by Duane Lester | July 18, 2008 10:33 am
Within ten years, Al Gore wants America to “produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly energy sources…” He compared his challenge to that of John F. Kennedy’s pledge to go to the moon in ten years, (which made me wonder about the carbon footprint created in the 1960s just to get off the planet.)
The main focus of Gore’s campaign is, of course, the reduction of carbon dioxide production. The answer to that problem lies not in wind and solar, but nuclear power.
In America, nuclear reactors avoid “almost 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year…” Worldwide, “nuclear energy avoids on average the emission of more than 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.” Odd that Gore didn’t mention this. Nuclear generated power creates no carbon dioxide emissions. The “carbon footprint” for nuke plants is found in the construction, which all power plants, even wind and solar, create.
According to the Department of Energy, there are “104 fully licensed nuclear power reactors in the United States, though only 103 are now operational.” These plants currently provide 20% of America’s electricity, despite decades of anti-nuclear propaganda and reams of regulations. Some of these reactors have been operating since 1969. Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 1 came online in 1996. Construction of Watts Bar 1 started in 1973 and took 23 years at a cost of over $9 billion. It was the last nuclear reactor to come online in the United States. Construction of nuclear power plants around the world has not stopped.
With their penchant for looking to foreign countries for examples of what America should be doing, it amazes me that the left has failed to see the success of nuclear power in France. From CBS News:
Nearly 80 percent of the country’s electricity comes from 58 nuclear power plants, crammed into a country the size of Texas. Pierre Gadonniex, the head “Electricite de France,” the country’s national utility says it all began with a French obsession for energy independence.
“In France, we have nearly no coal. We have no oil. So clearly, nuclear appeared to be the best way,” Gadonniex explains. “And 30 years later, it appears to be a very smart decision.”
Because nuclear plants emit no greenhouse gases, France has the cleanest air in the industrialized world, and because the price of oil is now around $60 a barrel, it has the lowest electric bills in Europe. In fact, France has so much cheap electricity, it exports it to its European neighbors. French nuclear plants supply power to parts of Germany, Italy and help light the city of London.
With “the cleanest air in the industrialized world” and enough energy to supply power to three other countries, France is a shining example of the benefits of nuclear power. We could have similar benefits here in America but for the environmental movement’s use of fear to turn nuclear power into a villainous solution.
The main villain in power production in America however, isn’t nuclear. It’s coal fired plants. The green movement would love to see the elimination of these sites, which produce 50% of America’s power. Everywhere a coal-fired plant is proposed for construction, there is an environmental group there to stand in the way.
But there is good news on this front also.
A research team at the Univ. of Wyoming’s Soft Material Laboratory has developed a simple, low-cost adsorption process, referred to as Carbon Filter Process, which can capture CO2 and mercury from fluegas generated by coalfired power plants.
CO2 and other pollutants are retained on a porous carbonaceous sorbent at ambient temperature and pressure. This is because such CO2-philic carbonaceous materials are selective to CO2 with respect to nitrogen, especially at lower pressures. After it has been saturated with CO2, the sorbent releases CO2 upon heating to approximately 100:°C (e.g., with steam). The sorbent is also known to be effective in removing residual mercury from fluegas.
The process (for which a patent is pending) requires neither expensive materials nor fluegas compression or refrigeration. Hence, it can be efficiently integrated with an existing or grassroots power plant.
This “Carbon Filtration Process” removes an estimated 90% of that nasty carbon dioxide from the power plant’s emissions. Then, as a bonus, we can use the trapped CO2 to get more oil and methane:
Although a typical destination of the captured CO2 is commonly envisioned to be some form of passive geologic storage or other storage type, this work is also motivated by a vision of utilizing the captured CO2 to displace valuable oil and coal-bed methane stranded in mature reservoirs, as illustrated in Figure 1, before storing it permanently in spent reservoirs. Such a CO2-driven displacement is referred to as enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and enhanced coal-bed methane recovery (ECBMR). The advantage of CO2-EOR over a conventional water displacement is that, generally, CO2 is miscible with oil, which leads to a much higher oil recovery. The conventional coal-bed methane recovery calls for the release of massive quantities of environmentally objectionable water, to reduce the reservoir pressure that traps methane in coal seams. A CO2-ECBMR alternative is attractive because it can produce more methane in an environmentally sensitive manner, without much of the groundwater byproduct. Both CO2-EOR and CO2-ECBMR are examples of producing oil and methane energy that is not only “green” but also more plentiful and cost-effective.
Odd that Gore didn’t mention this either.
What Gore has mentioned before is investing in alternative sources of “green” energy, particularly ones he is invested in already. In fact, Newsbusters notes that he has started including a sales pitch in his now famous impending doom slideshow:
This occurred as pictures of such products appeared on the screen with names of the companies involved (video available here, relevant section begins at minute 15:00, h/t NBer Sick-and-Tired):
There are a lot of great investments you can make. If you are investing in tar sands, or shale oil, then you have a portfolio that is crammed with sub-prime carbon assets. And it is based on an old model. Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and their legs collapse. Developing tar sands and coal shale is the equivalent. Here are just a few of the investments I personally think make sense. I have a stake in these so I’ll have a disclaimer there. But geo-thermal concentrating solar, advanced photovoltaics, efficiency, and conservation.
As Gore spoke these words, pictures of electric cars, windmills and solar panels appeared in multiple slides on the screen with company names at the bottom such as Amyris (biofuels), Altra (biofuels), Bloom Energy (solid oxide fuel cells), Mascoma (cellulosic biofuels), GreatPoint Energy (catalytic gasification), Miasole (solar cells), Ausra (utility scale solar panels), GEM (battery operated cars), Smart (electric cars), and AltaRock Energy (geothermal power).
It’s enough to make me wonder if Gore is really focused on reducing carbon dioxide, or on making a buck. But then I wonder if this has ever been about lowering carbon dioxide levels.
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