Coal Giant Drops Claim That it is ‘the Global Leader in Clean Energy Solutions’

Dec 30, 2012 Posted by

 

 

By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Peabody Energy, the biggest private-sector coal company in the world, has removed the claim that it is “the global leader in clean energy solutions” from its home page. The two images below show the shift (sometime between Dec. 19 and Dec. 29), with the claim now reading that it the company is “the global leader in clean coal solutions”:

 

Peabody Energy, the world's biggest private coal company, has dropped a claim that it is
Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private coal company, has dropped a claim that it is “the global leader in clean energy solutions” from its Web site. These images were captured on Dec. 19 and Dec. 29, 2012.

I’d questioned that clean-energy assertion in a post a few days ago.

As for the new “clean coal” claims, I encourage you to revisit the statement from my initial post by Vic Svec, a senior vice president at Peabody, and then read what David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council posted in a comment. Both are reproduced here:

Vic Svec:

We note on the front page of our website that Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private-sector coal company and a global leader in sustainable mining and clean coal solutions. One of the great untold environmental stories is the enormous progress in clean energy that has occurred in recent decades.

We forget to celebrate the enormous progress that has been made in clean coal in recent decades. The core U.S. coal statistic is this: criteria emissions from coal use in the U.S. have declined a stunning 87% since 1970, during a time when coal use has nearly tripled. “Smokestacks” for coal plants have now become steam stacks, thanks to wet and dry ESPs, baghouses, low-NOx burners, SCRs, activated carbon injection and a host of other technologies.

In addition, using coal in large centralized plants dramatically reduces the burning of fuel wood and waste that causes enormous indoor air pollution in developing nations. And we know that low-cost coal-fueled electricity has helped to bring about an explosion of electrotechnologies: your coal-fueled mail delivery – e-mail – has dramatically lower emissions than traditional mail.

New supercritical coal plants represent another leap forward. Consider the Prairie State Energy Campus, with more than $1 billion in clean coal technologies and criteria emissions some 80% below the existing coal fleet… along with a carbon dioxide emission rate some 40% below existing plants. Prairie State is also a great example of green jobs, with thousands of workers involved in construction of the large coal plant. And Prairie State has a cost of fuel that less than one-third that of even currently suppressed U.S. natural gas prices.

Ironically, U.S. environmentalists have been a major reason more supercritical coal plants haven’t been used in the United States, even taking credit for killing state-of-the-art new coal construction in the past decade. China is building far more such plants because they recognize that coal is essential to power a healthy economy and the new generation of coal plants offer great environmental advantage. Also, Peabody is proud to be the only non-Chinese partner in GreenGen, which just started up in Tianjin, China, as a major coal gasification plant that will ultimately reuse carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery.

Coal has been the fastest growing fuel in the world for the past decade, and has been projected to pass oil as the world’s largest energy source next year. Its abundance and low-cost profile make coal essential for powering the world’s best economies and helping to move hundreds of millions of people to cities… and to the middle class. Those are enormous societal benefits, and technology can ensure that his be done in an environmentally friendly way.

David Hawkins:

Vic’s message is rife with omissions and evasions. His complaint about the untold story of improved emissions from coal plants is ironic, given the parts he chooses to leave untold: that coal producers and coal plant operators fought every single one of the policies that produced these gains; that they continue to fight the policies that could produce similar gains for carbon dioxide if adopted; and that Peabody is truly a world leader in funding the campaigns to block meaningful action against global warming pollution.

Next, he switches the subject from coal to electricity. No environmentalists I know are opposed to electrification. To conflate the benefits of electricity with the need to use coal as it is used today, is deeply dishonest.

Building new supercritical coal plants is a climate protection strategy only in Orwell’s world. Protecting the climate means curbing cumulative emissions. New supercritical coal plants are a massive commitment to increased cumulative emissions. There is no irony in the efforts to block these plants and to steer investments to cleaner forms of electricity resources.

If Peabody were serious about deployment of CCS [carbon dioxide capture and sequestration] it would have supported the Waxman-Markey bill and companion bills in the Senate. Those bills would have made huge subsidies available for CCS and would have set standards requiring its use on the new coal plants that Peabody would like to see built. CCS is not the best tool we have to protect the climate but Vic’s claim that Peabody is a serious promoter of the technology is as misleading as the rest of his message.

We welcome your comments!