DOE announces funding for "clean coal" R&D but environmentalists are skeptical

09/07/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Today U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the federal government will fund 22 clean coal research and development projects across the country, including one in Florida. Environmentalists of are skeptical about how green that technology is, but Chu said the investment will create jobs while positioning the US as a global clean energy leader.

So-called “clean coal” technology involves stripping coal emissions of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. The CO2 would likely then be stored in underground rock formations. Chu said President Obama wants to see this technology up and running in the next decade.

Types of research and development projects include developing large-scale carbon capture and storage methods and finding the right sites for storing CO2. International corporation Siemens will receive money for the Florida project.

According to that company’s Web site, such technology would use synthetic fuel made from coal, which IT claims can be processed into a hydrogen fuel. The Department of Energy claims that that process creates concentrated carbon dioxide that makes it easier to store. Environmentalists are skeptical. Stephen Smith is director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Smith says the alliance supports the research, but hopes the industry won’t be hasty in applying a potentially hazardous technology they know little about.

Smith says he has three major concerns about CO2 capture and storage.

He says another potential hazard of storing carbon underground is the possibility of the deadly gas seeping out of the ground into residences.

James Markowsky, Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, said the key aspect in preventing that is finding the right geologic formations for carbon storage.

Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said there’s another big concern. That’s the possibility that companies would try to store CO2 in the deep ocean.

A total of $575 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will fund projects related to so-called "clean coal" in 15 states.

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