Big lumps of sooty coal hardly seem like the future of energy, but that's exactly what the U.S. Department of Energy predicts. Consumption of the fossil fuel --the main source of greenhouse gas and a major contributor to acid rain, smog and mercury poisoning --will hit 10.6 billion tons a year by 2030, a near doubling of the 5.4 billion tons burned in 2003, according to the agency.
But coal's growing dominance need not spell doom for the environment, says Mike Mudd, a former manager of technology development at American Electric Power (AEP), one of the country's biggest utilities. Mudd is now CEO of FutureGen, a $1-billion project sponsored by the DOE in partnership with 11 leading energy companies to build the first near-zero-emission coal plant by 2012. The 275-megawatt facility will serve as the model for a new generation of high-tech coal facilities.
The FutureGen plant takes gasification a step further by burning only the hydrogen from syngas. The carbon monoxide is combined with steam to produce additional hydrogen, along with CO2 that will be pumped 2,700 to 16,000 feet underground into deep saline reservoirs. The U.S. alone has the geological capacity to store up to 2.2 trillion tons of CO2, roughly 1,000 years' worth of U.S. power-plant emissions, estimates Julio Friedmann, who directs research on CO2 sequestration at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
What do you guys think about storing CO2 emissions underground until a better solution is thought of? It's not the best solution but it's certainly a step in the right direction.