Here and Now

Joe Paterno Fallout at Penn State, the Search for Clean Coal, VINE Founder Yung Nguyen: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: Football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier have been fired but every day we’re learning more about the sex abuse scandal that everyone is talking about. We’ll get an update this hour.

1:40pm: Coal generates half of all the electricity in the U.S. It’s also the biggest source of global-warming emissions and other air pollution. The coal industry acknowledges this but says the answer is not to phase out coal, but instead to produce “clean coal.” Among the strategies for doing this is building carbon sequestration plants, where the carbon generated from burning coal is pumped underground. But despite years of promises, no carbon sequestration plants are in operation in the U.S. Anne Glausser reports on the difficult path for clean coal.

1:44pm: Yung Nguyen came to the United States from Vietnam in the early 1980s, went to school, and went on to found VINE — the victim notification network he started in Louisville that is now used nationwide. Nguyen sat down with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey to tell his story, the first of a month-long series about the struggles and successes of immigrant entrepreneurs in Louisville.

Environment Local News

West Coast Scientists Begin Work on Cheaper Carbon Capture Process

Right now, many can’t agree on the value of carbon capture and sequestration–the process by which carbon dioxide is removed from power plant emissions and sequestered underground. Some say it’s the future of coal burning power plants–as more environmental regulations are enacted restricting emissions, carbon capture is one way to lessen the environmental footprint of burning coal. Others say the energy-intensive process actually does more damage to the environment than conventional power plants, because it takes more coal to run a plant.

Regardless, everyone agrees on one thing: right now, carbon capture and sequestration is too expensive to be feasible on a large scale (unless, of course, someday there’s a price on carbon dioxide). Last month, American Electric Power’s carbon capture pilot project at its Mountaineer Power Plant in West Virginia was cancelled because it was deemed too expensive.

But according to a news release, Battelle researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory were just awarded a $2 million federal grant to study a cheaper way to remove the carbon dioxide. They estimate their process could be 50 percent cheaper than the current technology. They say the system uses a lot less power:

Environment Local News

Report Targets Energy Subsidies for Congressional Cuts

When the Congressional super-committee sits down to cut the nation’s spending, everything is fair game. But a new report released by four non-profit groups suggests the panel look first to cutting energy subsidies.

The report is called Green Scissors, and it was released today by groups that promote free market capitalism, consumer protections, the environment, or fiscal responsibility. It highlights the $380 billion in spending that goes to subsidize oil, gas and coal, as well as tax breaks and government loans.

Steve Ellis is the Vice President of Taxpayers for Common Sense, which helped write the report.

“You know, we can cut wasteful spending that also harms the environment,” he said. “So in some cases, it’s things like tax breaks for the oil and gas industry or loan guarantees for nuclear power or some of the direct subsidies that go into alternative energy sources.”

Ellis says so-called clean coal technology gets a lot of hand-outs.

“There is a tax credit that would be almost a billion dollars over five years for carbon capture and sequestration, there’s a credit for investment in clean coal facilities, so we’ve got a bunch of different duplicative programs that are trying to encourage the investment in clean coal technology,” he said.

Ellis adds that the technology is unproven, and is wasteful taxpayer spending.

Environment Local News

American Electric Power Will Stop Research on Carbon Capture at W.Va. Plant

For the past few years, American Electric Power has been working on a carbon capture and sequestration project at their Mountaineer Power Plant in New Haven, West Virginia. The plant used a chilled ammonia process to remove the carbon dioxide from the gas emitted from the plant, then the carbon was injected underground for storage in porous rock. Here’s a documentary I produced while at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, which describes the technology at Mountaineer.

But AEP’s project at Mountaineer was very small scale–it removed about 1.5 percent of the carbon from the plant’s emissions. But now, AEP has announced that it will be halting the project. The news was broken in The New York Times this morning.

Environment Local News News About WFPL

What Is the Impact of Coal on America’s Environment, History and Culture?

Why do Americans contribute more heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere than Europeans with similar standards of living? One reason is our dependence on cars, but another, less-talked-about reason is coal. Americans rely on coal for nearly half our electricity. Electrical generation pumps out more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector — cars, trucks, planes, and ships — combined.

Can we burn coal more cleanly? Can we get off of it?

Today at 1pm and 9pm, a new American RadioWorks documentary goes back to the roots of our addiction to coal, and shows how our fuel choices changed American culture and history. There are some fascinating insights into the past and the future of a country built on coal.

Listen to the documentary now.

State of Affairs

What is Clean Coal?

Friday, January 23, 2009
What Is Clean Coal?
We’ve been hearing the term “clean coal” bandied about the in the media for several years. And in 2008 it became part of the presidential campaign rhetoric. But just what is “clean coal” and does the definition depend on where you stand on the issue? Why do some think it can never be a reality? And just how does Kentucky figure into the clean coal industry? Join us on Friday when we explore the issue of clean coal with a diverse panel of experts.

Listen to the Show

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