Thursday, February 05, 2009

Clean coal: Obama vs Gore

Off-topic: If you're into IT, databases, or SOA and this stuff, you should surely check the blog of Mr Roman Staněk, a Gentlemen who has created huge and successful IT companies and who still has a lot to tell you not only about the technical and business issues!

Bloomberg analyzes the Obama-Gore split about coal. Gore's organization is spending hundreds of millions of dollars for clean-coal trash-talking while Obama defines clean coal as one of his big goals that should get billions of dollars from his budgets.

As a former kid in the most industrialized socialist country, I know quite a lot about dirty coal. We were surely not breathing and talking about carbon dioxide which is a clean, friendly gas. The plants were emitting megatons of sulphur oxides, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, aerosols, uranium, and everything else you remember from your chemistry (and nuclear physics) classes. ;-) The Czech brown coal is very rich, indeed.

In the 1980s, plastic materials that could be burned into pure H2O and CO2 were classified as completely clean. And it was very sensible. People were dreaming that something similar could have been done with coal - and with some modern filters, it has almost become the reality in the last two decades.

Well, if some people want to treat CO2 as a pollutant, that completely changes the equation. At this moment, the technologies to sequester or otherwise suppress the CO2 are not viable. Whether or not research will make them viable in the medium term is a speculative question. No one can know for sure.

The real political question is of course not concerned with these prophesies. The real political question is what the U.S. and other countries are going to do with coal before the hypothetical research miracle comes true. ;-) And it's pretty clear that Gore and similar luddites would love to ban it while Obama is likely to support it and describe the old-fashioned coal as a material that is going to become clean in the future.

Because of Obama's key role in the administration, crazy people who also care about their careers - such as Steven Chu - are beginning to rationalize their opinions about coal. In 2007, Steven Chu described coal as "his worst nightmare". In January 2009, it became a "great natural resource". :-)

Things may become interesting - and hopefully different than Gore would like them to be.


  1. Lubos---

    Clean coal is just a euphemism for combined nuclear/coal plants, correct? If this is the case, it seems like a terrible waste of resources. Do we even know what "clean coal" really means?

  2. Dear Ben, sorry I haven't defined the term, but clean coal has nothing to do with nuclear energy.

    It is a general term promoting the usage of coal, with the assumption that its impact on the atmosphere is going to be reduced.

    In the past, it meant filters that would extract the minerals etc. When it's done, "more clean" coal means that CO2 is captured in some way so that it is not released to the atmosphere.

    The methods to do so remain speculative at this point.

  3. Lubos,

    what about this new technologie to make the "clean coal"?

    check this:

    Do you think is possible to use it in large scale?

    Greetings from Argentina,

  4. Hola Lisandro, not sure about the breathing ;-) but there was a fun commercial of General Electric at the page you linked, going to

    They had a "digital hologram" with the Golden Gate Bridge and some ludicrous sources of energy unfolding in 3D in front of a guy. I almost thought it was an animated hologram.

    But it's really just a computer program that creates a virtual 3D reality with you and the model at the right place determined by a printout (by webcam). ;-) It's very confusing but it's just computer graphics, no waves.

  5. Nice Ad!
    Some time ago Mini launched some augmented reality ad like this on a magazine. I think it was in Germany.

    Here is the video: