Reducing US coal emissions through biomass and carbon capture would boost employment

November 1, 2018, Cell Press
Credit: Grant Wilson/public domain

While the need for solutions for the impending consequences of rising global temperatures has become increasingly urgent, many people have expressed concerns about the loss of jobs as current technologies like coal-fired power plants are phased out. A new study appearing November 1 in the journal Joule has run the numbers associated with the impacts of cutting coal plant jobs while at the same time employing techniques for bioenergy coupled with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The model indicates that the BECCS approach would not only retain 40,000 jobs currently held as part of the coal industry but would create 22,000 new jobs in the forestry and transportation sectors by the middle of this century.

"In the ambitious attempt to limit global warming below 2°C, BECCS features as the dominant technology, yet it's been under considerable scrutiny for its unknown effects on the environment and society," says first author Piera Patrizio, a research scholar in Ecosystems Services and Management at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria. "Our analysis shows that acting now and investing in this emission-mitigating strategy can be beneficial for employment in the U.S. coal sector."

BECCS is a proposed technology for reducing the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It combines and storage, in which CO2 is collected from large emission sources such as power plants and injected into underground geologic formations, with the increased use of biomass, like plant-based materials, as a source of fuel. Proponents of BECCS predict that more than 99% of carbon dioxide stored through geologic sequestration is likely to stay in place for more than 1,000 years. They say this approach is necessary because the levels of CO2 that already have been released are too high to be absorbed by conventional carbon sinks like trees and soil alone.

In the new study, the researchers studied in detail the major processes and steps involved in the potential energy supply chains for the U.S. coal fleet. Specifically, they looked at the supply of sustainable forest resources for biomass and the design and cost of infrastructure for transporting and injecting CO2 into appropriate geologic sites.

"We also took into account the fact that biomass must be grown and harvested in a sustainable way in order to be considered carbon-neutral and thus obtain negative emissions," explains co-author Sabine Fuss, of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin. "This aspect is sometimes neglected in studies dealing with BECCS deployment."

The investigators used a number of different models to analyze existing data, including a biophysical model called the Global Forest Model; a techno-economic model called BeWhere, which optimizes the technology development of U.S. coal, including feedstock logistics; and the Jobs and Economic Development Impact model, which they used to estimate the employment impacts of technology development.

There are some limitations to this type of analysis. For one thing, it does not consider the potential substitution of coal with other low-carbon options like renewables; thus, it reflects a limited picture of the future economy. For another, the models don't include any equilibrium in the economy, but are a bottom-up supply-chain optimization for specific technologies. Depending on these issues, outcomes of employing BECCS could differ with regard to job creation. Further analysis could therefore focus on emphasizing the socioeconomic effects of substituting renewable technologies for existing fossil-based capacity or on detecting larger, macroeconomic effects of low-carbon deployment, the researchers say.

"To increase the acceptance of mitigation actions, policymakers should embrace strategies that offer other societal benefits, such as ," concludes co-author Kasparas Spokas from Princeton University. "The U.S. represents a very interesting case to test our approach given the current economic, political, and environmental situation. This study shows how investing in climate change mitigation could actually ease the transition for coal workers, who would otherwise be confronted with abrupt job losses due to the retirement of the fleet by 2050."

Explore further: Forests crucial for limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees

More information: Joule, Patrizio et al. "Reducing US coal emissions can boost employment." DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2018.10.004 , https://www.cell.com/joule/fulltext/S2542-4351(18)30466-5

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aksdad
2.3 / 5 (12) Nov 01, 2018
Because basic economics teaches us that replacing a cheap commodity that everyone needs with a more expensive version that fewer people can afford always results in a better economy. And more jobs. And unicorns and free-energy fairies.
MR166
3 / 5 (6) Nov 01, 2018
High energy prices ALWAYS reduce job creation and the standard of living.
greenonions1
4.5 / 5 (8) Nov 01, 2018
High energy prices ALWAYS reduce job creation and the standard of living
I'm not sure that is always the case - but none the less - you make a good argument for renewable energy. https://www.busin...e-2018-5
david_king
4.6 / 5 (7) Nov 02, 2018
Oh and I suppose the 800,000 premature deaths per year worldwide is also a boon to the economy? Undoubtedly the more people that die the more money there is for everyone else. Now if coal would just kill everyone except for one really luck guy who'd get everything just think how lucky that one guy would be!
Thorium Boy
2.6 / 5 (10) Nov 02, 2018
greenloons, stop going after one of the few countries to have reduced emissions in the last 10 years and go after your commie darling, CHINA which has INCREASED emissions.
Thorium Boy
2 / 5 (8) Nov 02, 2018
Oh and I suppose the 800,000 premature deaths per year worldwide is also a boon to the economy? Undoubtedly the more people that die the more money there is for everyone else. Now if coal would just kill everyone except for one really luck guy who'd get everything just think how lucky that one guy would be!


