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Coal is still king; Carbon capture and storage technologies pushed by Western governments may or may not work, but

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We cant continue to use the atmosphere as a dump for carbon dioxide emissions, say governments concerned about global warming. Rather than storing this colourless, odourless, tasteless gas way up there, they reason, lets store the carbon dioxide way down here, buried under ground or in the oceans.

And since burial solves the carbon dioxide problem, they then conclude, we can with a clear conscience crank up our use of coal.

This is the case in Canada, where the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy proposes a continuation of the boom that weve seen in coal mining this decade. This is the case in the U.S., where coal production has been steadily growing and where President Barack Obama touts coal above other energy options. And this is especially the case in the United Kingdom, perhaps the worlds most earnest warner of global warming catastrophe. The U.K. is today so bullish on burial that it has resuscitated the coal mining industry that Maggie Thatcher tried to kill off in the 1980s.

In the last four years, the U.K. has approved 54 coal mines, most of them openpit, while simultaneously pointing to the aggressive reductions in CO2 emissions to which its committed 34% by 2020. Scotland, which boasts the worlds very toughest CO2 reduction targets (42% by 2020), has approved 25 new open-pit mines, helping them along by relaxing planning regulations that apply to openpit mines. Because all this isnt enough, the U.K. is considering the approval of another 19 open-pit mines as well as upping its coal imports too.

“We dont see this as counter to our climate change message,” cheerily states the governments Department for Energy and Climate Change. “The U.K. is at the forefront of global efforts to decarbonise fossil fuels.”

The decarbonisation that the U.K. government refers to involves burial on land and -especially attractive for an island nation -at sea. A recently released Scottish government report determined that the Scottish area of the North Sea alone could store all the carbon dioxide that all the coal-fired plants in the U.K. would produce over the next two centuries, leading the Scottish First Minister to speculate that a high-tech carbon capture and storage industry could create 10,000 Scottish jobs.

But ocean storage raises a tide of objections from environmentalists, Greenpeace among them. Carbon dioxide in water could seriously acidify the oceans already a concern removing nutrients for plankton in areas like the U.K.s North Sea as well as in shallow ocean waters, and affecting the food source for marine life. Some ocean storage technologies kill marine life directly. Plus, many scientists believe the oceans will fail to effectively contain carbon dioxide, which will be pumped into waters in either liquid or gaseous form. No one, not even the U.N.s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, considers ocean storage to be much more than a concept, let alone a proven technology.

The potential for havoc to humans is much greater with carbon storage facilities under land. Carbon dioxide could adversely acidify groundwater, leading to leaching of contaminants into the water supply and rendering aquifers unusable. For this reason and others an unplanned release of the gas could suffocate humans or animals, and carbon storage can induce earthquakes governments on both sides of the Atlantic have proposed carbon storage facilities and communities have opposed them.

How will this all end? We can be confident that coal use will keep on growing for decades to come, in line with official projections that show worldwide demand soon doubling

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