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Australia Aims for Cleaner Coal

A demonstration project will seek to develop new technology to burn coal in pure oxygen and capture carbon dioxide underground. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Australia wants to show that existing power stations can be refitted to burn coal in a much cleaner way. A demonstration project will seek to develop new technology over the next four years that makes it easier to capture carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the main gas that many scientists say helps cause global warming.

In traditional coal-fired power stations, the coal is burned in air in a big furnace and the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. In the new system, the coal is burned in pure oxygen instead of air. The captured carbon dioxide gas is then made into a liquid and buried deep underground. The process is called geo-sequestration.

The operators of the project in the northern state of Queensland say it is the first of its kind in the world. Australian and Japanese companies are supporting the project, and the Australian government is paying for part of it.

Geoff Wilson is the mines and energy minister in Queensland. He says the new system will sharply reduce the amount of carbon released from the coal-fired process and make it easier to store.

The International Energy Agency has said that clean coal technology could help reduce the release of greenhouse gases by one-fourth. But a spokeswoman for the environmental group Friends of the Earth says the technology has very limited promise to cut emissions in the short term.

Critics say the technology is unproven. And they say it will not guarantee that Australia will be able to reduce emissions in the future. Australia releases more greenhouse gases per person than almost any other country in the world. Its emissions come mainly from coal burned for electricity.

On November fifteenth, thousands of Australians in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities joined a yearly protest called "Walk Against Warming." They called for renewable energy.

Scientists warn that the Australian continent could suffer more severe dry periods, floods and storms as a result of climate change.

For years the government refused to sign the Kyoto treaty limiting greenhouse gas emissions. But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the protocol as his first act in office following his election last year. He has made action on climate change an important part of his environment policy.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report. Transcripts and MP3s of our reports are at I'm Steve Ember.