Archive for Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Clean coal effort

New technology that would eliminate environmental concerns about coal-fired power plants would be a boon for the nation.

November 26, 2008


There’s no question that this nation needs to devote far more attention to the development of economical, alternative ways to generate electrical power.

One of President-elect Obama’s campaign pledges or promises is to make this country independent of foreign oil in 10 years. Whether this goal is attainable is questionable, but regardless, every effort needs to be made to develop and expand wind, solar and nuclear power sources.

Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City is the nation’s leader in research and development of solar power and its advances have been significant. Nevertheless, far more research is needed if the United States is to come anywhere near being independent of foreign oil.

Like it or not, coal currently is this nation’s most abundant, available and usable source of energy. Nuclear energy offers the most potential for the coming years, but it will be many years before there are sufficient nuclear plants to make a major dent in meeting this country’s energy demands.

Much has been said in the current debate over the possible construction of two giant coal-fired power plants near Holcomb. The governor has turned down two requests for construction permits, and there has been considerable debate about the project in the Kansas Legislature. Sunflower Electric Power Corp. filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking to overturn the decision to deny the plant permits.

Dirty, ugly and dangerous emissions from coal-fired plants, along with growing public concern about the need to protect our environment, have combined to give coal and coal-fired plants an extremely negative image. President-elect Obama has said anyone trying to build a coal-fired power plant is likely to go bankrupt trying to meet the new environmental standards he intends to set.

Does this mean our country should turn its back on this huge supply of energy? It doesn’t make sense.

Why doesn’t Kansas, and its scientists and engineers, come up with the know-how to build a coal-fired plant that would meet the most stringent environmental guidelines, a truly clean plant? In addition to the expertise of MRI researchers, Black and Veatch, which has its headquarters in Johnson County, is one of the world’s most experienced engineering firms dealing with energy plants.

Added to the resources of MRI and Black and Veatch are the vast resources of Koch Industries in Wichita. Consider the talent, expertise and worldwide reputation these three companies could provide in helping Kansas be a national leader in developing a genuinely clean coal-fired electrical plant. It’s disturbing state officials have not used the expertise of these firms to help Kansas answer the current and future demands for more energy. Political gamesmanship is not the way to attack and solve this state and national priority.

Shouldn’t an effort to find a way to use coal be one of this nation’s most pressing energy needs? Why not devote the same energy and resources to such a project that have been marshaled to address other national challenges?

Is there any reason why Kansas could not be a leader in such an effort? Consider the payback to Kansas and the rest of the nation if coal could continue to be this nation’s No. 1 source of energy? Such technology could be used throughout the world.

Eventually, nuclear, wind and solar power will provide a larger percentage of America’s power, but that will be years away. In the meantime, every effort should be made to figure out a way to use coal to generate the energy this country will need for the next 20 to 30 years.

How much of this nation’s potential growth, as well as its position as a world economic power, will be handicapped if coal is eliminated as a continuing and future source of electrical power?

It’s far past time to develop environmentally clean coal-fired power plants. Why not have Kansas be the nation’s leader in such an effort?


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

"Politicians who believe the ridiculous claims of the weather shamans who claim that the minute amount of carbon dioxide can control air temperature don't have any sense."You're right, reasonmclucas. We should only believe politicians who take large campaign contributions from the coal industry or Exxon, because they are above reproach.

countyfarmboy 9 years, 5 months ago

I'm pleasantly surprised that the JW would make such a recommendation. The United States can not obtain energy independence without using existing sources of energy, such as coal. If we dedicated our resources towards building better coal plants, using the best our universities and businesses have to offer, not only do we place ourselves on the path to energy independence but we are also taking the proper steps to preserve our environment.

Trobs 9 years, 5 months ago

I do not listen to the corporation scientists. I listen to independent scientists who want nothing but the truth to come out. Anthony Watts, a long time meteorologist who keeps up with any climate info in the world. For instance. Monday five inches of snow fell in south east England, while their Parliament was discussing the "Mother of all Bills" on climate change. 115 towns and cities in the US set record lows and it snowed for the first time in London since 1922 on Oct 29. Alaska had one of their coolest summers on record while Arctic sea ice loss during the summer was lower then last year's record loss and it is on pace to pass the average ice gain. That global warming is freezing huh? As for the temperature increase. Anthony Watts has a project to survey all of the temp monitoring stations within the US that the GISS uses. The same Temp they then publish as part of the world increase or decrease. with 43% of the stations surveyed so far, 13% of those fall within the allowed CRN quality rating. Basically, that rating determines the quality of the temp reading based on the location of the monitoring station. If you check out it has a list of all the stations surveyed so far and how the ratings are determined. Point is, the "High Quality Network" used to determine the surface temp, is poor at best. Now then, can we start up a coal fire? I'm freezing.

Trobs 9 years, 5 months ago

Go check out the website I linked. Watts backs up eveyrthing he posts with facts and studies. It isn't the ravings of a madman. If that is what you are implying, Anthony Watts does plenty of research

starcrossedloafer 9 years, 5 months ago

"Eventually, nuclear, wind and solar power will provide a larger percentage of America’s power, but that will be years away. In the meantime, every effort should be made to figure out a way to use coal to generate the energy this country will need for the next 20 to 30 years."In the mean time?! So, while we're waiting for other countries to develop and profit off of wind and solar technologies, as well as building efficiency, we're going to "figure out a way" to burn coal without: 1. spending millions (a $440 billion set-aside has been proposed in one bill) of our tax dollars on an energy source that will soon run out2. poisoning our kids (our very own Lawrence Energy Center is in the top 90-100 percentile for mercury and lead emmisions )or3. blowing up our national parks aka the Appalachian Mountain Range issue here isn't global warming. Because whether you believe it's real or not, the rest of the world is developing renewable and efficiency technologies, and coal will soon run out. We have a choice as a nation to either spend billions of your tax dollars developing technologies to burn a rock that will soon run out, leaving us once again with a dead industry relying on other countries to buy us out of debt. Or, we can be the country of innovators and leaders that we once were. We can be on the forefront of a technology that uses resources that don't run out. And we can once again be the nation the rest of world turns to. Personally, I'll take the second option.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

While having as many eyeballs as possible compiling and looking at data is a good thing, Watts's motivation is clearly political, not scientific, so his "science" is quite suspect and of little value in determining what is happening with the climate as a result of human actions.

Bill Griffith 9 years, 5 months ago

I am not a big fan of coal as it is used in its present state. Also, I am not a follower of the belief system that, "since we have this, we should use it till it is gone." This is not a zero-sum game we are mucking our way through. I am also concerned about putting too many research dollars into clean coal technology that could bear more immediate fruit and have a deeper impact in energy effiicency, battery technology, etc. However, at some time in the medium distant future we may need clean coal technology to export to China and India to assist them in meeting terms of a future climate treaty. Therefore we should not totally turn our back on clean coal research. I am skeptical that Kansas is the place for this as we tend not to be a leader in many areas. I could be wrong.

Trobs 9 years, 5 months ago

Watts is not political. Many of the comment posters are. If you read that article Bozo it references the comments, not Watts himself as claiming political bias. Beyond that, one of the champions of climate change, Al Gore, is using it as a massive political push. Despite his movie, books and speeches, he still lives in a massive power consuming house and owns a private plane. is about politics Bozo. You of all people should know this. Watts has solar in his house, drives an electric car, yet he is still skeptical of global warming. Because he does not agree with the "consensus" he is wrong? What happened to scientific discussion. Even the agencies responsible for the study of this are not beyond politics. GISS and NASA both have released "revised" temperature graphs which raise historical temps in order to inflate the heating trend. Is that not political? I didn't realize you could change history on a whim.

Trobs 9 years, 5 months ago

Human beings have an influence on the Earth, no doubt. I do not think however we can cause a massive (2 degree) change in temperature. Between the ocean currents, volcanic activity, or lack there of, solar activity and many others, I think our planet has plenty of things to manage our climate. Does that mean we shouldn't clean our act up? I don't think that, I do not believe the end of the world is coming due to man made global warming.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 5 months ago

This isn't about beliefs, Trobs, it's about data and science. By far the majority of climate scientists analyzing the data have come to the conclusion that putting billions of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that would not otherwise be there can and likely will have a dramatic effect on the climate-- already is, for that matter.Does that mean that there aren't other forces at work? No, but most of those happen over geologic time, and present little risk in the here and now, and we have no control over them anyhow.We live in the here and now, and we can, if we want, control our own actions. Is there a possibility that climate change due to the greenhouse effect won't have catastrophic effects? Sure, but if we follow the debunkers' favored path of doing nothing, it'll be too late to do anything about it by the time we know for sure one way or the other. I prefer to err on the side of caution and the best scientific evidence available.

