Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

January 29, 2011

Coal. Yeah. What is it gooood for? Powering developing economies. Oh.

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 1:43 am

I’ve been meaning to post a link to this piece for a while, but it’s in the area of the environment, which ain’t exactly my wheelhouse (It’s Nick’s). But I got opinions, so here goes.

It’s by certified liberal James Fallows (whose blog over at The Atlantic is excellent) a man whose credentials on China are unsurpassed. It makes the case that “clean coal” whilst essentially an unpalatable sop to most advocates of reduced carbon emissions, are as good as we’re going to get in the short term efforts for global co-operation on the issue, and also highlights a promising area upon which the West and China can usefully unite.

Read the whole thing. Here’s as close as I could come to a money quote:

The proposition that coal could constitute any kind of “hope” or solution, or that a major environmentalist action plan could be called “Coal Without Carbon,” as one I will describe is indeed named—this goes beyond seeming interestingly contrarian to seeming simply wrong. For the coal industry, the term “clean coal” is an advertising slogan; for many in the environmental movement, it is an insulting oxymoron. But two ideas that underlie the term are taken with complete seriousness by businesses, scientists, and government officials in China and America, and are the basis of the most extensive cooperation now under way between the countries on climate issues. One is that coal can be used in less damaging, more sustainable ways than it is now. The other is that it must be used in those ways, because there is no plausible other way to meet what will be, absent an economic or social cataclysm, the world’s unavoidable energy demands.

Emphasis is mine. The reason I ain’t posted it before is because it contains the kind of thesis that someone might find abhorrent before considering. But it’s well written and researched, and worthy of debate regardless of one’s feelings on the particulars. It’s an actual piece of journalism.

For the purposes of balance (or really, supplement) I endorse what I think is the alternate effort that Fallows envisages, courtesy of Nick: 

“Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.”

God, I hope so, but those last two are tragically key. At least it beats the idea that we all go vegetarian

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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