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« U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Decline 1.3% in 2006 | Main | DOE Finally Begins Support of CSP »

May 27, 2007



Are there any working sequestration technologies that can be deployed at 20+yr old coal-fired power plants?


We depend on coal for electricity. There is no substitute in the short to medium term, especially since most environmentalists hate nuke power. Them's the facts. And if we end up with rolling blackouts this summer because of this policy, what do you think will happen to the politicians when the lights go out?

Texas has pulled away from California in the realm of renewable energy. Why? In order to get approval, any power project needs approval from two very different bureaucracies. And compare the text of CA's renewable energy law (13 pages) to Texas (ten paragraphs).

Our state government loves bureaucracy. If we're going to get any meaningful progress, the red tape must be drastically cut.


California is sending the right message and has the market power to force change. I for one will be voting for those supporting such legislation. Importantly according to polls, the vast majority of other Californians agree with me. I agree about texas and red tape though Cervus. Executive orders fast tracking dirty coal plants is a great way to go.....

Jim Holm

Coalyard nukes can work with any steam power plant.

Kit P.

If anyone thinks that California is not committing a fraud with 'new rules are 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity,' please contact me I have swamp land you may be interested in buying as an investment. Excuse me, wetlands.

There are no coal fired power plants (maybe some cogen plants) in California. California utilities built them in other states. Also notice that California has carefully specified that getting from natural gas is okay. For those idiots in California, natural gas is a fossil fuel too.


The clean power source that has been talking point targeted as intermitent, is actually the only cost effective, proven, stable baseload power source to replace coal.

Wind power. Solar only produces during daylight hours. Biogas/fuel cell is still in the development stage.

Wave and river power could do it too, but they aren't proven on a large scale like wind. where does California have enough wind power siting options to replace the 20% they still get from coal and the rest they get from natural gas and nukes?

Offshore on floating platforms, out of sight and mind of NIMBYs. Cali also needs desalinization, same location, offshore. The power platforms can do double duty.

Recent wind farm studies have proven that the random nature of wind makes it able to supply 95% of baseload grid power with very little backup or storage. so the randomness is not a drawback, but a plus. When wind machines are spread on a regional basis.


It isn't true that solar only produces during daylight hours. Read up on CSP - you use the sun to heat a fluid of some sort, and then store the hot fluid in insulated tanks. Later you can use the hot fluid to generate electricity by making steam and running turbines (just like a regular power plant).

The next article here actually talks about CSP a bit.


California has taken a good step. The critical piece of it, however, is that no "new" contracts for coal power are allowed. Most of the utilities affected either have long-term contracts for the coal power, or are part owners in existing coal power plants, which means they will continue to get supply for years to come. It is not at all clear how much of an impact this decision will have actually reducing the absolute level of coal-based power in California over the short- to medium-term. This policy amounts to coal reduction through attrition. On the positive side, it also means that all growth in supply will come from non-coal sources. In the context of a California which has no indiginous coal mines, coal industry workers, etc., it is not that radical, but a good step nonetheless.


Coal fired plants produce 1550 lbs/MWh of CO2. So now this is dropped to 1100 lbs. Not a big deal, I must say. And then natural gas is already 1100 lbs. or less per MWh.

Kit P.

Again, California has done nothing and provides no leadership. This is a meaningless gesture. If you want to see leadership, look to Texas.

Paul Dietz

Are there any working sequestration technologies that can be deployed at 20+yr old coal-fired power plants?

There are -- based on absorption of flue gas CO2 into amines -- but they are rather expensive, both in money and energy. Still, they might be preferable to shutting down the plant entirely.

Similarly, oxycombustion can be retrofitted on existing plants, but again the cost is high.

There's a new technology based on absorption of CO2 into chilled ammonia that EPRI has been testing in conjunction with Alstom. It is claimed to be able to reduce the cost of separating 90% of the CO2 from flue gas to less than $20/ton of sequestered CO2. Regulations like these may accelerate the development of this technology.


Depending on what the law allows, as an alternative to sequestration, a generator could bundle their non-sequestered-coal derived electricity with electricity produced by non-emitting means to provide an electrical product that meets the guidelines.

