Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

W’s green legacy

Posted by Rich Sweeney on March 9, 2009

There’s been a lot of back and forth about clean coal in the news and on the teevee lately. This week’s Economist has a nice summary of the current state of the CCS technology (not to be confused with CSS, which is way cooler) and the main challenges it faces.

Thinking about CCS yesterday, I realized that no single person has helped Al Gore and the clean coal skeptics more than President Bush. IMO the most convincing argument this camp makes is that clean coal doesn’t exist, and possibly never will. Yet this charge could be easily countered if FutureGen had proceded as planned.  It’s been over a year since W killed the world’s first utility scale zero emissions coal plant, and we still haven’t really figured out what happend (the last administration clearly wasn’t overly concerned with budget deficits or with private contracts running over budget). While Obama’s budget contains considerable funds for CCS projects, including FuterGen (no surprise, it’s in Illinois), the clean coal lobby has lost valuable time and position in the PR war. Both Bingaman and Markey are set to introduce national RPS bills which will give renewables a sizable advantage in the race to become the government’s mitigation tech of choice. Also, the main Republican argument for delaying carbon policy, that emissions reductions will be way cheaper in the future, has lost a lot of steam, ironically, thanks to W.

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