Is There Such a Thing As Clean Coal?

Even if there is, “dirty” coal in developing countries still poses a major problem.
  • Transcript


Question: Is there such a thing as clean coal?

Charles Ebinger:   Well all I have to say is I hope there is such a thing as clean coal.  And the reason I say that, and of course that means that we can burn coal and completely capture the CO2 and then sequester it.  And it's certainly not an easy thing to do.  But what I keep reminding people is that coal is the world's most abundant energy resources.  You can argue whether it's as abundant as solar or wind, but certainly in terms of conventional resources and what people forget is that coal employs literally tens of thousands of people around the world, not only in our own country but in places like India and China.  It is cheap and so it's very difficult for emerging market countries that are trying to electrify to grow their economies economically. 

It's very difficult for them to simply say, "Well we're going to stop using coal because of concerns about climate change," because not only will they throw thousands of people out of work, but they will not then and probably in the near term, have a readily available alternative to replace the coal generated electricity that's leading to these explosive levels of economic growth. 

So I hope that we put a lot of research and development... There are essentially three major ways that we think about right now to potentially have clean coal.  One involves taking the CO2 out before combustion and two, capturing it after combustion.  But I would like to see us cooperate with the other big coal users in Indonesia and China, India and maybe jointly embark on some research and development projects using these three technologies and not see it as a commercial gain of one country's going to learn how to do it and not other but say under the rubric of the global good that we all do it together and then share the benefits accordingly.

Recorded on April 28th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen