Turning Black Coal Green

Posted on February 18, 2007. Filed under: Coal, Environment, Power |

A radical new power plant aims to convert our dirtiest fossil fuel into clean-burning hydrogen.

Big lumps of sooty coal hardly seem like the future of energy, but that’s exactly what the U.S. Department of Energy predicts. Consumption of the fossil fuel—the main source of greenhouse gas and a major contributor to acid rain, smog and mercury poisoning—will hit 10.6 billion tons a year by 2030, a near doubling of the 5.4 billion tons burned in 2003, according to the agency.

But coal’s growing dominance need not spell doom for the environment, says Mike Mudd, a former manager of technology development at American Electric Power (AEP), one of the country’s biggest utilities. Mudd is now CEO of FutureGen, a $1-billion project sponsored by the DOE in partnership with 11 leading energy companies to build the first near-zero-emission coal plant by 2012. The 275-megawatt facility will serve as the model for a new generation of high-tech coal facilities.

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