Good Associated Press article in Int Herald Tribune, on our use for coal, certainty of future demand (and supply), and tough issues re pollution, carbon dioxide. Includes:
Coal is big, and getting bigger. As oil and natural gas prices soar, the world is relying ever more on the cheap, black-burning mainstay of the Industrial Revolution. Mining companies are racing into Africa. Workers are laying miles of new railroad track to haul coal from the Powder River Basin in the U.S. states of Wyoming and Montana.
And nowhere is coal bigger than in China.
But the explosion of coal comes amid rising alarm over its dire consequences for workers and the environment. An average of 13 Chinese miners die every day in explosions, floods, fires and cave-ins. Toxic clouds of mercury and other chemicals from mining are poisoning the air and water far beyond China's borders and polluting the food chain.
So far, attempts to clean up coal have largely not worked. Technology to reduce or cut out carbon dioxide emissions is expensive and years away from widespread commercial use. ... The U.S. and Chinese governments are subsidizing the development of technology that converts coal to a clean-burning gas before it is burned. But such plants still emit ample amounts of carbon dioxide, notes Qian Jingjing, an expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York and co-author of the report "Coal in a Changing Climate."
She and many other experts believe coal can only be made environmentally sustainable through the more experimental technology of capturing carbon dioxide emissions and storing them underground.
A joint government-private project in the United States aims to build such a "zero emissions" plant by 2012. Separately, Xcel Corp. of Minneapolis, a major electric and natural gas utility, is studying building a carbon capture and storage power plant in Colorado.
Across the Atlantic, the European Union may require carbon capture and storage systems for all new coal-fired power plants, with a proposal expected by year end. The gas would be buried in aquifers, depleted coal mines or geological faults deep underground.
But the costs are daunting.
"It takes a lot of money since you have to go so deep," said Brock of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "There is not one commercial carbon capture and storage project yet. It's yet to be proven."
AP">http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/10/28/asia/AS-FEA-GEN-China-Coal-Res... Enterprise: World's addiction to coal growing, despite worries about global warming