Energy Agency argues for clean coal

Some argue that the solution is nuclear, a cost-effective way of producing electricity without any CO2 emissions. But the nuclear alternative faces a major hurdle in that people remain unconvinced about long-term, safe solutions for disposal and management of nuclear waste, according to Claude Mandil, director of the International Energy Agency, in The Australian Financial Review (1/3/2007, p.14).

Nuclear path can’t be only solution: The nuclear avenue is cost-effective only when producing electricity, and even if waste issues were solved, the nuclear path could not be the only solution.

Coal’s CO2 problems: Some argue that fossil fuels, and in particular coal, could solve the problem. True, coal is inexpensive and widely distributed. But its use emits enormous amounts of CO2.

CO2 dump idea "seems promising": However, a new technological avenue seems promising: capturing CO2 in the stacks of large coal users and storing it in deep geological layers. Australia is playing a leading role in demonstrating the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and in overcoming the many technical challenges that remain.

CO2 dumps only feasible in limited areas: Still, even its strongest proponents acknowledge CCS is feasible only with concentrated uses of fossil fuels, not when the use is scattered among individual consumers such as in transportation.

APEC meeting crucial for energy policy: The APEC energy ministers’ meeting is of great importance as the role governments have to play in achieving such a truly sustainable energy system will be crucial. They have to let market mechanisms work but they have to supplement market mechanisms when they do not work.

Possible policies: This may involve funding research and development, using norms and standards when consumers do not receive the price signals, ensuring that the investment climate is appropriate and explaining to citizens, who would like energy availability but dislike energy production facilities, that it is not possible to have the first without having the second.

The Australian Financial Review, 1/3/2007, p. 14

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