Articles Posted in the Green News category

Is clean coal really an option?

March 5, 2009
Posted in Green News

Clean coal is a term that’s bandied about in South Africa as much as it is in the United States. But it’s hard to determine whether it’s real or just wishful thinking.

If you watch the clip from CNN above, it seems clean coal means different things to different people. Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club, says that the coal industry uses the term clean coal to mean “anything that is built post-1970 regardless of the fact that it’s spewing out large amounts of carbon dioxide”.

Technology is the key to clean coal, it would appear. But does the technology that will prevent the world’s coal power plants from belching out greenhouses gases exist yet – and on a big enough scale? The CNN clip says that not one power station in the US is fitted with carbon capture technology yet. So how far away are we from actually seeing it being installed on the coal-to-liquid fuel plants and power stations here in South Africa? Then there’s also the matter of finding somewhere to store the carbon dioxide in perpetuity.

As a developing country, South Africa doesn’t have caps on its greenhouse gas emissions like the developed countries do under the Kyoto Protocol. Huge new coal power plants are being built here and some old ones are being brought out of mothballs and recommissioned to meet the growing demand for electricity. The reason we’re continuing down the coal path is that at present it appears to be the cheapest option. And the government has carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) down on its list of climate change mitigation options.

We already have a high per capita carbon footprint in this country (about 10 tons a year) because of our reliance on coal for energy and this is despite the fact that 30 percent of South Africans don’t have access to electricity. The country needs to be able to generate clean and affordable electricity to help raise these millions of people out of poverty.

So my question is: Will “clean coal” technology ever be able to do this – and even it it can, will it be too expensive for us people of the South to afford?

[CNN link from Adam of Twilight Earth on Twitter]

Budget: Coal still gets more support than clean

February 16, 2009
Posted in Business, Renewable energy

coal-fired-plantEnvironmental organisation WWF South Africa has welcomed the taxes targeting “unsustainable spending” in this year’s Budget, but says that the government needs to help to reduce the cost of sustainable alternatives by providing renewable energy with the same finance support it gives to fossil fuel.

The group describes as “very positive moves” the carbon tax on new vehicles, which means that people who buy the most fuel-efficienct vehicles will pay less tax; the increase in the fuel levy; the levy on inefficient incandescent light-bulbs; the tax breaks for investments in energy efficiency; and the clarity on tax exemption for carbon credits, which encourages the generation of carbon credit and greenhouse gas savings, but not speculation in carbon credit.

But the government has agreed to guarantee R176-billion worth of debt for the national power utility, Eskom, in order to reduce the cost of finance for its R343-billion investment, most of which will go towards financing massive new coal power stations.

Peet du Plooy, WWF’s Trade and Investment Advisor in South Africa, says: “It would not be reasonable in a country that pursues climate leadership, to exclude the renewable energy sector from the same much-needed finance support that government is extending, via Eskom, to investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“WWF does not support the planning basis for the present Eskom expansion, or the selection of conventional coal technology as a result of such planning. However, if this public investment were accepted as a ship that’s already sailed, there is still a case to be made that the same provisions should also be available to guarantee the finance of clean, renewable energy,” says Du Plooy.

Motor vehicle manufacturing, airlines and mining, “some of the most environmentally risky industries”, have also received support worth billions of rands in this year’s Budget, the WWF points out in a statement.

Photo by Arnold Paul, licensed under Creative Commons Atr

The organisation also says that the R6.4 billion that will be made available for public transport, roads and rail infrastructure would be made more sustainable if the money were “channelled more towards public transport and rail infrastructure rather than roads”.

Du Plooy also said that: “A tax on emissions-intensive industries like private cars or fossil-fuelled electricity, should be balanced with incentives for job-intensive, low-emissions alternatives like public transport and renewable energy.”

Source: WWF

Photo by Arnold Paul licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5

‘No new coal’, says daring caped crusader

December 12, 2008
Posted in Green News

The cooling towers of Kingsnorth power station, near Nottingham in the UK. © Ed Clarke,

In an extraordinarily audacious and dangerous act of environmental sabotage, an unknown “caped crusader” breached the security of Britain’s Kingsnorth coal- and oil-fired power station and brought one of its 500MW turbines to a standstill last month. Then, after leaving a calling call which read “NO NEW COAL”, he simply disappeared.

