Coal without carbon?

What features of coal will enable it to remain part of our energy portfolio well into the future?  How can coal be acquired and/or burned in a more sustainable manner? These are questions addressed in  an article titled Dirty Coal, Clean Future in The Atlantic Magazine’s December 2010 issue.  The article  summarizes the pre- and post- combustion technologies being investigated, with much of the doing and learning occurring in China – a fossil energy “laboratory”.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“For the coal industry, the term “clean coal” is an advertising slogan; for many in the environmental movement, it is an insulting oxymoron. But two ideas that underlie the term are taken with complete seriousness by businesses, scientists, and government officials in China and America, and are the basis of the most extensive cooperation now under way between the countries on climate issues. One is that coal can be used in less damaging, more sustainable ways than it is now. The other is that it must be used in those ways, because there is no plausible other way to meet what will be, absent an economic or social cataclysm, the world’s unavoidable energy demands.”

One of the pre-combustion technologies mentioned in the article- a.k.a. coal without carbon – is underground coal gasification.

Additional Resources on Underground Coal Gasification (UCG):

Fire in the Hole This Science & Technology Review article describes how underground coal gasification may provide a secure energy supply and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

PowerPoint presentation: Underground Coal Gasification By Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
US Department of Energy’s Coal Gasification page.

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