The Guardian UK Observer has an article in the February 15, 2008 edition titled Coal at centre of fierce new climate battle. According to this article, some energy “experts” believe that countries like China and India are destined to burn coal in ever increasing quantities simply because it exists.
But last week British energy experts warned that a system of carbon taxes had little chance of success, particularly in dealing with coal. “Coal is going to be available as a source of energy for at least another century and countries like China, India and Russia have particularly rich resources,” said Mike Stephenson, head of science at the British Geological Survey. “It does not matter what we say in the west about they should do, they will always want to exploit their coal. If it is in the ground, people will always be tempted to use it. The only way round the problem is to make the use of coal safe and environmentally friendly.”
Fortunately, what those experts do not factor in with their assumption is that many cultures, including both Chinese and Indian cultures, have a longer term focus than many “western” thinkers who believe that 100 years is a long time. They are also cultures that have a long tradition of people thinking about the impact they will have on several generations into the future.
My reading of recent news sources is that both India and China have a number of leaders that have recognized that uranium, plutonium and thorium fission is a better alternative for the near future than continued increases in coal consumption. Fortunately for all of us who breathe and recognize that we share the planet with 6 billion other human beings, China and India know for certain that they can build nuclear power plants faster than anyone can develop CCS technology. They would probably find the following statement to be rather amusing:
In other words, only technology can save the day – in the form of CCS schemes. “The position is very simple,” said energy expert Jon Gibbins, of Imperial College London. “The only way we can decarbonise our electricity production on the timescale needed to halt the worst effects of climate change is by setting up carbon capture and storage plants as matters of urgency.” Nuclear and wind plants simply cannot be constructed in the time available.
Hmmm. Since when is it possible to invent and deploy a new, unproven technology more quickly than it is to build a series of already proven machines? Besides, under the most optimistic expectations, the deployment of carbon capture and storage systems will require coal mining and transportation to increase by at least 20% for the same amount of electricity just to make up for the imposed inefficiency of capturing and compressing the CO2. How does a CCS plant capture the CO2 from the mining trucks, the ships and the locomotives?