REAL pollution killed them, not CO2.
greenonions1
3.4 / 5 (10) Nov 02, 2018
Thorium Boy

and go after your commie darling, CHINA which has INCREASED emissions
Surely an argument in support of this type of program. China is wrestling with the massive problem of expanding energy demand - and deadly pollution. Cheap coal has made it tempting to build lots of dirty coal plants. They now live with the consequences - which is why they are trying to pivot. They are also experimenting with nukes. I hope they are successful - but it seems that the cost factor gives renewables the edge.

REAL pollution killed them, not CO2
And you don't think that coal produces 'real pollution'?

BTW - I am not a communist - although so what if I was? Why don't you grow up with your child like binary thinking. We have serious problems in our world to address - which is the subject of today's article. It seems that instead of growing up - we are devolving into child think.

rrwillsj
3 / 5 (4) Nov 02, 2018
pony_boy has always had a problem with rational thinking. Attempting it makes his head hurt!

Je doesn't realize how stupid he sounds belaboring CO2 all the tine like it was a magic incantation.

I blame his infantile tantrums on his regular self-abuse huffing sacks of gasoline.
MR166
1 / 5 (1) Nov 02, 2018
Onions your link is nothing more than green propaganda. Coal does not cost $100+/ MWH!

Production cost is around $31/MWH per the EIA.

https://www.eia.g..._04.html

Spaced out Engineer
not rated yet Nov 02, 2018
Blasting coal for graphene, growing it into Hadmard diamonds, or solving the means of using microwaves for nano-ribbon transistors all offer a means of re-purposing coal.

Vote for Thorium reactors. They could be used for the nuclear desalinization of water and harvest uranium in the process.

Save the uranium for Elon. We got plans people. (A swarms of nano-starships with the seeds of life that can travel 1/5th the speed of light, might also be a good idea)
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Nov 02, 2018
We've overemployed now.

give it a rest.
greenonions1
4 / 5 (4) Nov 02, 2018
MR166 -
Coal does not cost $100+/ MWH
Yes it does MR. When we compare the cost of power - we use the cost of building a new plant - in today's dollars. That is the only fair way to compare apples to apples. Current technology against current technology. Now I looked over your graph - and saw nothing that said that coal costs $31. Please show me where you have demonstrated that coal costs $31.

Now go look up current cost for building a new coal plant - vs renewable energy. Lazard puts the coal plant at between $60 and $143 - so $100 would not be an unreasonable average. It gets really tiring how you Trump cult members have no connection to facts - just make shit up as you go - know nothing about your subject - but consider yourself knowing more than the rest of the world. Bit like Trump being the smartest guy on the planet.

https://www.lazar...gy-2017/
greenonions1
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 02, 2018
MR - there was a central point in my first response to your comment. As you stipulated - high energy prices are bad. Thus we have made a good argument for cheaper energy sources. Here is another example - showing us what is currently happening in the energy world - https://www.utili.../519671/

So how are you - in any way making a case for keeping coal - over the use of cheaper renewables? On top of this - as today's article is all about - burning coal is dirty - and therefore needs to stop. I fail to see your point.
Thorium Boy
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018


Leftists need to stop apologizing for China and excusing them before their real motives (and it's NOT fixing climate change) are revealed.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
We sure can't keep burning coal now we found out most of the heat's going into the ocean.
aksdad
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
I suppose the 800,000 premature deaths per year worldwide...

REAL pollution killed them, not CO2

Wow, you're both wrong. Air pollution from burning coal (and other fossil fuels) doesn't kill 800,000 people a year prematurely. That's a nonsense number conjured up by epidemiologists that has no connection to the real world.

