28 April 2009

Clean Coal: Like It or Not, We Need to Figure It Out

We burn coal. We can't ignore it. It's a plentiful resource and fuels the cheap electricity we use everyday. Like it or not, that's the way it is.

Don't get me wrong, I hate things like mountaintop removal and the dangers coal-miners have to face every day. But I'm a realist and I don't believe we're going to be able to transition fast enough to alternatives to completely eliminate coal from our energy diet.

My pal Gregor MacDonald had a stimulating post on Earth Day that generated some lively dialogue on the subject in which he argued that it's hard to win a fight against a cheap BTU. Gregor is smarter than I am on this subject, so you should definitely check out his blog: Gregor.us.

Readers of the green skeptic know that I think there is a need for some serious R&D into Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and that we need to figure out whether we can really make coal clean.

As I wrote in my comment on Gregor's post: I know this isn't a popular view, but coal is still so cheap and plentiful that it's hard to ignore. Of course, there are those who say it can't be done and others who say we'll hit peak coal before getting the technology right. If we do nothing, however, and others continue to ramp up coal production in its dirtiest form, where will we be?

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes featured a story on Clean Coal, including interviews with both Duke Energy's CEO Jim Rogers and NASA's climate scientist James Hansen:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Worth watching.