There's No Way to Stabilize CO2 Without Tackling Coal Emissions: MIT Study


photo: tomsaint11 via flickr

The Wall Street Journal reports that a new study coming out of MIT confirms what every climatologist worth their salt has been saying for some time: "There is today no credible pathway towards stringent GHG stabilization targets without CO2 emissions reduction for existing coal power plants." Not only that, but reducing those emissions is going to be darn expensive:
The WSJ very much correctly nails the urgency with which this has to happen: Now, not at some point in the future. But then seems to loose the thread.

Clean Coal is Miserably Expensive
These are some of the highlights for the MIT study "Retrofitting of Coal Power Plants for CO2 Emissions Reductions pulled out by the Journal:

Capturing the carbon from existing coal plants is not going to be cheap by any measure. MIT figures that capturing carbon at existing plants could cost $50 to $70 a ton—"significantly higher than is generally recognized in the United States." China might be able to do better, because it is so busy building state-of-the-art supercritical coal-fired power plants.

Get ready to spend a lot to save a little. MIT figures the U.S. will have to spend $1 billion a year for the next decade in R&D; on true clean coal plants. That's in addition to another $12 billion to $15 billion shared by industry and government to figure out how to convert existing coal plants.

Even though the Journal admits that the economics of developing carbon sequestration and retrofitting existing coal power plants are "still miserable" they fail to make the logical leap to not building new coal power plants and phasing out as quickly as possible the ones we have.

If We're Spending the Money Anyway, Why Not Spend It on Something That's Actually Clean?
There's no denying that replacing all that power from coal with renewables is going to difficult and expensive, but if we can come up with the money to clean up something that is inherently dirty (in many more ways than just greenhouse gas emissions), I want to know why we can't wrangle the same sort of funding to install renewable energy sources which aren't polluting in the first place? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

via: Wall Street Journal - Environmental Capital
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