Energy Wire

October 2008 Archives

October 2, 2008 10:21 AM

The 'Clean Coal' Myth

The phrase "clean coal" is polluting the energy debate. The phrase is an oxymoron. We can come up with ways to clean up after coal - many of them very expensive and, in the case of coal's greenhouse gas emissions, untried. And we can use coal more efficiently than in the past. But coal itself is not clean and never will be. That is a matter of chemistry and geology.

That hasn't stopped the phrase "clean coal" from seeping into politics like coal dust on a Beijing morning. Indeed it's likely viewers will hear the phrase at least a couple of times in Thursday's vice presidential debate.

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October 3, 2008 2:24 PM

"Clean Coal" Alive and Well in VP Debate

The results are in. The phrase "clean coal" did make several appearances in the vice presidential debate: Joe Biden used it four times. Sarah Palin used it twice. Gwen Ifill used it four times.

Biden said:

We believe -- Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it. China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning dirty coal per week. It's polluting not only the atmosphere but the West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology.

Later he said:

Oh, on clean coal. My record, just take a look at the record. My record for 25 years has supported clean coal technology. A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context. I was talking about exporting that technology to China so when they burn their dirty coal, it won't be as dirty, it will be clean.

Palin said:

But also in that "all of the above" approach that Senator McCain supports, the alternative fuels will be tapped into: the nuclear, the clean coal. I was surprised to hear you mention that because you had said that there isn't anything -- such a thing as clean coal. And I think you said it in a rope line, too, at one of your rallies.

Ifill said:

Let me clear something up, Senator McCain has said he supports caps on carbon emissions. Senator Obama has said he supports clean coal technology, which I don't believe you've always supported.

October 6, 2008 11:45 AM

China's Faltering Oil Appetite

A lot of people who forecast the future tend to draw a straight line forward from existing trends. That's why people forecast a continuation of the breakneck increases in Chinese oil consumption.

There are at least two reasons to question that. One is that the current financial crisis could hammer the U.S. economy, and cut deeply into our purchases of all kinds of stuff, including stuff that comes from China. If that happened, it's doubtful that China would keep up its double-digit economic growth in the coming months.

The other reason is more benign: China has drastically raised fuel prices, effectively slashing its subsidies for motor fuel. And we all know that when retail petroleum product prices rise sharply, we tend to use less of them. Will the Chinese be any different?

It's a question that matters to every one of us, whether a car owner or simply a consumer who buys goods that travel in trucks. That's because the challenge of meeting rising Chinese demand is expected to keep oil markets tight and prices high even if Americans buy more efficient cars.

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October 16, 2008 3:42 PM

The Energy Debate From Abroad

Listening to the presidential debate last night, I couldn't help wondering what it must sound like to foreign ears.

First, here is the world's biggest energy hog struggling to get its oil and coal appetite under control. It talks about the energy problem. It IS the energy problem.

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October 22, 2008 2:34 PM

A New OPEC for Gas?

Russia, Iran and Qatar held talks in Tehran yesterday about forming a cartel for natural gas that would resemble the OPEC cartel for oil. But the structure of the natural gas business makes it unlikely that a gas OPEC would get off the ground anytime soon.

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October 24, 2008 2:54 PM

OPEC'S New Challenge

Oil prices move faster than consumers can adapt to them. But once consuming nations change gears, it's hard for oil producers to stop the crumbling of the oil market.

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October 30, 2008 9:59 AM

A Turn of Fortune in Russia

Wall Street's troubles have rippled through to Moscow's Arbat Street as well as Main Street.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Russian government let the Alpha Group, controlled by tycoon Mikhail Fridman, tap a Russian government fund to help pay back a $2 billion loan to a group of banks led by Deutsche Bank.

That would have repercussions at the Arbat Street headquarters of Moscow-based oil company TNK-BP, where Fridman and his allies earlier won concessions from BP about the management of their Russian joint venture, including the ouster of the BP-chosen chief executive. Not even two months after that victory, Alpha's financial constraints have everyone recalculating.

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