In line with what appears to be the Obama administration’s position, Nature has an editorial discussing, and endorsing, carbon capture and sequestration for coal. The editors recognize the current lack of viable CCS commercial plants in addition to the other environmental costs associated with coal use, but contend (and I agree) that in essence we can’t let perfect be the enemy of the good:
Some environmentalists have been hammering home the point that there is no such thing as clean coal, and they may be right. Even if operators did somehow manage to bury 90% of the CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, that would still leave all the emissions and other environmental impacts from mining and transporting the coal itself.
Indeed, in an ideal world, burying CO2 wouldn’t be necessary. Civilization would instead rely on carbon-free energy resources such as solar, wind and nuclear power, and would reserve CO2 for feeding algae and making carbonated beverages or, better yet, cement. But getting there will take time, and that is what carbon storage could provide. It’s worth the effort.
As I’ve said before, 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.