In today’s Washington Post:
The issue here is that if you consider, for example, the countries that have coal, two-thirds of the known coal reserves lie primarily in the United States, China, India and Russia. The United States actually has the most known coal reserves in the world, and over 50 percent of our electricity is generated by coal. Even if the United States turns its back on coal, China and India will not, given the state of affairs. I would prefer to say let’s try to develop technologies that can get a large fraction of the carbon dioxide out of coal. Start with 70, 80 percent and build up to over 90 percent, but start now and try to get it out.
I think it may be time to acknowledge that we aren’t going to have significant movement on climate change in the US without dealing with coal. Our resources are too great and coal’s special interests groups are too entrenched in our politics.
Of course CO2 is but one of the negative externalities uncaptured by the current price of “cheap” coal. For those of you who have not yet read it, I highly recommend Jeff Goodell’s Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future. Those seeking action on climate change should join together with environmental groups and ensure that whatever deal is brokered with the coal companies on CCS should be contingent on minimizing the human and environmental devastation coal has on more local scales.