Trump’s endless mantra. Pic: anonymous
The abandoned $7.5 billion Kemper clean-coal power plant in Mississippi. Pic source – The Guardian
Australia should take note! The abandonment of the Kemper clean-coal power plant in Mississippi has been declared. As a result of this flagship plant’s failure, it now seems unlikely that any large-scale clean-coal concept will ever be constructed in the US. Given that, then the desperate attempts to pursue the clean-coal fantasy in Australia should also cease before more fortunes are wasted on this fruitless cause.
Clean-coal is simply still dirty coal. Over the last decade America and Australia have been advocating and foolishly spending a vast amounts of money on the pursuit of clean-coal. So far with the best technology that has been developed, the carbon reduction emissions are only around 13%.
The $7.5 billion Kemper plant was designed to use lignite (brown coal} which is the least efficient and most abundant. This was to produce power across America’s lowest income state whilst causing the least climate-changing polluting emissions.
Investigative journalism with former engineers and site managers has found evidence that top executives covered up construction problems and fundamental design flaws at the plant, and knew years before they admitted it publicly, that their plans had gone awry.
The Kemper plant’s owner, Southern Company, America’s second-largest utility company, announced it was abandoning construction after years of blown-out budgets and missed construction deadlines.
This precedent is a major set back for any clean-coal dreamer!
What is clean coal?
Coal provides 41% of the Earth’s electricity requirements, yet is the dirtiest fuel on the planet, and the emissions from its use as a source of heat and energy make it historically the single largest threat to our climate.
Clean-coal relies on a series of technologies known as carbon capture and storage (CCS). In 2015 the International Energy Agency calculated that CCS could help reduce global carbon emissions that would deliver a huge chunk of reductions needed by 2050 to keep a global temperature-rise below 2 degrees Centigrade.
CCS technology aims to capture CO2 that is generated at coal plants and store it underground in rock formations and aquifers.
So far no major coal power plant has managed to make CCS work on a grand scale. Costs have proved prohibitive, especially as natural gas prices are making coal uncompetitive.
Australia’s folly with CCS
Renewable energy development is expanding exponentially in Australia, and even more so in many other nations around the world. Australia’s reliability on coal for power generation will be minimal by 2025, although some coal-fired power stations will probably still operate until around 2035. There are currently no new coal-fired plants approved for construction.
Australia has spent around $600 million researching clean-coal and CCS. This is mainly in desperation to keep the fossil fuel internal markets alive by the Liberal/Nationals that are tied-up with the coal industry’s interests.
The USA coal market and industry
What happens with coal production and share prices in America is inevitable to occur in Australia.
The USA coal share market price has taken a huge hit this year. Since January, stocks have fallen around 20% in a few months. If such a trend continued then coal shares could be next to worthless by next year unless Trump gets his way.
Renewable energy plant constructions and PV installations are unquestionably responsible for the rapid decline and demand for coal production all over the globe.
Donald Trump’s dogmatic assertion of restricting or hampering any renewables development has had little effect to date, though tariffs on renewable imported products such PV panels may slow down production in the future. This will ultimately be in vain because in the longer-term it will be counter productive to their economy through creating less employment and investment.
Trump has no strategy as to how to reopen the abandoned coal mines and provide coal for which there is no market for.
Trump’s visionless statement is forbidding, but it is unfortunately one the Australian government is sympathetic to.
*Ted Mead believes that often the simplest solution is the most economic one as well, though this is generally not how our governments view it. The Liberals’ determination to pursue the highly expensive clean-coal strategy over the economic expansion of renewable energy is a clear indication of the lack of leadership vision compounded by corporate influences. Ted is certain that coal industry’s political donations are influencing Australia’s lagging policy of transitioning out of fossil fuel dependency into renewables.