Today's Question: Best fuel for the job

Monday, June 22, 2009 | 12:27 p.m. CDT

On April 22, lawmakers, scientists and bureaucrats met at the Missouri Energy Summit to discuss green alternatives that may be feasible for the state's large institutions, including "clean coal" use at MU. The main reason MU continues to use coal as a significant fuel source is to save money, according to the campus facilities Web site. MU saves $18 to $20 million annually when compared to the price of natural gas.

Burning coal produces about 9 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year nationally, according to the World Nuclear Association. The association said these effects can be reduced and that clean coal can be engineered to produce ash at only .25 percent with minimal sulfur. The association also said that the carbon dioxide produced can be sequestered and "washed" by pumping it 3,000 feet into the Earth, an effort that has been supported by Sen. Kurt Schaefer. To promote these and other possibilities of "clean coal," American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has launched a $35 billion campaign.

However, "clean coal" has largely been disputed as a myth. Many believe that attempts to create clean-burning coal are an oxymoron of nature. The particles created during the burning and mining of coal have been known to cause asthma, cancer and produce 36 percent of harmful emissions nationwide, according to the blog Yale Enviroment 360

MU has several scientists devoted to engineering clean burning coal who spoke at the summit and believe that with further research, "clean coal" could be practical.

To learn more about "clean coal" go to

Could "clean coal" make MU more eco-friendly?

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Ryan L June 22, 2009 | 2:42 p.m.

I don't know about "clean coal", but I've heard that the MU is required by state law to use a certain percentage of Missouri-originating coal. Since Missouri coal isn't of the best quality, the engineers had to come up with a creative mix of fuels to still meet environmental standards. Again, I heard this in a political science class about interest groups, so I can't confirm it.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 22, 2009 | 8:22 p.m.

The problem with storing CO2 is that it will leak out eventually. CO2 can be mineralized as carbonates (coral and shellfish do it) but not on any sort of industrial scale (that doesn't use more energy that the power plant makes).

Current environmental standards don't consider CO2 a pollutant. The blending of coal (and wood chips) is done to satisfy 1980's clean air standards.

It also depends on what one means by "clean". Developed technology exists to capture ash and sulfur. The technology to capture CO2 is much less mature.

Can MU afford to pump the exhaust (or worse, build a plant separate the CO2 from it) of their power plant into the ground, in a manner that it will not leak out? I doubt it. The best thing they can do is encourage conservation and efficiency, which are far cheaper and can be done much more quickly.


(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.