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Dying Embers of Coal. Or not?

President Obama’s administration recently announced the the United States would no longer finance the building of new coal fired power plants.  This new policy marks an achievement long sought by environmental groups.

However, powerful international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, have not followed suit.

The president’s new policy meshes with the domestic policy that requires all new coal fired plants to use carbon capture and storage technology.  Carbon capture and storage is expensive to implement.  Moreover, there is no easy design for carbon capture and storage that can be commercialized.

Reuters reports:

“Nov. 7, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it was awarding a total of $84 million to 18 research projects intended to find a lower cost way of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants.

The projects will test new solvents and sorbents to separate CO2 from other gases in power plant exhaust streams.

The aim is “improve the efficiency and drive down the costs of carbon capture processes for new and existing coal-fired plants,” according to officials.”

Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the Department of Energy, maintains that CCS is a viable technology, ready for implementation.  But if CCS were ready for implementation, then why is the federal government spending $84 million to sponsor basic research into it?

Many allege that in fact the new restrictions on coal fired plants are intended to strangle the coal industry, forcing a turn to natural gas (obtained largely via fracking) and renewables.


The World Bank, meanwhile, has a new policy of supporting renewable energy — but so far it does not adhere to it.  President of the World Bank, Dr. Kim, used to be a fierce critic of destructive development policies.  Dr. Kim, however, has recently rejected criticisms of the IFC branch of the WB and how the IFC has supported the Tata Mundra mega coal power plant in Gujarat India.

Whether the WB will also support construction of new coal fired power plants in Kosovo is the next benchmark.

The Real Cost of Coal, published by the Bank Information Center (or, BIC), is at the origins of the Tata Mundra complaint of violations by the IFC of their own social and environmental safeguard standards.    The official reports and documents on the Tata Mundra  investigation are available on BIC’s site.

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