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Friday, January 27, 2012

Guess Post: The Market Ticker - The Dumb Way To (Ab)use Coal

Guest Post The Market Ticker - The Dumb Way To (Ab)use Coal

When you're being stupid, there is only more and less stupid -- that is, it's a matter of degree.
AKRON, Ohio - FirstEnergy will close six older coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland by September 1 due to environmental regulations.
Bay Shore Plant, Units 2-4, in Oregon, Ohio; Eastlake Plant; Ashtabula Plant; Lake Shore Plant, Cleveland; Armstrong Power Station, Pennsylvania; and R. Paul Smith Power Station, Maryland are the six plants that will be retired.
529 employees will lose their jobs, and in addition there will be further tax losses occasioned by the shuttering as well, along with all the pass-through economic activity (everything from lubricants to cleaning supplies to the paper for the copiers) that disappears as well.
Why?  Because we're stuck on stupid.
We have an intelligent way to use coal for energy production.  We can use it to power our cars and make electricity at the same time.
But not how we use coal today.
Instead, we should be using nuclear energy from thorium for our electrical generation in liquid salt technology reactors.  These run at a convenient temperature to provide process heat to convert coal to liquids. And the best part of it is that coal contains thorium itself, so we get multiple benefits:
  • No more oil imports.
  • A many-hundred year (500+) fuel base off known proved reserves (of coal) for hydrocarbon liquids.
  • A many thousand year base of nuclear fuel (thorium) at reasonable extraction costs
  • No mercury emissions from the resulting fuel (Fischer-Tropsch only uses the carbon in coal)
  • A roughly 50% decrease in net carbon emissions
  • The ability to have a 100% net decrease in net carbon emissions (if we get the carbon for the CTL from the atmosphere rather than coal -- feasible, but expensive compared to using coal and thus not practical today -- but it might be tomorrow.)
  • A power reactor design that is proliferation-resistant and burns nearly all of its own waste, thereby dramatically reducing the waste load compared to conventional plants, along with being much safer in that it cannot melt down (since there are no metallic fuel rods nor is high pressure required for safe operation.)
But heh, we instead want to remain stuck on stupid, and then "crack down" on emissions from these coal plants, driving them offline.
That's just fine provided you don't mind when there's not enough energy to sustain economic progress.
There's a better way folks.http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?singlepost=2852165

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