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PSR Leader Questions Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on October 7, 2014

Following on the heels of the "People's Climate March," PSR board member and past president Alan Lockwood, MD toured Canada to highlight the health implications and costs of coal combustion and to raise questions about carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), an experimental technology being tested now in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

As Canada constructs the world's first large-scale coal-fired power plant that captures the carbon that it emits, Lockwood observed that the technology's economic viability is still unproven.  Estimates are that 30 to 40 percent of the electricity produced by the plant will be needed to capture and store the carbon dioxide. 

In addition, he questioned the feasibility of pumping trillions of kilograms of carbon dioxide into the ground.  Where wastes are being pumped into the ground for disposal, the incidence of earthquakes is increasing.

In any case, even with CCS technology, a coal-fired power plant still spews over 60 hazardous air pollutants.  The costs to society of the resulting harms to health are significant.

"If we paid the full cost of burning coal when we paid our electric bills, they would be at least three or four times higher than they are now," Lockwood observed.

Asked by Canadian television's Business News Network if there is a future for coal, Dr. Lockwood responded, "I don't think so. We have to take advantage of [renewable sources like] wind and solar and develop research programs that will continue to make them a more and more viable source of energy to allow the economy to grow, prosper and bring good health."

Lockwood's tour took him to Edmonton, Calgary and the capital city of Ottawa. He met with Canada's Minister of Energy, senators, and members of the Canadian Parliament;  was the keynote speaker at the Calgary University Thought Leaders Forum, titled Phasing Out Coal: A Healthy Decision; and interfaced with public health officials, representatives of Environment Canada, and PSR's Canadian cousin, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

Extensive media coverage of the visit including a press conference attended by TV and print reporters as well as the 5½-minute, nationally televised interview on the Business Network.

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