA to propose a carbon standard for existing coal-based generation in June 2014.

Michael McInnes, senior vice president for production at Tri-State Generation and Transmission in Westminster, Colo., underscored that carbon capture technology remains unproven for electric power generation and raised concerns about its costs. Operating a new power plant with carbon capture and storage would eat up from one-tenth to about one-third of a power plant’s energy. “The case for CCS just can’t be made,” McInnes told the board.

The search for ways to turn the captured CO2 from a cost to a profit is where the solution will be found. There is no answer in the realm of doing nothing about the serious problem of Climate Change.

Despite the bad news delivered clearly not all the options have been explored. Walker Architects believes that CO2 Energy storage will create the opportunity to substantially offset the costs of CCS. Creating the capacity to sequester CO2 permanently will require an idea that has the capacity to be done. The economics of that is the problem being ignored. We actually do not believe that they want anything to change and are not examining alternatives that have been proposed. The DOE still refuses to consider CO2 energy storage, to meet with Walker Architects or do anything more than place our communications onto a file and forget all about it. The problem at hand is that the economics of it will not work.

Consequently the NRECA is continuing to urge the administration to reconsider this proposal in light of its potential cost to rural communities.

“As not-for-profit, consumer-owned utilities, electric co-ops rely on a diverse fuel mix to provide affordable, reliable electricity to 42 million Americans. We believe strongly in our responsibility both to our environment and to members, who often serve some of the most economically vulnerable populations in this country,” Emerson said.

Clearly the COAL industry does not want the cost of Coal fired Energy to rise above the current cost of Wind and Solar Energy. To protect the business interest the plan is to continue to do nothing about sequestering the CO2. Simple stated, that simply will not work for the global climate. Change is not an option it is a mandate essential to the planets population.

EPA’s proposed rule, published Jan. 8 in the Federal Register, was open for comment for 60 days and the subject of a public hearing at the agency’s Washington headquarters Jan. 28. This period of time has now expired and the industry has come back and has indicated that it will not work…. for economic reasons.

Key points of contention about the standards raised by co-ops and congressional leaders remain. The reason for the conflict is not related to the physics. The only barrier to feasibility is money and delivery costs of the electrical power. It appears to be not a technical point of contention but rather a barrier at the bargaining table between government, for profit and non-profit, electrical power companies and their customers.

The search for ways to turn the captured CO2 from a cost to a profit is where the solution will be found. There is no answer in the realm of doing nothing about the serious problem of Climate Change. CO2 Energy Storage is an example of this kind of solution.

Cleaner sources of power must replace coal plants if it is not possible to get the costs down. To accomplish that the waste product, CO2 must be economically viable enough too offset the costs. CCS does not generate revenue it is pure economic burden for the Coal fire power generation industry. CO2 Energy storage has not yet been proposed by the DOE and studied as a solution.

EPA contends that the “best system of emission reduction” for fossil fuel generation is partial implementation of carbon capture and storage technologies. Agency cost analysis assumes that revenue from using the carbon for enhanced oil recovery would make the costs of partial CCS more reasonable.

Again the mission of reducing the carbon pollution is supposed to take a back seat to profits. The problem is not technological it’s financial.

Kirk Johnson, NRECA senior vice president of government relations, said the proposal’s additional carbon storage and reporting requirements, however, would actually hamper the use of carbon dioxide captured from power plants for enhanced oil recovery. In addition, operational changes by those recovering oil could jeopardize a power plant’s compliance with the carbon dioxide standard. Cleaning up an oil spill is costly and cleaning up a CO2 pill into the atmosphere is also costly.

The industry report is all about the economic impact. The reality is the best solutions are being ignored.

As evidence of the potential availability of CCS, the agency’s new proposal lists four projects under development and notes that three of the four received financial aid from the U.S. government.
But existing law prohibits such standards based on government-funded technologies, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and his subcommittee chairmen told EPA in a letter last November and asked the agency to withdraw the proposal.

“We still have yet to receive a response to our letter questioning the legality, but EPA appears to be moving full speed ahead with this proposed rule despite the concerns we raised that it is in clear violation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005,” Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said Jan. 8. “We will continue our vigorous oversight of this rule-making, which has been fraught with irregularities, and we continue to believe that EPA is acting far beyond the scope of its legal authority at the detriment of the American public.”

Again Clean Air is to be delayed because it isn’t logical based upon the cost and the impact on the profits of the COAL industry. The problem is made up out of the concerns over the dollars and not the driving reality of climate change. Their heads are in the world of cost and not the physical solution required.

The proposal sets separate carbon dioxide standards for new electric generation from coal and natural gas. EPA said it is not, at present, proposing standards for modified or reconstructed power plants.

EPA plans to propose carbon dioxide standards for existing power plants in June. All Coal power plants must be cleaned up. There is no choice as far as the physics allows. Physics always wins. We need to clean up the COAL mess and the delay driven by the money problem is not an act of Design Intelligence. The search for ways to turn the captured CO2 from a cost to a profit is where the solution will be found. There is no answer in the realm of doing nothing about the serious problem of Climate Change.
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