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Clean coal is a vital energy source for the future says MIT report

Clean coal is a vital energy source for the future says MIT report

Clean coal is a vital energy source for the future says MIT report
March 14, 2007

Coal is a cheap and widely available energy source that will be continue to be used in the future despite its impact on global climate. For this reason, says a new report by MIT, it is essential to develop cleaner technologies for harnessing coal.

The report, titled “The Future of Coal”, argues that coal can be used to mitigate, instead of worsening, the global warming crisis.

Led by co-chairs Professor John Deutch and Ernest J. Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green of MIT, the report states that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is the key technology to reduce CO2 emissions from coal use.

“There are many opportunities for enhancing the performance of coal plants in a carbon-constrained world — higher efficiency generation, perhaps through new materials; novel approaches to gasification, CO2 capture, and oxygen separation; and advanced system concepts, perhaps guided by a new generation of simulation tools,” said Dr. Moniz. “An aggressive R&D effort in the near term will yield significant dividends down the road, and should be undertaken immediately to help meet this urgent scientific challenge.”

Current coal reserves. Source: US Department of Energy/Energy Information Administration

Cleaner, more efficient use of coal could play a key role in addressing climate change, especially with the growing importance of coal as an energy source as world crude oil supplies are diminished in the future. Coal presently supplies about two-thirds of China’s energy and one-third of the energy demand in the United States but, due to its abundance, is forecast to become an increasingly important relative to petroleum around mid-century.

The report says that the United States, which sits on what may be the largest coal deposits in the world, must take a leading role in clean coal technologies.

“As the world’s leading energy user and greenhouse gas emitter, the U.S. must take the lead in showing the world CCS can work,” said Dr. Deutch. “Demonstration of technical, economic, and institutional features of CCS at commercial scale coal combustion and conversion plants will give policymakers and the public confidence that a practical carbon mitigation control option exists, will reduce cost of CCS should carbon emission controls be adopted, and will maintain the low-cost coal option in an environmentally acceptable manner.”

The report states that China and India will only agree to binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions if the United States does as well. As such, the authors argue that the “U.S. government should provide assistance only to coal projects with CO2 capture in order to demonstrate technical, economic and environmental performance.”

The report is available online at

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