Friday, March 23, 2007

From this week's LEO:

Low carbon diet
Here's something to think about next time you're brewing a delicious pot of fair trade coffee... while Tivoing "Heroes," doing the laundry, nuking a Hot Pocket, charging your cell phone/iPod/computer/camera/vibrator, uploading videos to your MySpace, and downloading some porn while glancing at the time on one of the 18 clocks in your 72-degree climate-controlled e-house of the future: The outlook for the coal industry is bleak.

That's the word from the ubergeeks at MIT, who just released a study outlining the myriad ways in which the coal industry is screwed. The rock: carbon emissions and global climate change. The hard place: the electricity monkey on America's back. The other hard place is the inevitable move to clean coal, which nobody has ever burned on a large scale. (And MIT isn't even examining the coal industry's unconscionable disaster known as mountaintop removal mining.)

Coal, which currently accounts for half the juice powering America's e-jones, contributes more greenhouse gas than any other fossil fuel. MIT believes it's possible to produce cleaner electricity from coal by capturing the carbon dioxide emissions, but such sequestration hasn't been done on a commercial scale. Even the Bush administration, which has a storied history of encouraging conspicuous consumption while bitchslapping the environment, has called for an experimental clean coal plant by 2012. The project, called FutureGen, aims to generate zero-emission electricity by capturing one million metric tons of carbon annually and storing it deep underground (near the bunker where Alberto Gonzales stores his conscience). Barring a global carbon fart of devastating proportions, FutureGen promises to become the prototype for clean electricity in America.

The message from MIT to the coal industry is clear as the air over non-coal burning states: Get behind the clean coal effort now, and coal will remain the fuel of the future. Wait for governments to impose carbon caps and watch your globe-choking industry die.

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