Monday, July 11, 2016

CLEAN COAL - Goal In Trouble

"Struggles for power plant with White House backing raise concerns about clean coal" PBS NewsHour 7/6/2016


SUMMARY:  Clean coal technology is key to the Obama administration's plans for combating climate change.  But a high-profile power plant, once a poster child for clean coal's promise, has run billions over budget in construction costs, faces federal investigations and allegations of fraud.  William Brangham talks with Ian Urbina, who investigated the story for The New York Times.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The New York Times investigation published this week examines problem at the Kemper power plant in Central Mississippi.  The plant is still under construction, but its price tag has run billions of dollars over budget.  It's the subject of two federal investigations and a lawsuit by Mississippi rate payers who say they have been defrauded.

The problems at Kemper also call into question the Obama administration's reliance on this clean coal technology to fight climate change.

New York Times investigative reporter Ian Urbina wrote the story about Kemper.  And he joins me now.

So what is clean coal?

IAN URBINA, The New York Times:  It's sort of the promising notion that we could still burn coal, but without so much pollution.

And behind the promise is technology that would allow you in different versions to pull carbon out of the emissions from coal plants.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  So that it doesn't get up into the atmosphere and drive climate change?

IAN URBINA:  Correct.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  And was the — is the idea that the technology is proven, but we just don't know how to do it economically? What's the question been about it?

IAN URBINA:  Yes, so the technology, as you say, is proven, and we know how to make it work.  The challenge is, can we scale it up, so to move it from the model stage to big enough plants to make a difference, and can we do so affordably?

The affordably is really where it gets complicated, because that means can we do so in a fashion that's cheaper than natural gas?  Can we do so quickly enough so that the prices don't change and then, by the time you get the plant online, it's no longer the same price tag?  And this has been the big stumbling block, with Kemper included.

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