Air pollution isn't a cause of death. It can exacerbate lung problems in people who are already sick, whose life spans are shortened due to...wait for it...being sick. Coal plants in western countries have so much pollution-scrubbing equipment on them that they put out very little "REAL" pollution. China and other poor or developing countries don't scrub power plant emissions the way rich countries do so power plant pollution is a bigger problem.
Da Schneib
1 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
Clean the toilet, @assdad. Or does your mommy do that?
greenonions1
4.3 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2018
Leftists need to stop apologizing for China
What do you think I have apologized for? China is a cruel, authoritarian country - that should be called out for it's authoritarianism, and it's human rights abuses. I am not a supporter of China. My posts regarding China have been fairly factual in terms of their energy policy. I don't support authoritarianism - be it China, Russia, Turkey, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, etc. etc. Righties pick and choose who they call out. China bad - Saudi Arabia our friend. Oh that's right - they buy shit loads of war from us. If you understood the topic of the article - you would stick to comment on energy facts - but you don't
greenonions1
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2018
Aksdad
Air pollution isn't a cause of death
So if I smoke cigarettes - and I die of COPD - aksdad wants to parse whether cigarettes caused my death, or just contributed to it. What a dumb thought. Smoking is bad Aksdad - who cares about your splitting hairs? Air pollution is bad Aksdad. And the scrubbers put on the power plants - are there because evil gubermint took a role in keeping citizens safe. What a novel thought.

https://www.forbe...f31513b4
MR166
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
"Yes it does MR. When we compare the cost of power - we use the cost of building a new plant - in today's dollars."

But we already have these coal plants built and paid for. Also many were decommissioned that would not have been due to political pressure and the influx of intermittent power sources that only a gas fired backup plant could support.

The article is disingenuous.
MR166
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
Also, to be totally honest one needs to include the cost of the backup gas power plant when calculating the cost of 24/7 solar power.
MR166
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2018
I predict that our natural gas supplies are much more limited then we are led to believe. The economics and EROI of fracking are not as good as they are purported to be. The switch from coal to gas will soon be shown to be a gigantic mistake.
greenonions1
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
MR
and the influx of intermittent power sources that only a gas fired backup plant could support
And so you openly display your complete lack of understanding of the subject matter - and yet consider yourself an expert. We can deal with the issue of intermittency many ways. Gas is NOT the only source. We can use hydro - which Scotland, Norway, Costa Rica etc. etc. are currently doing, as well as nukes, and of course multiple storage technologies.

So answer me a question MR. I have just shown that you made a statement that is easy to prove a lie. And yet you continue to want to present yourself as an expert. We see this happening all the time - in our new Trump - upside down world. So - why do you read science - which is based on provable - repeatable - facts - when you so clearly disdain facts - and like to exist in "I can make shit up if I want to" world? Is it just trolling?
MR166
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
Onions battery backup is still too expensive and has no long term record. Nuclear does not cycle quickly enough to backup renewables. Finally, the older hydro impellers in Europe are being damaged by the constant changes in flow rate demanded by their new function as renewable backup.
greenonions1
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
Onions battery backup is still too expensive and has no long term record
So what? Hydro is means of storage being used around the world. Costs are coming down. Here is an example - https://thinkprog...b91a543/

The point is that you said
intermittent power sources that only a gas fired backup plant could support
And that is a lie. Perhaps a lie out of ignorance, but none the less a lie. So why don't you answer the question - instead of doubling down, and making yourself look worse?
Old_C_Code
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
They don't even want to talk about SAFE nuclear fission.

From MIT:

https://www.techn...decades/
jonesdave
1.7 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2018
They don't even want to talk about SAFE nuclear fission.

From MIT:

https://www.techn...decades/


I'm sure the people in charge at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island would have sworn that their plants were safe. And then there is Fukushima. Fuk that!
jonesdave
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
They don't even want to talk about SAFE nuclear fission.

From MIT:

https://www.techn...decades/


Maybe I should have read the link first, before commenting :) What is the danger in a Thorium-Salt reactor if there is a meltdown?
greenonions1
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
They don't even want to talk about SAFE nuclear fission
Who is 'they' - and what is the basis of their unwillingness to talk? I want to see technology advance - and would personally support research into any and all viable fuel sources. If thorium can supply us with cheap energy - I am all for it. I understand that there is a lot of discussion around the world on this topic. Considering EDF (one of the world's most experienced nuclear providers) is charging $120 a Mwh for power from Hinkley - that MAY come on line in 2025 - there is of course good reason for concern about where to put the research dollars. Personally I would de-fund the military - and throw all of that money into technology research. Shows what I know.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
They don't even want to talk about SAFE nuclear fission.

