ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICEVolume 2, Number 4, 2009ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.DOI: 10.1089=env.2009.0040Used

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICEVolume 2, Number 4, 2009ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.DOI: 10.1089=env.2009.0040Used

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICEVolume 2, Number 4, 2009ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.DOI: 10.1089=env.2009.0040Used by permission fromLiebert PublicationsOriginal ArticlesThe Environmental Injustice of ‘‘Clean Coal’’:Expanding the National Conversation on Carbon Captureand Storage Technology to Include an Analysisof Potential Environmental Justice ImpactsStephanie Tyree and Maron GreenleafABSTRACTOver the past decade, the coal industry has created a multi-million dollar public relations campaign toinsulate coal from the green energy revolution and the anticipated public backlash against dirty andunsustainable fuels. This campaign, promoting ‘‘clean coal,’’ has effectively shifted the national conversation on energy and climate change to situate coal as a viable clean energy source and the best optionavailable to mitigate climate change. As the U.S. gets closer to passing national climate legislation and thedeadline for achieving significant global reductions in carbon emissions draws near, opposition to the coalindustry and its Clean Coal Campaign is organizing on a number of fronts. The environmental justicemovement, through its leadership on climate justice, can serve as a centralizing force for these disparateadvocacy efforts, bringing together students, scientists, policy advocates, community residents, and othersengaged to fight clean coal and advance real green energy solutions. This article will look at the history ofthe Clean Coal Campaign and weigh the arguments for and against clean coal, focusing particularly oncarbon capture and sequestration. It will then overview the advocacy efforts occurring across the U.S. tooppose coal and expose the fallacy of clean coal. Finally, it will defend the centralization of these efforts inan environmental justice-based climate justice movement that utilizes the varied resources, expertise andenergy of the current advocacy efforts to stop coal and achieve a clean, green renewable energy economy.INTRODUCTIONAs the scientific understanding of climate changehas improved, and U.S. policymakers have becomemore aware of the looming impacts of the global fossilfuel lifestyle, the national debate on sustainable energyoptions has captured the attention of the public. Much ofthis debate has been on what alternatives exist to shiftAmerica away from its fossil fuel dependence and thefeasibility of these alternatives being implemented to scalein time to combat global climate change. While somesectors are attempting to shift the national energy optionsin new directions, much of the debate has been capturedby the traditional fossil fuel industry, particularly the coalindustry, which has a vested interest in maintaining itsMs. Tyree is at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalitionin Huntington, West Virginia. Ms. Greenleaf is at New YorkUniversity School of Law.dominance over America’s energy choices. The coalindustry has jumped on the green bandwagon by promoting the concept of ‘‘clean coal,’’ a theoretical model ofcoal production that would burn coal in a carbon-neutralway.While the public relations and media campaigns promoting ‘‘clean coal’’ have pumped millions into the ideathat ‘‘clean coal’’ is the only feasible alternative to ourcurrent coal use, the industry has failed to create aworking model of the idea that can be implemented toscale in the timeline needed to address climate change. Infact, the industry has failed to put sufficient resources intothe research and development necessary to establish‘‘clean coal’’ as a viable energy alternative. In addition,even if ‘‘clean coal’’ was feasible and successful, it wouldnot address the myriad cradle-to-grave public health,economic, and environmental impacts that coal has oncommunities throughout the world. Calling coal cleanmerely because its carbon emissions are captured ignoresthe extensive dirty impacts of coal use.167168TYREE AND GREENLEAFMoving into the energy future, it is essential that a substantive dialogue on the reality of ‘‘clean coal’’ and the totality of coal’s impacts be undertaken to counterbalance themillions being spent to promote this potential future technology. In addition, it is important to establish a clear publicunderstanding of what ‘‘clean coal’’ means so that the nation can decide whether ‘‘clean coal’’ is worth investing ournational resources in and gambling our global future on.This article attempts to assist that conversation by providing a broad overview of what ‘‘clean coal’’ means and what‘‘clean coal’’ technology would entail. Finally, this articlelays out the environmental justice critiques of ‘‘clean coal.’’ Itis imperative that any future energy resource be used in away that reduces and mitigates its impacts on the mostburdened and vulnerable communities. While this articledoes not purport to answer these concerns for the ‘‘cleancoal’’ industry, it advances the conversation around cleancoal by ensuring that those potential impacts are included inthe national energy dialogue.OVERVIEW OF ‘‘CLEAN COAL’’Defining ‘‘clean coal’’The term ‘‘clean coal’’ is used to refer to burning coal ina way that reduces emissions or otherwise lessens coal’senvironmental impact. ‘‘Clean coal’’ technology includes‘‘washing’’ coal of minerals and other polluting components, gasification, and the treating of flue gases to lessensulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), and mercuryemissions. In the context of climate change, the term‘‘clean coal’’ is used most frequently as shorthand fortechnology that burns coal more efficiently and=or decreases its CO2 emissions.Carbon capture and storage:background and methodsCarbon capture and storage (CCS) is a potential technology that would enable coal to be burned withoutemitting CO2, eliminating the public health and environmental impacts created by CO2 emissions. CCS has threeparts: capture, transport, and storage of CO2.While there are three possible ways to capture carbon,none are economically and technologically viable. Precombustion capture, in which coal is converted into a gasbefore it is burned and the resulting CO2 is removed, isefficient in terms of capture but costly to build, and istherefore not widely used.1 Post-combustion capture, inwhich CO2 is removed from plant emissions, is technologically possible but inefficient in terms of capture.2 Finally, oxyfuel capture, in which coal is burned in pureoxygen, allows for efficient CO2 removal but has yet to beoperationalized at scale.3Despite the multiple potential4 forms of carbon capture,the necessary technology is not ready for wide scale adoption. Even the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a CCS proponent, admits that the technology is not yet cost effective.5If CO2 could be captured, it would then have to betransported, primarily via pipelines, to storage sites. Whilesome pipelines are already in use in the United States,6many more would have to be constructed to transport CO2at the necessary scale—requiring a huge upfront investment.7Finally, after transport, the captured CO2 would haveto be stored deep underground. Carbon storage is theoretically possible in depleted oil and gas reserves, unmineable coal seams, deep saline aquifers, oil reserves,81Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange, IPCC Special Report: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage,Summary For Policymakers, at 5 (2005), available at (pre-combustion technology is currentlyutilized in fertilizer manufacturing and hydrogen production).2The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on CCS states that post-combustion capture is ‘‘economicallyfeasible under specific conditions,’’ meaning that the technologyhas been operationalized and is understood, and could be costeffective in the correct regulatory setting. However, it seemsdoubtful that such a regulatory regime will be adopted in enoughtime to effectively mitigate climate change. Post-combustion CO2capture is used in the natural gas processing industry. WorkingGroup III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,IPCC Special Report: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage, SummaryFor Policymakers, at 5 (2005), .3Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange, IPCC Special Report: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage,Summary For Policymakers, at 5 (2005), available at .4Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange, Ibid.5U.S. Dep’t of Energy, Carbon Capture Research (2007), (the DOE states that ‘‘existing capture technologies… are not cost-effective when considered in the context of sequestering CO2 from power plants’’).62,500 km of CO2 pipelines currently exist in the United States,transporting 40MtCO2=year. Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC Special Report:Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage, Summary For Policymakers,at 5 (2005), available at .7Emily Rochon et al., Greenpeace International, FalseHope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage Won’t Save theClimate 12 (2008), available at (citing P. Ragden et al., Federal Environmental Agency,Technologies for CO2 Capture and Storage, Summary,F.R.G. 18 (2006)).8Storing CO2 in oil reserves is called Enhanced Oil Recovery(EOR) because it supports oil flow by maintaining pressure. EORthereby partially offsets the cost of CCS. U.S. Dep’t of Energy,Carbon Capture Research (2007), . However,EOR’s financial impact is questionable, because potential EORprojects are too limited in size and number to make a significantdent in CCS’ substantial cost. Emily Rochon et al., Greenpeace International, False Hope: Why Carbon Captureand Storage Won’t Save the Climate 14 (2008), available at (citing Carbon Sequestration Technologies: Hearing Before the S. Subcomm. on Science, Technology, andInnovation, S. Comm. on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,110th Cong. (2007) (statement of Dr. Bryan Hannegan, VicePresident, Environment Electric Power Research Institute)).THE ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE OF ‘‘CLEAN COAL’’deep saline reservoirs, and ocean waters or seabeds.9Practically, however, many technological and economicbarriers remain, limiting its utility as part of the necessaryshort-term carbon mitigation strategy. Again, the technology has yet to be demonstrated at scale.10More importantly, the long-term nature of storage raises concerns about the feasibility of safe sequestration.Technology has yet to demonstrate that carbon could besafely stored for the centuries and millennia required.Even CCS proponents like the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change (IPCC) admit its limitations: the panelfound that by 2050, only 30–60 percent of CO2 emissionsfrom electricity generation ‘‘could be technically suitablefor capture.’’11 This statistic is revealing: even in theIPCC’s best case scenario, in which the plethora of remaining scientific questions are answered to the benefit ofCCS development, only a mid-range of CO2 emissionsfrom the power sector will be eliminated. Putting all otherconcerns about coal and CCS aside, at best, the technology will be only one part of climate change mitigation. Itis not a silver bullet.THE DEFENSE OF ‘‘CLEAN COAL’’AS A CLIMATE CHANGEMITIGATION STRATEGYDespite the lack of science supporting industrial-scaleCCS and its limited utility, the technology is still considered by many to be an important way of reducing CO2emissions. The primary reason for CCS’ popularity—besides the strong push from coal lobbyists12—is coal’sapparent low cost and its abundance.Coal is has consistently been one of the cheapest energysources available for the past two centuries. Coal is cheapbecause its price does not incorporate the totality of theresource’s costs: from resource extraction, production andcombustion. This artificially low price creates a competitive advantage over more expensive natural gas, oil, andrenewable options, despite the many environmental andsocial costs of coal.In addition to its low price, coal produces a large percentage of the world’s power supply, and probably willcontinue to do so for the foreseeable future. Coal is particularly abundant in three key countries: the UnitedStates, China, and India.13 The United States, for example,gets more than half its electricity from coal,14 accountingfor almost 40 percent of CO2 emissions,15 and a full 78percent of China’s electricity came from coal in 2006.16These national trends are reflected globally where coaluse continues to expand exponentially each year. Chinaalone builds the equivalent of two coal-fired plants everyweek, adding the electrical generation capacity of the U.K.each year.17 These new coal-fired plants, accounting forthe recent large increase in global CO2 emissions,18 increase the growing country’s reliance on coal. India isprojected to consume six percent more coal each year,meeting current U.S. usage rates by 2020.19 The energydemand from modernizing countries like China and India169is expected to continue growing unabated into the foreseeable future.Proponents of ‘‘clean coal’’ argue that since coal is likelyto remain a important source of electrical power for theforeseeable future and is also such a major contributor toclimate change, investment in CCS research and development (R&D) is essential. They argue that even if theU.S. stops using coal, India and China will continue to use9Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange, IPCC Special Report: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage,Summary For Policymakers, at 3 (2005), available at .10Matthew L. Wald, The Energy Challenge: Mounting Costs Slowthe Push for Clean Coal, N.Y. Times, May 30, 2008, available at. The IPCC states that,under ‘‘specific conditions,’’ storage in oil and gas fields and saline formations have been shown to be ‘‘economically feasible’’ bythe oil and gas industry. Storage in coal beds has not beendemonstrated. Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change, IPCC Special Report: Carbon Dioxide Captureand Storage, Summary For Policymakers, at 6 (2005), available at.11Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC Special Report: Carbon Dioxide Capture andStorage, Summary For Policymakers, at 9 (2005), available at (italics added).12For example, in the first two quarters of 2008, the AmericanCoalition for Clean Coal Electricity spent $4,650,759 on lobbying.Center for Responsive Politics, Alternate Energy Production & Services, .13The United States, China, Russia, and India have the largestproven coal reserves. British Petroleum, BP Statistical Reviewof World Energy, June 2008 32 (2008), available at .14U.S. Dep’t of Energy, Coal (2007), .15Sierra Club, The Dirty Truth About Coal: Why Yesterday’s Technology Should Not Be Part of Tomorrow’sEnergy Future 3 (2007), available at (citing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions andSinks: 1990–2005 (2007)). The DOE states that 30 percent of carbonemissions come from power plants and other large point sources.U.S. Dep’t of Energy (2007), Sequestration, .16World Coal Institute, Coal Facts 2007, .17Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Future ofCoal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World ix (2007),available at .18Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Future ofCoal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World 63 (2007),available at .19Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Future ofCoal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World 74 (2007),available at (citing Planning Comm’n of Gov’t of India, Draft Report ofthe Expert Committee On Integrated Energy Policy (2005),).170it to provide for their billions of citizens.20 Ignoring themassive energy needs of China and India is unrealistic,CCS advocates maintain. It is more practical to help thesecountries use their coal as cleanly as possible instead ofimposing unworkable requirements on them.A sustainable energy future cannot ignore the need thedeveloping world has for increased energy access. Yet, theenergy dialogue cannot focus on these needs without alsoconsidering the public health, environmental, and economic impacts of our energy choices.TYREE AND GREENLEAFCCS storage creates unacceptable risksand potential new environmental injusticesCCS includes a multitude of unacceptable high risksbeyond those typically associated with coal-fired powerplants. These risks arise from the uncertainty and dangerassociated with long-term carbon storage and include thepotential health impacts of abrupt CO2 escape, contamination of water supplies, ecosystem destruction, andENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE CRITIQUES OF CCSCCS perpetuates and could increase environmentalinjustices related to coal useThe term ‘‘clean coal’’ implies that we can keep consuming coal without suffering any detrimental consequences.The costs of the expected consequences of functional CCSbelie this implication. There is no such thing as clean coal;burning coal always costs too much.Advocates for CCS fail to acknowledge the social impact that coal has on communities located near its extraction, processing, and burning sites. These communitiesare still subject to the devastating impacts of coal, evenwhen the carbon created by coal is captured and stored.In fact, the total social and environmental impacts ofcoal use may increase with the use of CCS. Even if CCSeventually reduces carbon emissions from coal-burningplants, the long-term impacts of a shift to CCS technologycould have unanticipated and far-reaching impacts on theenvironment that outweigh the benefits of short-termclimate change mitigation. CCS technology is inherentlymore resource-intensive and expensive than conventionalcoal use. To work most efficiently, carbon capture needsto utilize pre-combustion technology because the CO2released from conventional coal-fired plants is very dilute.Pre-combustion gasification plants, however, consume 25percent of the energy they produce, requiring that morecoal be mined and burned to sell the same amount ofenergy.21 Another 20 percent of the energy produced istypically consumed in compressing the CO2 for storage.22CCS also uses 90 percent more fresh water than conventional coal-fired plants.23 As a result of these inefficiencies,it has been estimated that the adoption of CCS as a primary component of climate change mitigation—as someargue it must be24—would require a 33 percent increase inresource consumption and would eliminate improvements in efficiency made in the last 50 years.25Such an increase in coal consumption would negativelyimpact the communities and ecosystems where coal ismined. The environmental and human costs of coalmining and burning are numerous and well documented.26 Briefly, they include the contamination of localair and water with pollutants (including mercury, NOx,SO2, and particulate matter), the violent destruction ofareas containing coal through dynamiting, strip mining,and mountaintop removal, the health risks of black lungdisease and mining itself,27 and the release of methane, agreenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than CO2. Allthese would increase with the adoption of CCS.20For example, the World Bank justified funding a huge conventional