US emissions from coal could be stopped in 20 years

Jeremy Hance
May 03, 2010

A new study in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) concludes that the US could stop all emissions from coal-fired plants within 20 years time using only existing technologies and some that will be ready within the next decade. Such an accomplishment would go a long way toward lowering the US's carbon emissions and mitigating the impact of climate change, according to the researchers.

US coal emissions could be halted completely by 2030 through a combination of methods, including cutting all subsidies for fossil fuels; implementing a rising price on carbon emissions; building a smart grid; increasing energy efficiency nationwide; implementing carbon capture and storage at some coal plants; and replacing coal with energy produced from geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, as well as existing and upcoming nuclear-technologies.

"The only practical way to preserve a planet resembling that of the Holocene (today's world) with reasonably stable shorelines and preservation of species, is to rapidly phase out coal emissions and prohibit emissions from unconventional fossil fuels such as oil shale and tar sands," the authors write.

While the researchers admit that coal use needs to be phased out worldwide not just in the US, they write that US leadership is "essential" to move the issue forward.

The US is the second largest consumer of coal worldwide (after China), consuming over a billion tons annually.

Citation: Pushker A. Kharecha, Charles F. Kutscher, James E. Hansen and Edward Mazria. Options for Near-Term Phaseout of CO2 Emissions from Coal Use in the United States. Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T. DOI: 10.1021/es903884a

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (May 03, 2010).

US emissions from coal could be stopped in 20 years.