Clean coal… should we give it a chance?
Most of the content on this blog is focused on renewable energy technologies or technologies that help homeowners, businesses and entire industries use fuel and resources more efficiently and economically. But what about clean coal?
Here in Ontario, there’s a huge debate going on regarding what mix of coal and nuclear will power the province over the next few decades. Obviously, it would be nice to get as much hydro, wind and other renewables into a mix that includes some serious conservation efforts, but that’s not realistic. In Ontario, the ruling Liberal government has decided to phase out the province’s coal-burning power plants, but this will undoubtedly require a renewed commitment to nuclear power. We simply won’t be able to fill the power vacuum with other alternatives. In Germany, the opposite decision was made: kill the nukes and reluctantly stick with coal as more renewables and cleaner options become economical.
I like the German approach. If we commit to new nuclear plants today, we’re locked in for the long run with the knowledge that the risks of operation and disposal will really never go away. On the other hand, we know coal well, there’s lots of it, and new technologies and processes have emerged to make it a hell of a lot cleaner. We can pretty much guarantee that new builds will be cleaner, and we can pretty much assume that retrofits to old plants will to lead to dramatic improvements.
Am I sold on clean coal? Heck no — there’s still a lot for me to learn, personally, and I believe the jury is still out on whether it’s the way to go. That said, it shouldn’t be ruled out and more should definitely be explored. If you want to learn more, I refer you to this article and this post, courtesy of the Clean Energy Blog. In Canada, the clean coal movement is being led by the Canadian Clean Power Coalition, which is a group of major coal and coal-fired electricity producing hoping to convince Ontario to give coal a second chance.
I’m making no judgements here, other than to say it’s worth looking at rather than outright ruling out. It’s also worth serious exploration by the government before it locks Ontarians into outrageously expensive nuclear projects.