Sep 25, 2009 | 25
The U.S. Secretary of Energy—channeling former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev perhaps?—has one thing to say in this week's Science to the greenhouse gases emitted by coal-fired power plants: We will bury you. Nobel laureate Steven Chu's department has funneled $3.4 billion in stimulus dollars to research and develop the technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
But to give you a sense of the challenge, here are his estimates of the scale of the challenge: six billion metric tons of coal burned every year, producing 18 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and requiring an underground storage volume of 30,000 cubic kilometers per year with untold consequences on subsurface pressure, mineral composition and the like. And we are nowhere near that scale: "We now sequester a few million metric tons of CO2 per year," he wrote, largely from cleaning natural gas or so-called "enhanced oil recovery" efforts, in which CO2 is pumped down to flush out more of the valuable petroleum (and therefore not as useful, from a climate perspective, as sequestration for its own sake).
May 15, 2009 | 6
How can a Nobel Prize–winning physicist—now the nation's energy secretary—get a bunch of coal industry folks to sit up and take notice during a keynote speech? How about by announcing that the feds are planning to dispense $2.4 billion to research and develop so-called clean coal technology?
In fact, that's exactly what Steven Chu did today at a meeting of the National Coal Council in Washington, D.C., where he announced that the government plans to add another $800 million to the Clean Coal Power Initiative pot of cash designed to explore new ways to cut acid rain, smog and mercury pollution as well as $1.5 billion to probe carbon dioxide capture and storage (rather than venting it) from heavy emitters other than power plants (think: cement manufacturers and refineries).
May 8, 2009 | 43
In the newly released budget, the U.S. Department of Energy cuts $100 million from the hydrogen fuel cell program in fiscal year 2010 and transforms its name to "fuel cell technologies." Hydrogen, of course, is just the fuel of a fuel cell—a device that recombines hydrogen and oxygen to produce water and electrical current. Still, the name change distances the Obama administration from the "hydrogen economy" goals of their predecessors.
"We asked ourselves, 'Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will convert to a hydrogen car economy?' The answer, we felt, was 'No,'" said energy secretary Steven Chu in a briefing on the budget for reporters yesterday, citing the need for better fuel cells and a near complete lack of infrastructure.
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