It's a scam if there ever was one.
We certainly learned this when President Bush's FutureGen project imploded.
The clean coal poster child was put out to pasture after the cost of the plant climbed to $1.8 billion. And that was just to build it. But just when we thought the coast was clear, O-bonehead decided to pump another billion of your tax dollars into the FutureGen money pit. I guess he was looking to score points with environmentalists.
But they don't want that crap, either.
Sure, you can capture and sequester carbon, but you still have dozens of other air and water pollution issues associated with the production of coal. But that's not my hangup with this clean coal technology. There's no form of power generation that doesn't pollute in one way or another. It's the trade off we make in order to live the way we want. And that's just how it is.
My hangup with clean coal is that it makes a ridiculously cheap form of power generation, ridiculously expensive. What's the point of burning coal if it's going to cost three to five times as much? Especially now, since natural gas is practically free at this point.
I actually thought a lot of this clean coal nonsense had died down by now. But then I found out yesterday that Sinopec (NYSE:SHI), the largest oil refiner in Asia (by volume), is looking to invest as much as $1 billion in a new Texas clean coal project.
Although as I read more about the plan, it started to make sense. The clean coal project isn't being pursued to make Greenpeace happy. This clean coal project is being pursued because the carbon it can capture can be used to inject into old oil fields in the Permian Basin to scare out abandon oil that would otherwise just be sitting there. It's not as advanced as some of the more recent oil enhancement technologies, but it's tried and true.
When you break it down, if you combine enhanced oil recovery with clean coal, it could actually be profitable. I guess we'll soon find out. Because I'm pretty sure no Texas oil man's looking to build a clean coal plant just to play a round of grab ass with some EPA bureaucrat.