frank mcguinness 9 years, 5 months ago

o_bugpoo "christian scientists" These 2 words should NEVER never never never be used together again.

kmat 9 years, 5 months ago

Trobs said - "For instance. Monday five inches of snow fell in south east England, while their Parliament was discussing the “Mother of all Bills” on climate change.115 towns and cities in the US set record lows and it snowed for the first time in London since 1922 on Oct 29. Alaska had one of their coolest summers on record while Arctic sea ice loss during the summer was lower then last year's record loss and it is on pace to pass the average ice gain.That global warming is freezing huh?"You have very little understanding of what the overall warming of the earth will do to weather patterns. When scientists state that the temperature is increasing, it is the average world temp. That doesn't mean that every place on earth will get warmer. This overall warming will create different weather patterns. Some places will be warmer, some colder. Storms will get worse. Weather patterns will change. Arid regions may become wetter. Some areas will become arid.It would really help if you understood the concept before trying to argue about it.Meteorology 101 at KU would be a good learning experience for many of you.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 5 months ago

Neither Coal nor nuclear are clean and both are the most expensive choices. Where did the fiscal conservatives go?

gccs14r 9 years, 5 months ago

Even if coal could be burned with 100% efficiency and all the CO2 could be sequestered, there is still the environmental cost of ripping it out of the ground. They shear off mountaintops to get it now, and put the mountaintops in the valleys, leaving a plain of toxic wasteland in their wake. I guess it's OK if we can't see it from here though, right?

onceinawhile 9 years, 5 months ago

Emissions from coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the global warming pollution in today’s atmosphere.There is NO such thing as clean coal.The Department of Energy, UN Special Commission and the electric utility industry all agree that one form of so-called clean coal — commercial underground carbon storage — is decades away, and will not occur without a national cap, or significant tax, on greenhouse gas pollution. The current technology is unproven at full scale and is incredibly expensive.

camper 9 years, 5 months ago

I think clean coal should definitely be looked at if it is possible. Perhaps underground storage may be decades away, but maybe the editorial indicates that these time-frames could be speeded up with proper initiative. If this is the case, a great # of jobs could be created, and we could actually have something to show for the usage of this bailout money.Maybe I should do my research. There has been much discussion about zero emissions and underground storage. But from a layman, has there been any improvements in emission filtration from these smokestacks? Maybe this is a silly question, but I would think better filtering devices could be designed.

camper 9 years, 5 months ago

On the other hand....I remember my old history course when we covered the Industrial revolution. Coal was the primary source of energy, and I know places (London especially) were extremely dirty places and air quality in major industrial cities was actually worse in the late 1800's.Regarding coal extraction, I don't like the idea of the land pollution this causes. Perhaps these methods could be changed or improved to have less environmental impact...even if it is more expensive. The timber industry has made strides in this area. Can the coal biz do it too? I don't know.

onceinawhile 9 years, 5 months ago

Prove it?It's reported by the Sierra Club,, and that stat is attributed in there to the EPA.

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 5 months ago

After suffering through watching the discussions over this controversy in our state, I have an instinctive reaction against the Coal plants because so much political subterfuge has been used to try to ramrod through their approval.Fortunately, as shown by the recent Presidential election, the American people want a common sense and practical approach to problem solving, not a propaganda filled and political and ideologically driven and "corrupted" approach. For example, there is currently no such thing as "clean coal" so why use the term. It is misleading.I suggest public dialogue be directed to educate and inform rather than to politicize or mislead the electorate. If "clean coal" is not achievable in the foreseeable future, simply admit it and move on to other technologies instead of flooding the media with ads and our state house with lobbyists.If there is promising technology, simply explain it. We of the internet age can figure things out on our own. Thank you very much.

adonispayton 9 years, 4 months ago

After coal is mined it generally goes through a process known as preparation or coal cleaning. This is done for two main reasons. The first is to remove impurities in order to boost the heat content of the coal and thereby improve power plant capacity. The removal of impurities also will reduce maintenance costs at the power plant and extend plant life. The second reason for coal preparation is to reduce potential air pollutants, especially sulfur dioxideHere is a link that might be useful:

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