The World's Ever-Increasing Hunger for Coal
By Frank Dohmen, Alexander Jung and Wieland Wagner
Coal-fired power stations are a major producer of the greenhouse gas CO2, but there is no alternative to the fuel in the near future. Energy companies are hoping that carbon capture and storage technologies may be the answer, but many local residents don't want CO2 stored under their backyards.
When Rolf Martin Schmitz, a manager with the German energy giant RWE, drove to the North Sea resort island of Sylt last summer, he immediately noticed the signs. Along the side of roads throughout the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, he was greeted by images of skulls. Residents had installed the billboards to protest against underground storage sites for carbon dioxide that may be built in the region.
Citizens fear dangerous leaks of the gas, which can be hazardous at high concentrations, and other health risks. Schmitz, on the other hand, is worried about the future of his company.
Schmitz is the head of the domestic operations of RWE, Germany's second-largest electricity producer, whose most important energy source is coal. Burning the material creates large amounts of the greenhouse gas CO2. Energy companies are working at full speed to develop so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which involves capturing CO2 and storing it underground. Schmitz believes that the technology provides a way to solve the emissions problem associated with coal-fired power plants. more