Revitalizing coal is the solution to our energy crisis

BY Paul Solman  May 23, 2008 at 4:25 PM EST
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Question/Comment: Your item on green jobs was very informative. While I knew that many towns in the coal and manufacturing belt in western Pennsylvania are shadows on their former selves, I did not know how much Pittsburgh has shrunk. I visited it many times in the past four decades as part of my energy R&D work for the Department of Energy’s NETL Fossil Energy Office near Pittsburgh and I never noticed much empty land, instead I found traffic jams.

Another point: I think you left out a major problems caused by ethanol, biodiesel, wind, etc, namely the huge federal subsidy for so called “renewable energy” that has exploded food and energy prices. An example is [May 12th's] WSJ editorial, WIND ($23.37) v. GAS (35 cents). My proposed solution has been to work over for decades on finding low-cost processes to eliminate emissions from coal, including CO2 sequestration. These processes would revitalize coal use of which there is plenty in western Pennsylvania once low-cost emission controls become available.

Paul Solman:
If economics or a study of policy or just life itself teaches anything, it is the law of intended consequences. It applies to renewable energy subsidies. My guess is that it will apply as well to “low-cost processes to eliminate emissions from coal, including CO2 sequestration.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying all sorts of renewable options. The most important move may be to price the emissions that wind up costing us all, but not those who produce and use fossil fuels. A greenhouse gas tax or cap would encourage them all.