Can wind and solar energy, and other renewables power the world, in our lifetimes? I doubt it. So for at least the next few decades, say, environmentalists have to look to other sources of low-carbon baseload electricity.
Natural gas, while abundant and cheap for now, is not an good option. Its greenhouse gas emissions are too high to meet climate goals. Nuclear power would be preferable, in my view, although the issues of safety, waste disposal, proliferation and costs are all serious. And then there’s coal.
Yes, coal. In a story published by the excellent website YaleEnvironment360, I write about plans for a Texas coal plant that would capture and store carbon dioxide. Perhaps surprisingly, the so-called Texas Clean Energy Project has the tacit support of some environmental groups – the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Air Task Force. They realize that there’s a lot of coal in the world and it’s likely to get burned one way or another, especially in China. Better that it be burned in a low-carbon way, no? Well, that depends on how you feel acoal minim mining, which is itself an unavoidably dirty business.
The point is, all energy choices involve trade-offs.
Here’s how my story begins:
As mayor of Dallas from 2002 to 2007, Laura Miller helped lead the charge against a utility company called TXU that wanted to build 11 coal-fired power plants in Texas. Miller and her allies, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, stopped the coal plants, and in 2007 TXU was sold to two private-equity firms that promised to steer the company onto a greener path. Their story inspired a documentary film produced and narrated by Robert Redford that showcased Miller, as one magazine writer put it, as a “tough, smart and camera-friendly environmental heroine.”
Today, Miller, 53, who was a newspaper reporter before entering politics, again finds herself in the thick of a big Texas story about coal. This time, she’s trying to get a coal plant built — one that she says would be “the cleanest coal plant in the world.” As director of Texas projects for Summit Power, a Seattle-based energy firm, Miller has spent three years working on behalf of the Texas Clean Energy Project, an unusual $3 billion power facility that would capture carbon dioxide emissions and produce oil as well as coal.
You can read the rest here.