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Is Obama Overlooking Clean Coal We Already Have?

            Advocates of a diverse and reliable energy infrastructure were heartened last week when President Obama mentioned Clean Coal in his State of the Union address.  The subject got another boost on Wednesday when he issued a “Presidential Memorandum for a Comprehensive Federal Strategy on Carbon Capture and Storage.”

            That memorandum declared: “Charting a path toward clean coal is essential to achieving my Administration's goals of providing clean energy, supporting American jobs, and reducing emissions of carbon pollution. Rapid commercial development and deployment of clean coal technologies, particularly carbon capture and storage (CCS), will help position the United States as a leader in the global clean energy race.”

            That’s good news for America.  But while the president appears ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in developing NEW technologies for carbon storage, his own Environmental Protection Agency appears ready to overlook millions of tons per year in carbon storage ALREADY TAKING PLACE through the recycling of coal ash.

            When coal fly ash is used in the production of concrete, it makes the concrete stronger and more durable.  It also allows concrete producers to use less cement. Using less cement significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the cement manufacturing process.

            Currently, that adds up to about 11 million tons per year in carbon emissions savings.  But the EPA appears ready to jeopardize those savings by proposing to designate coal ash as “hazardous waste” when it is disposed – unnecessarily casting a stigma on this valuable resource.

            Achieving tens of millions of tons in annual carbon emissions reductions from coal ash recycling doesn’t require any presidential commissions or giant R&D budgets.  All it requires is spending LESS money to make BETTER concrete roads, bridges and structures.

            President Obama’s new interagency task force on carbon capture and storage should insist that his EPA stop throwing up barriers to achieving more of these reductions. Coal ash disposal regulations can be strengthened without stigmatizing the coal ash.  Increasing the recycling rate of coal ash is one of the fastest and least expensive carbon reduction strategies available in America today.

Posted by: on: Feb 05, 2010 @ 12:35