Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Clean coal is part, but only part, of the energy answer

Environmentalists often argue that investments in clean coal technology are just wasted money. It's a dirty fuel, it will always be a dirty fuel, and so the ultimate answer is to tax it into fiscal oblivion.

In a perfect world, I would agree with them.

But in this world, coal-generated electricity isn't going to go away. Coal is too plentiful and too cheap. Given a choice between turning the lights off and burning coal, countries will choose coal every time. Any workable energy or climate change policy is going to have to deal with the problem of coal.

Which is essentially the point Energy Secretary Chu made this week in comments supporting clean coal investments. Yet his other point was equally important: the problem of coal isn't going to be easy to fix. Clean coal is important, but it's not a strategy by itself.

There's something to be said for putting smart guys to work on energy policy.

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