60 Minutes recently aired a program on the future of coal power featuring Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers (an advocate of longer term 'Cathedral Thinking' carbon reduction) and leading climate scientist James Hansen (an advocate of a moratorium on building coal plants).
The CBS report was solidly mainstream in framing coal as central to the conversation on energy, environment and global economic development- but it failed to move the conversation beyond ideas that have existed for several decades.
Time for Big Ideas, not Big Battles Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy due largely to growth outside the United States. And despite all the rapid growth rates expected with wind and solar, coal is likely to gain global market share in the years ahead.
So this is not just a conversation about US policy and US-based utilities! And there is no way to just 'wish' coal away. We must develop low cost carbon solutions that can be applied around the world within existing power plants. And everyone agrees - these low cost solutions do not exist today!
CBS Producers missed an opportunity to introduce more advanced non-geoengineering strategies to carbon neutralization and left viewers stuck at ringside watching the same old 'pro' vs 'anti' battle.
Carbon's Molecular Dance between Oxygen and Hydrogen Carbon is a 'sticky' molecule that interchangeably binds with oxygen and hydrogen based on its journey through biochemical pathways or via human induced energy conversion (e.g. power plants and combustion engine).
Human beings have a choice to approach carbon solutions through geo-engineering (shoving it underground), or as bio-engineers who can bind carbon with hydrogen for use as a hydrocarbon fuel (for transportation or onsite electricity generation) or a bio-feestock for industrial applications. CBS viewers would have been better off understanding the long-term view of carbon rather than watch a debate without a viable solution. (Continue Reading Below).
The Clean Energy Prize Competition was founded with the goal of using clean energy technology from the labs to actual use. DTE Energy, in conjunction with the University of Michigan, want the contestants to create the best business plan for bringing clean energy technologies into stores and the market. The team with the most creative module receives $100,000 plus the grand prize of $65,000.
The competition started with 20 teams and is now down to 14.
This contest prepares the participants with the experience and knowledge of what it takes to start a clean energy business.
The business proposals include: "Aeolian is involved in the design and manufacture of air-powered automotive engines", "CTW International would develop land-based projects that have climate, biodiversity, and community benefits", "Husk would convert agricultural waste into high-grade insulation" and "Potential Energy would create clean, sustainable storage for wind energy".
The competition is judged by leaders from different sectors. In the first round, the judges came from companies such as Google, the Michigan Public Service Comission, and Next Energy.
The next round in the competition is creating a financial overview which must be submitted by January 16, in which six teams will be eliminated. The next judging, the semi-finals, will take place on February 13 and on March 20 the final will be held.
Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy, and at the center of the debate over advancing our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions even as we attempt to meet the demands of a global doubling of energy consumption in the decades ahead.
'Clean' vs 'Cleaner' While one side of the debate spectrum ridicules the concept of 'Clean Coal', the other side is pushing forward down the road to 'Cleaner' ways to convert coal energy into electricity that goes far beyond today's 'coal fire' combustion power plants.
Via a process known as 'gasification' we can remove much of the carbon from coal to create a cleaner hydrogen-rich synthetic gas (syngas). Industrial scale fuel cells can then convert this syngas chemical energy into electricity. The challenge is scaling up fuel cells to meet the challenge!
The milestone marks a key step towards non-combustion based conversion using 'low-cost Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) technology for coal-based power plants and other power generation applications' using carbon heavy feedstocks such as syngas, natural gas and biofuels.
Integrated gasification fuel cell plants are expected 'to achieve an overall operating efficiency of greater than 50 percent—15 percentage points higher than today’s average U.S.-based coal-fired power plant—while separating at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions for capture and environmentally secure storage.'
The US Department of Energy hoopes to have a a 250-kilowatt to 1-megawatt fuel cell module demonstration by 2012; a 5-megawatt proof-of-concept fuel cell system to demonstrate system integration, heat recovery turbines, and power electronics by 2015; and then a full-scale demonstration of a 250- to 500-megawatt integrated gasification fuel cell power plant by 2020.