Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sequestration, a Slam Dunk?

Though building a new clean-coal power plant at the Huntley Station in the Town of Tonawanda (about an hour away by car) isn’t within the political purview of Monroe County, it is within our environmental sphere of influence. “Building a new clean-coal power plant at the site of the Huntley Station in the Town of Tonawanda would pump an estimated $133 million a year into the Erie County economy during its construction and a projected $94 million a year once the facility is running, a study to be released today found. (Nov 30, 07)” The Buffalo News: Business: Report lauds planned coal plant

Meaning, that if does not go well with the large-scale use of Sequestration (a silver bullet solution hailed as the savior of coal power) we will probably reap some of the consequences here in Rochester, just as we do from the power plants out West. I believe that all that we do personally to curb Global Warming will be negated if we, or anyone within our planetary influence, burns large amounts of coal for energy.

Here in Rochester, we have said no to coal. (Note: Russell Station plans change — Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. has withdrawn its application to convert Russell Station to a clean coal power plant and will instead go with the option of rebuilding the Greece site as a natural gas power plant. (September 29, 2007) Democrat & Chronicle) But, in a large weather system such as our (not to mention most of our weather drifts from west to east) what others do nearby affects our climate and air quality. Coal is a dirty power source: it emits lots of particulates which get in your lungs, a lot of carbon dioxide that has been trapped in the planet for millions of years and is release wholesale when burnt for energy) and mercury, when burnt in a power plant turns into “neurotoxin poisonous in soluble forms such as mercuric chloride or methylmercury.” –from Mercury (element) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

So, if sequestration does not work, then a lot of money has gone down the drain on a process of making energy from coal merely a dream—and a nightmare if these projects go ahead without a guarantee that they will be clean. There are no fully running clean-coal plants using sequestration, and one of those trying are in doubt of ever going online: Environment ReportA FUTURE FOR 'FUTUREGEN'?” The federal project known as FutureGen now has a home. The zero-emissions coal-to- hydrogen plant is to be built in Illinois. It's been in the planning stages for several years. But, there are skeptics who doubt FutureGen will ever be built.”

My point: Sequestration is not a slam dunk as a solution for Global Warming. It’s an interesting proposal, but it has not been done on a large scale and millions of dollars are being spent on this concept because we don’t want to let go of coal—not because it has been proven to work on a large scale. Also, if this new project at Huntley Station does not work, but goes online anyway as a regular coal plant because they’ve already spent million of dollars on it and the public will be clamoring for more cheap energy, say goodbye to any real efforts in our area to curb Global Warming. You yourself can burn less energy and buy more fuel efficient cars (if you can find them after the EPA squashed California’s ((and by default New York’s)) new standards for fuel emissions) and that will make you feel good, but it won’t have a large, immediate effect on the buildup of Global Warming gases—which has been called for by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

We must understand that fighting Global Warming demands a new set of priorities—now that there has been a world-wide consensus of nations and scientists that mankind can and does affect our planetary climate. Just changing our personal behavior and living green is not enough. We are up against a planetary problem that must be solved quickly and that means by billions of people. Large projects like the Huntley Station and the efficacy of Sequestration must be on our radar. The arguments for cheap electricity and creating a lot of jobs for many must be measured properly with the possible effects of our environmental concerns.

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