Clean coal?

While Nevada’s White Pine County tries to lure coal fired power plants to its territory, such plants are being cancelled or all over the United States.

On Oct. 4, Tampa Electric shelved its planned $2 billion, 630-megawatt plant, the third Florida plant cancelled this year. The state’s governor, Charles Crist, has launched an ambitious initiative of renewable energy sources and reduction of the state’s production of greenhouse gases. Crist praised the Tampa action.

“This is the end of coal in Florida as we know it,” Southern Alliance for Clean Energy lobbyist Stephen Smith told the St. Petersburg Times.

After the California utility deregulation crisis of 2000-2001 that produced energy shortages and brownouts and battered Nevada as well, construction of new plants was the widely promoted solution, over the objections of little-publicized critics. About 150 plants were planned, but the Wall Street Journal now reports, “From coast to coast, plans for a new generation of coal-fired power plants are falling by the wayside as states conclude that conventional coal plants are too dirty to build, and the cost of cleaner plants is too high.” However, calling for “clean” coal is tantamount to calling for higher energy prices, according to many scientists.

The idea of cleaner coal has become the rallying cry of the coal industry and its collaborators who want to keep building coal plants, including Nevada’s governor, who once proposed a coal-to-liquid fuel plant in alliance with Wyoming and then abandoned the idea after experts noted that Nevada has little water and less coal.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, who has some kind of alliance with the coal/fossil fuel lobby group NextGen Energy Council, uses the term clean coal as something of a mantra when he talks about energy, though there is doubt that such a thing even exists. The Sierra Club’s Dan Becker has said, “There is no such thing as ‘clean coal,’ and there never will be. It’s an oxymoron.”

UNR scientist Glenn Miller says it’s not that conclusive. Clean coal is theoretically possible, he says, but at such prohibitive expense that any benefit is lost.