Coal and the horse it rode in on

Just keeping this debate about coal on the radar is an accomplishment, so this article pointing a sooty finger at Europe can be commended in that respect. As it states, without carbon capture and sequestration, or storage, coal simply cannot be green. Capturing carbon invokes the specter of attaching costs in the form of penalties to carbon emissions, which presumes there’s not already a cost. We’re in the process of admitting to ourselves that there is, and that we’re running out of time to remedy the situation. Can penalties be turned into value? There’s where the carbon credits switcheroo comes into play, but convincing ourselves of this sort of inevitability seems to be predicated on the assumption of an everybody’s-all-in-or-it’s-not-going-to-work state of affairs.

So, as the above graph illustrates, there are only limited amounts of gas and oil remaining, though there are substantial coal reserves. Mostly, we fall into three categories:

1)Global climate change is a hoax and there’s no need to do anything.

2) Technology will catch up and save us from the worst.

3) It’s too late and nothing can turn the tide of the planetary destruction our civilization has wrought.

1) is interesting with respect to its shrinking constituency, bearing a striking resemblance to the polar bear clinging to an small ice float. The pervading acknowledgement that there is a need to do something is one benefit of the oversaturation with ‘Green’ everything. However 2) immediately puts a strict limit on what we might do in favor of the hope of a magic bullet. I can say with certainty that scientists and engineers are, as I write this, toiling away on everything from hydrogen fuel cells to enzymes that will break down cellulose more quickly… but – these labors by themselves will not be enough. There must be an element of 3) mixed in with 2) to persuade and engender a mass effort – people, governments, industries – to change the way we light, heat and travel the world. Sure, I can tell you that we can make money while we save the environment, but continued growth? And what’s a world without continued growth?

Just a world, I’d say.

Image courtesy of James Hansen, NASA GISS