If this is an allowable way to meet the law, then the incentive is for coal operators to buy (even existing) nukes and renewables, either the plants themselves or just the electricity derived therefrom, to produce a California-acceptable product. The tendency will be for the carbon intensity of California electricity to be exactly 1100 lb/MW-hr. One unintended consequence is that California utilities may no longer have direct access to the big hydro facilities, because this electricity will be more valuable to coal operators surrounding California. To California, it is just electricity. To coal operators, it is the electricity that allows you to sell the rest of your electricity, and so a premium can be paid for it.

Kit P

Just read two articles from the perspective of states around California.

A 200 MWe wind farm just became officially commercial in Washington State. All the electrical output goes to California utilities more than 500 miles away. New meaning to NIMBYism.

In Arizona, the PUZ rejected building a new transmission line to California. The logic was that Arizona rate payers should not pay the bill for a project that only benefits California.


Thank You !


I’d be interested in an updated GoogleAnalytics chart (may be two with about six weeks coverage), just to see if the effect did wear off after a while and also, did others link to your new name with the same link-text (allinurl:…). I hope you will publish a follow up.

Kirk MacAllister

Them's the Facts...in an earlier blog tries to justify coal as means to a brighter energy future. Well my friend, you have bought into the propaganda of the coal industry mantra.

Look at the figures. No energy industry spends more to convince us that coal plants are safe and “the energy of the future”. But if you dig deep and read the facts, you will find a much different picture. Coal plants kill, period. The mercury emissions alone will change our world forever. The fish you eat today will kill us tomorrow. Read the article posted in the USA Today on coal fired plants. If you insist on supporting coal as an energy source…move down windfrom a "safe" coal fired plant and take your family…and have a few “slow learners” for kids. Maybe then you will wake up.

Kit P

Well, Kirk if you think USA TODAY is reporting facts, you would be wrong.

Two facts, no one in the US has levels of mercury in their bodies above the threshold of harm related to coal fired power plants. Eating lots of fish is good for mental development.


We have reached a time in our history where there is now little doubt that we are having a damaging effect on our environment. The most pressing of our problems being climate change.

Every day we release millions and millions of tonnes of carbon into our atmosphere, the main culprits of course are fossil fuels. Our addiction to oil and coal are largely the reason for our rocket like progress in the last 100 plus years, cheap energy consumed in ever increasing servings by each of us has given us better lifestyles like that of royalty in preceding centuries.

Our success as a species I believe will be measured by how much coal and oil we can leave in the ground.

The time has come to move ahead again, not in a quantum leap, just baby steps are all we need. Technology is the double edged sword that we will either use to help fix the problem, or just continue to add to our swelling appetite for energy.

As much as I would like to see wind and tidal power, geo thermal energy, solar collection and bio fuels relieve our dependence on oil and coal, these technologies are still in their infancy and cannot compete with fossil fuels in the real world (well not yet!).

With India and China now wanting a slice of the pie you and I have enjoyed all our lives, coal burning power plants mushroom at the speed of one every 7-10 days. These facilities have an expected life of 40-50 years.

So what is the answer, the N word. Nuclear. The technology is mature, the impact on our environment compared with fossil fuel is negligible, and it is the only form of energy production that can compete with Coal & Oil.

Sure we know of the dangers but aren’t we in trouble now? We are the drowning man and Nuclear energy (in the short term) is the only hand we have reaching out to us.

Look on Nuclear energy as a stepping stone, not a stumbling block. Let’s be realistic and make the hard decisions while we still have time to do so.

What do you think?

[email protected]

Kit P

“We have reached a time in our history where there is now little doubt that we are having a damaging effect on our environment.”

No Jamie, that happened a long time ago. You sound like a young person just out of college who did not take many science classes but learned to cut and paste without exercising critical thinking.

Where I live, Jamie, my children do not have to worry about killers smog, polio, small pox, ect. The air and water is clean. Fixing the problems of the past are mostly done. Environmental regulations are in place to protect the environment.

Since the species (and most others around today) have survived glaciers advancing and retreating many times. We will do just fine as the climate varies within the natural variation since the last time glaciers retreated. In other word, lacking real problems, the human species will find insignificant things to worry about.

If Jamie lives someplace that needs more electricity and has lots of coal, coal as a fuel choice should be considered. If you have good renewable energy resources, those should be considered too. It is amazing how angry environmental activist get when anyone suggests that renewable energy has environmental impact that must be considered. The same concerns that created the EPA and OSHA, apply to renewable energy.


KitP, you are paid by the coal industry no? You did see the completely conflicting quotations of your earlier comments that I posted didn't you? Quite amusing actually.


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