From MIT:

https://www.techn...decades/


Maybe I should have read the link first, before commenting :) What is the danger in a Thorium-Salt reactor if there is a meltdown?
Thorium-molten salt reactors don't melt down. They run at a higher temperature but with a lower heat content. By the Carnot law, higher temperature equals higher efficiency. But the key fact is they have an inherent negative temperature coefficient; rising temperatures slow the reaction down. In addition the salt is non-reactive, for example not making hydrogen which was the cause of Fukushima and may have been a contributing factor at Chernobyl. They also operate at normal pressure, not the high pressures of light water reactors.
[contd]
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
[contd]
They don't require external cooling, and once the salt circulation is shut down they cool off by themselves without needing generators.

@Old_C also ignores other technologies that are promising in this regard; for example, gas-cooled pebble bed reactors and traveling wave reactors, both of which are safe from meltdowns and inherently have negative heat coefficients.

The choice of light water reactors was probably the second worst choice in the history of nuclear power. And Russia's choices in building and operating Chernobyl were the worst; it's the most dangerous type of reactor, and the staff ignored crucial protocols that led directly to the accident at the orders of a commissar who didn't know any reactor physics. He ignored warnings for political reasons. I notice no one ever says what happened to him afterward.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
There are safe reactor designs; but GE isn't building them. This is the plain truth.

The IPCC says if we don't get to 50% nuclear power by 2050 we're sunk. So much for environmental reports being against nuclear. If we're gonna do anything like that, we'll need safe designs and they are out there. The problem at this point is the optics after TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
Now, do I think this is likely? No. China might get some of these designs working by 2035, they say; I'll believe it when I see it. And nuclear has a bad name in the West, so we're not likely to do anything either. Luckily I'll be gone before this all comes to a head, and have no children to worry about. Because this is gonna get real bad.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2018
@greenos,
Personally I would de-fund the military - and throw all of that money into technology research. Shows what I know.
Considering the military implications of AGW, I'd say this is a pretty good plan. The idea is not to need much military. It costs less.
Old_C_Code
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
Successful thorium molten salt reactors were turned down by the military at Oak Ridge because they don't produce weapons grade waste.
Old_C_Code
3 / 5 (2) Nov 03, 2018
They


People like yourself, ignorant of safe nuclear power. You're implying malevolence, I'm implying ignorance.
EngineerJohn
not rated yet Nov 03, 2018
johnsdave-

"I'm sure the people in charge at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island would have sworn that their plants were safe. And then there is Fukushima. Fuk that!"

Three Mile Island was an example of Nuclear Safety systems working properly, virtually no radiation was released.

Fukashima was an example of the systems working better than designed. Despite design faults that went known and uncorrected for decades. Given how bad the damage was it is amazing that the environmental effects were as limited as they were. Virtually none of the evacuated area was actually contaminated at levels which would effect human health. Those people should have stayed at home. Fukashima beyond the plant boundaries was a non-event.

Chernobyl was Chernobyl. Bad Design, Terrible Operation
greenonions1
5 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2018
Old_C
People like yourself, ignorant of safe nuclear power. You're implying malevolence, I'm implying ignorance
Holy shit - I said
If thorium can supply us with cheap energy - I am all for it
I have consistently been an advocate for nuclear energy - in contrast with folks like Antialias. My beef is with the cost. I even think that we may need to accept the higher cost of nukes - if they would provide a faster ramp up to a carbon free world than renewables. I consistently advocate for a basket of low carbon energy sources - that will include nukes. Please give me a quote where I have implied malevolence.

I do understand that we are so addicted to fossil fuels - that we are behaving irrationally in terms of not responding to the catastrophic threat of climate change. I see malevolence on the part of jerks like MR and Willie Ward - who are trolls and liars. I don't understand it...
greenonions1
not rated yet Nov 04, 2018
EngineerJohn
Fukashima beyond the plant boundaries was a non-event
Except for the $180 billion price tag. https://www.bbc.c...38131248 And dislocation of 20,000 residents - many will never return. I think we can and should do nuclear safely - but it is important to learn the lessons of our mistakes - and not downplay with terms like 'non-event' https://www.reute...BN16F083

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