Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Color Me Purple - Energy Part 1

Quick Quiz: What killed 1,700 people and thousands of cattle within a 25 km radius? The answer is below in this post.

This is the first in a series of "Color Me Purple" posts that I will be writing leading up to the November 2008 elections.

Color Me Purple = Undecided Voter (UV)

All UV posts will touch on issues (or parts of an issue) that I feel the candidates haven't clearly addressed, or haven't addressed at all... hence, my UV status. And so I begin with...

ENERGY - Part 1

If you know me, you know how I deplore wasteful Government spending -- and when it comes to the ENERGY issue, there's plenty of areas they tend to "p" away our money, flushing it down the drain on some of the most hair-brained ideas I've ever heard of... CCS being one of them.

CCS stands for "Carbon Capture and Storage," where you take the CO2 emissions from large producers of it (like coal power plants to name one source) and cram it 1.3 miles to 1.6 miles deep into the ground for permanent storage. Here's a pic to give you a better idea:

click for larger pic

It's kind of like sweeping the dirt under your rug. If nobody sees it, it must be clean, right? D'oh!

Here are two previous articles I wrote on the subject:

1. And the FutureGen Winner is Mattoon (Dec. 18, 2007)
2. FutureGen Update (Dec. 19, 2007)

You might recall one of my main concerns was the possibility of this stuff leaking out over the years. Even worse things are possible... which I'll get to in a minute.

Had the DOE not backed off on the project, we, the taxpayers, would be paying for FutureGen's insurance, plus waiving them of all liability (read responsibility) should anything leak (or worse) from the CO2 storage after a 10 year period -- AND, we would be paying (via the DOE) 74% of the costs to build the thing.

UPDATE on CCS -- It's Worse Than Even I Thought

Today, the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) sent out a press release on the CCS subject, with some additional facts which paint a pretty horrific picture of what can happen if -- only IF -- things go wrong at a CO2 storage site.
As long as CO2 is stored in geological sites, there is a risk of slow leakage or large scale escape that will impact the surrounding environment and negate the climate mitigating effect.

A natural example of the danger of CO2 escape occurred at Lake Nyos Cameroon in 1986 following a volcanic eruption, which released large quantities of the CO2 accumulated at the bottom of the lake. It killed 1,700 people and thousands of cattle within a 25 km radius. (emphasis added by me)

A 2006 US Geological Survey pilot field experiment was carried out to test deep geological disposal of carbon dioxide in a saline sedimentary rock formation in Frio, Texas. The researchers found that the buried CO2 dissolved large amounts of the minerals in the rocks responsible for keeping the gas contained. The CO2 dissolved in the salty water, turning it to acid.

The acidified brine dissolved other minerals, including metals such as iron and manganese, organic material and relatively large amounts of carbonates that naturally seal pores and fractures in geological sites.

Carbonate is also found in the cements used to seal abandoned oil and gas wells. Dissolving these carbonate seals could release CO2 into the atmosphere. The contaminated brine could further leak into aquifers and contaminate drinking and irrigation water.

The lead scientist in the field experiment Yousif Kharaka warned that the results are “a cautionary note” that calls for “detailed and careful studies of injection sites” and for “a well thought out monitoring programme to detect early leaks of CO2 into shallow potable groundwater or to the atmosphere.”

With all the other options available to us that are -- safer, cleaner, cheaper -- why in the world would our government be yanking money from our paychecks to pursue CCS? How much money?
CCS is diverting funds away from renewable energy options. The US DOE’s 2009 spending on CCS is $623.5 million, a 26.4 percent increase over 2008, at the same time that it is scaling back programmes on renewable energy and efficiency by 27.1 percent to US$145.2 million. (read more here)

Be wary of any candidate who chimes out he is pursuing "clean energy" initiatives without detailing what those so-called "clean" initiatives are... and knowing exactly who profits (and who pays).

In the case of CCS, I say scrap it. Take that $623.5 million and either give it back to us, or put it towards free energy and/or renewable energy. Heck, even the nuclear energy option sounds better than CCS (not that I'm in favor of it, yet). At least the spent uranium becomes neutral after a couple million (or billion?) years. But that CO2 just sits there, waiting for it's day in the sun.

Archeologists of the future beware. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "call before you dig" doesn't it?

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