The power station was brought to a halt for four hours. This means that the unknown saboteur single-handedly reduced Britain’s carbon emissions by 2 percent, the Guardian reports.

The hunt is now on for “climate man”. The police say they have no suspects and even seasoned climate activists say they have no idea who did it, but would really love to know.

A spokesperson for power utility E.ON was quoted in the Guardian article as saying: “It was extremely odd indeed, quite creepy. We have never known anything like this at all, but it shows that if people want to do something badly enough they will find a way.”

Read the full story here

(Thanks to Gavin for the link)

Greenpeace takes on dirty coal

November 1, 2008
Posted in Renewable energy

If you’re a Bond movie fan you’ll love Greenpeace’s new hero who’s out to save the world from the evil bad guy Coalfinger. They’ve made a video with fantastic animation and horrible puns – but a very important message, obviously … The big question is:

Do we dogmatically pursue new coal in a business as usual scenario, or do we commit the world to a clean energy future, creating green jobs, increasing energy security and, crucially, slashing our carbon emissions?

Click on the image or go to to see the vid and get informed.

‘Clean coal is like healthy cigarettes’

October 4, 2008
Posted in Business

Al Gore, he who made climate change mainstream with his movie An Inconvenient Truth, has called for civil disobedience to stop the building of new coal plants that don’t have carbon capture and storage. He was speaking at the Clinton Gobal Initiative meeting in New York last month. Environment News Service reports him as saying: “The coal and oil companies have spent, in the United States alone, a half a billion dollars in the first eight months of this year promoting a lie that there is such a thing as clean coal. Clean coal is like healthy cigarettes. It does not exist. It could theoretically exist. The only demonstration plant [in the United States – FutureGen] was cancelled. How many such plants are there? Zero. How many blueprints? Zero.” Gore called for a new global energy infrastructure based on renewable energy: sun, wind and geothermal.

Australia wants to be clean coal research hub

September 22, 2008
Posted in Green News

Australia plans to set itself up as the world hub for carbon capture research, Reuters reports. The country’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants to get United Nations’ backing for an Australian research institute at the general assembly meeting in New York this week. Rudd says that although there’s a great deal of international effort going into carbon capture research, it’s haphazard and he wants to bring it together in one place.

Australia is the world’s top coal exporter and relies heavily on coal for power generation, so developing “clean coal” technologies such as carbon capture and storage make economic sense; they would allow the continued use of coal to generate electricity – but without the climate-harming carbon emissions.

The country is already making progress in a method of carbon capture known as post-combustion capture (PCC). In July, the CSIRO reported that carbon dioxide had been captured from power station flue gases in a PCC pilot plant at a power station in Victoria. The pilot plant is designed to capture up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from the power station’s exhaust-gas flues. Read more

First coal plant ready to capture and store its carbon emissions opens

September 11, 2008
Posted in Business

Depending on your perspective, the world’s first demonstration plant for carbon capture and storage (CCS) (CSS) technology, which was officially opened in Germany on Tuesday, is either a milestone for clean coal technology or a distraction that will delay investment in real clean energy technologies.

The 30MW plant, built by Swedish energy utility Vattenfall on the premises of its 1,600MW Schwarze Pumpe power plant in northern Germany, took 15 months and cost about 70-million Euros to build. It’s very small compared to conventional power stations, but it’s the first coal-fired power plant in the world ready to capture and store its own carbon dioxide emissions. And Vattenfall has bigger plans for the future. Read more

Greenpeace blockades Australian power plant

July 3, 2008
Posted in Renewable energy

Twenty-seven Greenpeace activists have blocked the coal supply to the Eraring power plant in New South Wales, Australia, by locking on to the conveyor. Eraring is Australia’s most polluting coal-fired power plant, says Greenpeace.

“Eraring, an old and inefficient plant, is one of eight coal-fired power stations in New South Wales. These plants are responsible for half the state’s and 13 percent of Australia’s greenhouse pollution. Eraring is the biggest culprit, sending nearly 20 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution into the atmosphere every year. Each hour we blockade the coal supply, we will prevent 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide being released,” said Greenpeace Australia climate and energy campaigner Simon Roz.

Greenpeace is calling on Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to deliver policies that support renewable power so that Australia can immediately start replacing old and dirty coal-fired power. Part of that support should be a robust emissions trading scheme designed to deliver substantial cuts in greenhouse pollution quickly.

“We have to stop fuelling climate change when creating electricity,” said Roz. Read more