An Opportunity for Clean Coal

People say there’s no such thing as clean coal, but there is a such a thing as cleaner coal. Coal gasification plants convert coal to gas, and emit much less carbon than regular coal plants. The Bush Administration made much of this—then permitted around 30 coal plants in the American West, none of which were gasification plants.

The rationale? Too expensive. These plants do cost more to build, and of course, that drives up the cost of power, which in turn drives up the cost of most everything else. Coal is one of the cheapest sources of electricity we have. In a recession, who wants to pay more for such a basic commodity?

But now we have a major opportunity to clean up our air, one the Obama Administration, the Democrats—and everyone else, really—might be hypocritical to miss.

As I mentioned in my last post, China, India, and other rapidly growing third-world economies are making a bid to buy U.S. coal. Which means coal prices are going up anyway. If that’s the case, why not say no to foreign buyers, build the gasification plants—build even more of them than we planned, and consume more of our own coal? Our own demand would compensate U.S. suppliers.

And then, while we’re generating all that extra capacity, why not hook it up to some factories to build some wind turbines and solar panels for the large-scale production we’re going to need not too far down the road?

U.S. consumers are going to take a hit in coal prices either way. We might as well channel that production domestically and gain the benefit of cleaner air and a direct investment in the coming switch.


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