The term “clean coal” is at the very least an oxymoron to some and to others a potentially downright dangerous concept as it involves geosequestration (the burying) of carbon dioxide emissions.
Greenpeace Australia is the latest organization to slam the Federal Government’s plans for a global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute to be set up in Australia next year, stating that carbon dioxide sequestration is unproven technology and carries the risk of carbon dioxide gases escaping into the environment.
Carbon dioxide isn’t just a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming; in high enough concentrations it can be deadly. This danger was demonstrated during a natural event in Lake Nyos in Africa during the 1980’s.
Lake Nyos is a volcano crater lake with a reservoir of magma beneath generating carbon dioxide. The depth and temperature of the water keeps much of this carbon dioxide at the bottom of the lake, allowing it to dissolve or to bubble to the surface in controlled amounts.
On August 21 1986, a massive cloud of carbon dioxide was expelled from the lake after an eruption. It’s estimated that 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide was released, hugging the ground in a layer 30 meters high. The CO2 cloud suffocated thousands of humans and animals in its path and the energy from the outgassing event generated large waves that destroyed vegetation around the lake. The lake’s once blue waters were a muddy brown for months and asphyxiated much of its aquatic life.
While most critics of the Federal Government’s “clean coal” initiative do acknowledge that the coal fired electricity generation industry must clean up on emissions immediately, they also believe that it should been seen as just a stopgap measure as Australia moves towards renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind energy as a primary means of generating electricity.
The fear some environmentalists have is the clean coal lobby will infiltrate alternative/clean energy organizations, create a smokescreen and mislead the Australian public in order to allow the continued unsustainable and environmentally damaging exploitation of fossil fuels such as coal.