Sunday, March 2, 2008

Harvard Professor says Increase Coal Use.....

Professor John P Holdren Director and Faculty Chair, Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at Harvard University believes we should expand coal use for electricity generation. Professor Holdren is a well noted researcher who sits on various boards and has recieved numerous awards for his work. Most notably in 2002 he served as the Co-Chair of the independent bipartisan National Commission on Energy and Policy. Most recently in 2004 he became the coordinating lead author of the Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. I say all this so that you recognize that when Professor Holdren speaks people listen, even Congress. Although Holdren believes we should expand coal use he is also adamant about reducing the factors that contribute to climate change. In order to accomplish this he has developed a "three-pronged approach" to the problem. This approach can be seen below:

  • The first prong is to provide a market signal that begins to slow the growth of carbon emissions, but at a pace that doesn't force premature retirement of existing coal-fired generating capacity. The Commission's proposal for a carbon-emission permit system that starts in 2010, phases in gradually, and controls the permit costs with an initial "safety valve" price of $7 per ton of CO2 is designed to achieve this.
  • The second prong is speeding up the commercialization of integrated gasification-combined-cycle multipurpose coal plants, which can produce liquid and gaseous fuels as well as electricity, which sharply reduce emissions of criteria air pollutants, and which offer the potential for affordable retrofit to capture CO2. The Commission proposes $400 million per year in federal early-deployment incentives over the next decade, in order to bring into operation 10 gigawatts of carbon-capture-capable IGCC plants.
  • The third prong is accelerating the development and commercial-scale demonstration of the carbon capture and sequestration technologies needed to realize the potential of IGCC plants to drastically and affordably reduce their CO2 emissions. For this purpose the Commission has proposed $300 million per year in federal support over the next decade.
Holdren's ideas are not novel by any means. Many researchers have come to these same conclusions and made the same suggestions. He projects that under his plan US coal use would increase from 1.1 billion tone in 2003 to 1.3 billion tons in 2020. His studies also project that CO2 equivalent emissions will be reduced by 540 million tons below what they are otherwise projected to be. In his testimony where these ideas were presented he also makes clear that his plan is revenue neutral and that the US would benefit from being a leader in burning coal cleaner. I believe that Holdren's ideas would come with some success, I just believe that many people have had the same idea of combining the expansion of innovative technology and federal regulations on CO2 emissions in order to reduce CO2 emissions.

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