Report: So-Called “Clean Coal” Technology comes with Considerable Risks

“Clean coal” technology–while offering some potential–comes with considerable risk according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. While supporting additional research on the technology, the group calls for further investment in renewable energy.



A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists has found that promises of “clean coal” technology comes with considerable risks.

The organization–while not dismissing “clean coal”–has some serious concerns relating to scale, safety, and cost:

“SCALE: For the technology to make a meaningful contribution to reducing global warming pollution, it would require an enormous processing and transportation infrastructure that could handle a volume of liquefied carbon dioxide rivaling that of the oil consumed in the United States today. Put another way, the Department of Energy estimates that the annual storage space needed for a typical 600-megawatt plant’s emissions would be approximately four times the volume of the Empire State Building.

SAFETY: Demonstration projects will have to determine if carbon dioxide can be stored indefinitely and in what type of underground geologic formations. Slow carbon leaks could undermine the technology’s effectiveness as a global warming solution and contaminate groundwater. Fast leaks from a storage site or a pipeline could threaten local residents.

COST: Current coal plant designs cannot cost-effectively capture carbon dioxide. Studies estimate that adding the technology to a conventional coal plant would dramatically increase cost and reduce energy output. Although there are advanced coal plant designs that are better suited for carbon capture, it still would be extremely expensive to add the technology, particularly as a retrofit.

Despite these challenges, the report concluded that carbon-capture-and-storage technology has enough potential to help curb global warming to warrant large-scale demonstration projects. These projects would help determine how the technology compares with other low-carbon energy technologies and whether it merits broader deployment. However, the report cautions that coal’s other environmental and societal impacts must be factored into any assessment of the viability of carbon capture.”

Moreover, the organization says that technology does not take into account the mining, transporting, and disposing of coal. Similarly, certain mining methods–such as mountaintop removal mining–are incredibly destructive.

The report expresses support for funding research into carbon-capture-and-storage technology but says that it is important to dramatically increase funding for energy-efficiency, renewable-energy, and energy-storage technologies.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media //