coal-fired plant in India because the country ‘‘facespower shortages that leave more than 400 million people withoutaccess to electricity, mainly in poor rural areas. The countryneeds to expand generation capacity by 160,000 megawatts overthe next decade, and this new project helps address this gap.’’Quoted in Andrew C. Revkin, Money for India’s ‘Ultra Mega’ CoalPlants Approved, N.Y. Times, Apr. 9, 2008, available at .21Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers: How Man IsChanging the Climate and What It Means for Life onEarth 252 (Atlantic Monthly Press 2005).22Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers: How Man IsChanging the Climate and What It Means for Life onEarth 253 (Atlantic Monthly Press 2005).23Emily Rochon et al., Greenpeace International, FalseHope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage Won’t Save theClimate 6 (2008), available at (citingErik Shuster et al., National Energy Technology Laboratories Estimating Freshwater Needs to Meet FutureThermoelectric Generation Requirements, DOE=NETL-400=2007=1304, at 60 (2007), available at .24See National Resources Defense Fund, Climate Facts:Return Carbon to the Ground 2, available at (‘‘Long-term geological disposal of CO2 (for thousands of years) is viable now andmust be implemented quickly if we are to meet the challenge ofsharply reducing global emissions this century’’); Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Future of Coal: Optionsfor a Carbon-Constrained World x (2007), available at (‘‘We conclude that CO2 capture and sequestration (CCS) is the criticalenabling technology that would reduce CO2 emission significantly while also allowing coal to meet the world’s pressing energy needs’’). The National Resources Defense Fund received$437,500 from the Joyce Foundation to ‘‘promote alternative plants using coal gasification with carbon sequestration.’’The Joyce Foundation, .25Emily Rochon et al., Greenpeace International, FalseHope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage Won’t Save theClimate 5 (2008), available at (citingP. Ragden et al., Federal Environmental Agency, Technologies for CO2 Capture and Storage, Summary, F.R.G. 24(2006)).26See Sierra Club, The Dirty Truth About Coal: WhyYesterday’s Technology Should Not Be Part of Tomorrow’s Energy Future 5–15 (2007), available at .27Jeff Biggers, ‘Clean’ Coal? Don’t Try to Shovel That,Washington Post, Mar. 2, 2008, at B02, available at .171THE ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE OF ‘‘CLEAN COAL’’increased CO2 emissions from leakage.28 The environmental burden and potential public health calamitycaused by carbon storage particularly concern environmental justice communities.These are the communities that have historically bornethe burden of housing energy facilities, waste sites, andother undesirable land uses and are likely to bear theburdens and risks of CO2 storage if CCS is implemented.While geological constraints would play a part in determining storage sites, history indicates that waste disposalfacilities are almost always located in or near communities of color and lo…Chapter 3: Money and Machines Article: “The Environmental Injustice of ‘Clean Coal’: Expanding the National Conversation on Carbon Capture and Storage Technology to Include an Analysis of Potential Environmental Justice Impacts by Tyree and Greenleaf (available in Doc Sharing) Homework Please review the announcement (posted on the course home page) about the Week 3 assignments for the grading rubrics that will be used to evaluate your submissions. Article Summary: After reading the article “The Environmental Injustice of ‘Clean Coal’: Expanding the National Conversation on Carbon Capture and Storage Technology to Include an Analysis of Potential Environmental Justice Impacts,” located in Doc Sharing, write a paper summarizing, agreeing, disagreeing, responding to, or reflecting your personal thoughts and observations about the article. The paper must be double spaced, minimum two-pages in length, and in APA format. Do not cite outside sources for article summaries, as your paper should focus on evaluating the article. Activity – Applying Theories: Apply the theory of the interlocking treadmills of production and consumption to schoolwork and the pressure to get a degree, and then an advanced degree, and so on. For example, consider the rising levels of qualifications required to gain a good-paying job and the rising levels of consumption expectations that define what a “good-paying job” is and submit a paper. The paper must be double spaced, minimum two-pages in length, and in APA format, with citation of the course reading in the body of your essay and in the reference list. Submit your assignment to the Dropbox located on the silver tab at the top of this page. Submit your assignment to the Dropbox located on the silver ta

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