It's Green Week at NBC (and all other NBC-Universal properties) and thus we're treated to an extra helping of energy and environment stories from Nightly's globe-trotting, business savvy environment correspondent, Anne Thompson. Tonight's report included some serious straight talk about so-called "clean coal."
Brian Williams began with a remarkable lead-in:
"Coal. While you might have heard the phrase 'clean coal' during the presidential campaign, it's actually an oxymoron. Wishful thinking. Coal does not burn cleanly and it's hugely expensive to make it burn that way..."
And Anne Thompson herself offers an equally honest lead-in:
"Coal: the fuel the world burns to make electricity. Plentiful and polluting. A major contributor to climate change."
She then profiles a $100 million CCS pilot project in Spremberg, Germany operated by Vattenfall. It is located adjacent to a what Thompson calls a "dirty coal plant." The pilot project apparently captures 95 percent of its CO2 emissions and stores the liquefied CO2 in giant tanks -- before it is trucked 200 miles away and pumped underground.
Thompson then notes that "this process could increase electric rates by 50 percent."
And the icing on the cake? A German environmentalist calling the burning of coal without CCS a "crime against the climate."
I could scarcely have said it better myself. Now, I don't agree with everything in this story and anything that suggests that clean coal is even close to being ready on the scale or at the cost needed to make it a reality is misleading. Still, it is stunning to see an accurate and honest assessment of what our continued reliance on coal would mean: a crime against the climate. And clean coal? A 50 percent increase in electricity rates.
So -- should America rely on a ruinously expensive, Rube Goldbergian technology that won't be ready for years (decades?) or put our money and our mouths into the cheap, truly clean, safe, and readily available clean energy technologies we already have?
Watch the full report: