The atmosphere doesn't care how we do it, we just need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So while you'll have a hard time finding people more opposed to coal plants than we are, we have to be realistic: Many of these power plants won't be closed for years and in the meantime anything that can mitigate the damage is good.
That's why these new materials created by Omar Yaghi and his team at UCLA are interesting. They are super-porous - 1 gram can contain up to 2,000 square meters of surface area - and absorb 80 times their volume in carbon dioxide while letting other gases pass through. The novelty compared to other similar materials is that it doesn't take much energy to release the CO2 afterwards, making it more energy and cost effective.Other techniques to capture CO2 from smokestacks currently use up to 15-20% of the total electricity produced by the plant. "Capturing and compressing carbon dioxide through these existing methods can add 80 to 90 percent to the cost of producing electricity from coal." So it's not surprising that these methods aren't used much. While we're still very strongly against coal plants, a cheaper method that would actually be used is a positive step. As long as it's used only on existing coal plants and not used as an excuse to build new ones.
Technology Review writes:
The next step for the materials is commercialization. This means scaling up production and incorporating the materials into a system at a power plant, such as by packing the materials into canisters that can be filled with pressurized exhaust gases--something that the UCLA group says could be possible in two to three years. Yaghi estimates that the materials could easily be made in large quantities, since they are similar to other materials he has developed that can now be made by the ton by BASF, the giant chemical company.
But capturing the CO2 is just one step. Storing it is a whole other huge problem.
See also: ::Why Carbon Sequestration Won't Save Us, ::There Is No Such Thing As Clean Coal, ::Oops...There's Fly-Ash In The Clean Coal Ointment, ::Palladium, Not Carbon, May Be Used To Scrub Mercury From "Clean Coal" Plants, ::Comparing The Cost Of New Nuclear v.s. "Clean Coal" Plant Generated Electricity