Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wedge Strategy: Coal and Natural Gas

1400 coal plants would need to be replaced by natural gas plants to save a wedge worth of emissions. In the US alone, there are approximately 600 plants. Another wedge could also be saved if all small-scale coal use, for example in developing worlds or industrial purposes, was eliminated.

Coal Plant and Technology

Natural Gas Plant and Technology

Coal is everywhere, cheap and easy. Though frowned upon due to its ability to pollute the air, land, and water throughout the entire process, from mining to solid waste disposal, it is not completely horrible. Coal gasification is an example of the advances in coal efficiency and cleanliness, not only is it used worldwide, but is also being further developed.

Natural gas is much cleaner in comparison, and expanding its use is feasible for it is already the third largest supplier of electricity. And when it comes to heating, industry is its largest consumer, and residency is the second with 6/10 homes using natural gas. However, it is more expensive than coal and not as plentiful, both in terms of supply and local resource.

Energy needs to be regarded from a local and global perspective. Due to supply and international relationships, certain areas would benefit from certain types of electricity. Natural gas is not available in all areas; coal is on every continent. However, technologies for transporting natural gas are available, where pipelines are usually used or it can be liquefied.

When speaking of global perspective, it is important to note that with developing economies, the demand for energy is increasing. Furthermore, policies are being considered by Congress for taxing carbon emissions, where 1/3 of perspective coal plants in the US are being put on hold for this reason in addition to the increase in costs for building the plants.

Yes, there are other types of energy sources than the discussion’s concentration on natural gas and coal, and some even being developed in conjunction with the latter sources (see first link). However, these two were paired up due to their similarities as nonrenewable fossil fuels and characteristic as generalists when it comes to electricity and heating.

Thus, energy and its use is a notable concern in many areas, from government, to industry, to the consumer. Considering recent events, it is a good time to suggest a solution, or a different solution. However, displacing 1400 coal plants is pretty ridiculous in practice. Tearing down what is already available is a one step back, while pushing forward, especially with developing economies, is three steps forward at a more enthusiastic pace. The combination of cleaner coal technologies, improvements of current plants, advancements in natural gas, and practice of efficient and clean energy production in developing countries could reach the wedge as well as influence future advancements. /thanks

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