Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Pushes Clean-Coal Technology on Thais

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Pushes Clean-Coal Technology on Thais

Article excerpt

THE coal excavated here from one of the world's great open-pit mines is of such low quality it is sometimes referred to as "dirt that burns." But for American companies peddling "clean coal" technologies, it represents potential "pay dirt."

Like many developing countries, Thailand is poised to substantially increase its use of coal to generate electricity. This could mean increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" gases that threaten to warm the earth's climate.

At the same time, international and domestic environmental groups are pressing power authorities here to hold such emissions down.

Hoping to bridge these two worldwide trends, representatives of American companies and the United States Department of Energy (DOE) came to Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations in June on a trade mission to promote clean-coal technology.

Coal accounts for 70 percent of the globe's recoverable fossil fuel reserves, and is already the source of 44 percent of the world's total electric power. This percentage is expected to increase substantially, given the fuel's advantages of widely distributed reserves and relatively stable prices.

But whether clean-coal technology soon becomes a US export remains uncertain.

Officials at the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the main state power agency, acknowledge they are under new pressure to curb emissions. But their approach seems to be one of gradually adopting increasingly sophisticated technology rather than any quantum leap.

The more advanced clean-coal technology "is not proven yet," says Charmon Suthiphongchai, the agency's deputy general manager. And once it is proven, "we still have to see if it will be economically viable for us."

At present the agency is installing more conventional technologies, such as scrubbers, to trim emissions.

POLLUTION-CONTROL standards are likely to grow tighter over time, various officials say, with impetus coming from multilateral development banks such as the World Bank, which plays a significant role in financing power projects in the developing world. …

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