As mentioned, with the Kerrick process, which has been around since the 1920's, you can create smokeless semi-char. Germany used the Bergius and F-T methods which were inferior and actually developed later. The Germans are going back to coal plants, now that they're determined to quit nuclear, they do a great job of selling wind turbines to the suckers in S. Europe. Pushing green tech on potential rivals and helping secessionist movements in other countries is part and parcel of German foreign policy.
The poster child of acid-ruined forests was a wretched stand of spruce on Camel Hump Mountain, Vermont. ABC Television ran a lengthy hysterical national news piece about Camel Hump. (This news piece blamed Acid Rain for the premature deaths of 50,000 American citizens per year.) Journalists following up the ABC story were surprised to find this tragic stand of spruce engulfed by a thriving forest. Further analysis revealed the celebrity spruces to have been irreparably damaged by a rare localized drought.
America’s Acid Rain crusade differed slightly from Europe’s by its emphasis on alleged damage to lakes, especially lakes in New York’s Adirondacks. In 1980 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Academy of Sciences issued alarming proclamations about dramatic increases in the number of acidified lakes and the degree of these lakes’ acidity. The EPA arbitrarily deemed pH levels below 5 as aberrant; ignoring glacial evidence of natural pH levels as low as 4.2.
(Acidity is measured on a 14-point power of Hydrogen – “pH” – scale. The lower the pH, the higher is the acidity. Note: “Acid Rain” is a misnomer as dissolved CO2 renders all rain acidic. Also note: Apple juice is 16 times more acidic than the worst Acid Rain.)
Acid Rain alarmists initially focussed on anthropogenic nitric and sulphuric acidity but soon dropped nitric acidity after it became obvious that rain-borne nitrogen is readily lapped up by plants. While sulphur is also a vital plant nutrient, there can be surplus sulphur dioxide (SO2) in rain, and this does trickle through watersheds into lakes.
In 1980 President Carter endorsed a report from his Council on Environmental Quality christening Acid Rain a grave crisis. In the same year, the EPA launched its National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project (NAPAP) with a $10 million budget. NAPAP morphed into a ten-year $550 million project. NAPAP endures as the most exhaustive scientific analysis of Acid Rain.
A 1984 NAPAP report identified a meagre 630 acidic lakes whose combined surface equalled 0.02% of total American lake surface area. Most acidic lakes were in Florida, an area unaffected by coal emissions.
A 1987 NAPAP report doubted any connection between coal emissions and Acid Rain damage. This set off an enviro-tempest culminating in the firing of NAPAP’s Director. His replacement was ordered to rewrite the report.
NAPAP’s final report (1990) concluded:
Acid Rain does not harm human health.
Acid Rain benefits agriculture. (Several European and North American studies likewise concluded sulphur-loaded rain improves crop yield and protein content).
Acid Rain has not harmed forests. The at-risk trees – high altitude East Coast spruces – represent less than 1% of North American forest cover, and even here Acid Rain damage is dubious. Between 1952 and 1987, forests of the US Northeast grew by 78%.
Four percent of US lakes were acidic. One quarter of these lakes were naturally acidic. The rest had been “somewhat influenced” by human activity. All acidic lakes could be quickly de-acidified by sprinkling lime into them. The cost of a national liming program would be $750,000.
A lake’s acidity is determined by the bedrock beneath, and human land-use of a lake’s environs. Run-off from surrounding land contributes 90% of lake water. Precipitation onto a lake contributes 10%. If rocks and flora around a lake are alkaline, then the lake will have low acidity and abundant aquatic life.
Fossils prove Adirondack lakes were historically acidic due to run-off through peat and pine and due to the bedrock’s low limestone content. Indians knew Adirondack lakes were fish poor. Settlers tried and failed to stock these lakes with fish. Then 19th century lumbering and slash-and-burn agriculture covered watersheds with ash. Run-off through this alkaline surface reduced lake acidity and fish thrived. 20th century conservation programs rejuvenated the forests and re-acidified the lakes.
The release of NAPAP’s final report was delayed until after the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Politicians did not want to disturb the delicate consensus they had assembled around SO2 emission cuts. Senators skimmed the NAPAP report for an hour. The House of Representatives never looked at it at all. The Clean Air Act Amendments mandated 10 million tonnes per annum of SO2 emission cuts by 2000 at a projected cost to industry of $5 billion.
SO2 emission reductions were achieved by power companies’ installing expensive “scrubbers” and other technologies to capture sulphur from coal. Greater reductions were achieved by switching to low-sulphur lignite coals. This unintended consequence caused a boom in lignite mining, particularly in Wyoming, which had not been a major coal producer. Now Wyoming’s lignite mines account for 40% of US coal production. Seventy-five coal trains, each 130 cars long, leave Wyoming’s Powder River Basin every day. Powder River coal fuels a fifth of US electricity.
SO2 emission reduction targets were achieved ahead of schedule, but environmentalists were flummoxed because coal-fired electrical generation had not been curtailed – albeit it was made less efficient and more expensive.