Climate Change Solution: Buying Coal to Never Use It

Let's change the market by controlling the market.

Here's a neat idea that would reduce carbon emissions on a global scale and alter the course of anthropogenic climate change over the next 100 years: Buy up coal to keep it in the ground.

Coal accounts for over 40 percent of the world's carbon emissions, and while the price to install solar panels continues to go down, coal is still king on the global market. Even if the United States manages to reduce its carbon footprint through abatement plans and carbon taxes, there's still the rest of the world to contend with (namely India and China).

China and India also won't be moved by Al Gore's tears — they rely on cheap coal to continue to grow.

Matt Frost, a data analyst, believes it's overly optimistic to think carbon-abatement programs will change emissions in a major way. China and India also won't be moved by Al Gore's tears — they rely on cheap coal to continue to grow. It'll take more to change the system than some finger-wagging from some global leaders to get them to switch to more sustainable energy resources. 

This is where Frost's plan comes in:

“The U.S. government should modify the legal infrastructure for mineral resources such that the carbon in undeveloped fossil fuels can be purchased and reserved in perpetual easements. Private activists and even coal-competing energy developers could buy in-situ coal with the assurance that its carbon would never be released through combustion. The government could even use its own funds to establish an 'undeveloped carbon reserve' as a carbon-reduction strategy.”

Buy up coal to keep it in the ground.

That's right, buy up all the United States' coal and hold it underground — we do contain the largest share of the world’s coal reserves. With coal supplies severely restricted, market demand goes up, which means prices go up, making natural gas look like a good alternative. Natural gas, being the lesser of two evils — when compared with coal it “has about half the carbon content of coal per unit of energy,” Frost writes.

This plan would have consequences, as any major disruption would to an economic ecosystem — it would cut the coal industry down at the knees. Frost has been working on this write-up for over two years in his spare time. It's not perfect, but it's worthy of discussion, which can only help to make it better.

Futurist Michio Kaku explains how using fossil fuels keep us from advancing as a civilization.


Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Read the full plan here.

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