Christopher Lydon hosts a public radio show called Open Source
and recently had a show on global warming and coal. One of the guests was Julio Friedmann, Head of the Carbon Storage Program
at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Friedmann talked about geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide. The idea is to separate carbon dioxide from the exhaust stream of coal or gas fired power plants, and then pump it deep underground. Apparently the carbon separation procedure has been understood for 70 years and CO2 has been injected into the ground for about 35 years. There are over 2000 miles of CO2 pipelines in the United States alone. So far there have been three large scale sequestration projects with the largest being in a North Sea oil field where they have been injecting over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide a year into the ground. The technology seems to be doable and in fact even the cost is not outrageous even with existing off-the-shelf technology. The main cost is the separation, and Friedmann estimated that sequestration would add about 1.5-2 cents per kilowatt-hour (about 10 percent in most places) to the retail cost of electricity. If it can really be done for that cost, it seems like a no-brainer compared to the potential cost of climate change. Evidently even big coal producers in Australia are very enthusiastic about the idea, since it would help them preserve a market for their product. The show is available as an mp3
at the Open Source site (there is also a podcast feed
available for the show) and Friedmann comes onto the show about 14 minutes in.
[Source: Radio Open Source]