A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Environmental Controls

Energy and Poverty – What is Really at Stake in Cancun

A year ago during the Copenhagen conference on climate change, I published a post, Electricity for the Poor–What Copenhagen Really Needs to Confront, where I noted that some 1.5 billion people did not have access to reliable electricity supplies. To update this, there is more electricity generated this year than last, mostly due to newly commissioned large conventional sources of electric power – gas, coal, hydro, nuclear. The new estimate is 1.4 billion living in energy squalor.

To hear the good and the great at Cancun, the sustainability issue of energy poverty is hidden. Occasionally, one of the climate-change grandees slips up and admits that this the real subject is wealth redistribution, not climate. But that is about as close as it gets.

All the more reason that the international forums on climate change, energy environment, and the like should get to first principles and study this map:  The World At Night (courtesy of Bert Christensen)

When you fly overnight from Johannesburg to Europe the lights thin out just north of Lusaka, Zambia, a few more in Zambia’s Copper Belt and then nothing (and I mean nothing) until the North African coastline.  For most of this 11-12 hour flight there are no artificial lights below.  From the Sahara on south, but excluding South Africa, a region that is home to more than 400 million people consumes less electricity than New York City.

[Read more →]

December 6, 2010   8 Comments

Air Quality Compliance: Latest Costs for SO2 and NOx Removal (effective coal clean-up has a higher–but known–price tag)

Editor Note: Robert Peltier, Ph.D., PE, is editor-in-chief of POWER magazine. His bio is at the end of this post.

Environmental retrofits at coal plants have experienced costs greater than estimated by the Energy Information Administration. That is the bad news. The good news is:

  • There are no significant technical problems with flue gas desulphurization (FGD) or selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technologies.  Utilities are not buying “serial number one” so the performance or compliance risk is negligible.  Completion risk for any project also appears to be minimal.
  • The costs to construct either technology are reasonably well understood so that project capital cost estimates should be on the money.
  • The cost escalation (updated below) during the boom is now subsiding.

The overall result is that the “dirtiest” power plants have been and are being cleaned up to current stringent air-emission standards via the Clean Air Act and other pollution regulation. This is real news–cleaned-up coal versus the political moniker “clean coal” (a separate issue dealing with a non-criteria air pollutant, carbon dioxide). [Read more →]

June 13, 2009   1 Comment

Cleaned-Up Coal: Technology Improvements, Low-Sulfur Resources Are Winning the Day against Air Pollution

Air quality from America’s coal plants have been improving for decades, even before Congress passed the Clean Air Act of 1970. And since 1970, the six so-called criteria pollutants have declined significantly overall and in the generation of electricity, even though coal-fired generation has increased by more than 180 percent.[i] (The “criteria pollutants”—those for which the EPA has set criteria for permissable levels—are carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide [SO2], nitrogen oxides [NOx], ground-level ozone, and particulate matter [PM]).

Specifically, total SO2 emissions from coal-fired plants were reduced by about 40 percent between 1970 and 2006, and NOx emissions were reduced by almost 50 percent between 1980 and 2006. On an output basis, the percent reduction is even greater, with SO2 emissions (in pounds per megawatt-hour) almost 80 percent lower, and NOx emissions 70 percent lower. [Read more →]

June 12, 2009   3 Comments