A year ago I wrote a post “Old coal’s out, can’t wait for new nukes, so what do we do NOW?” where I hypothesized:
Suppose the leaders of this country were wise enough to put a moratorium on traditional coal (the most urgent climate policy needed, as discussed here)? How will we meet our steadily growing demand for carbon-free power over the next decade? And to get on the 450 ppm path, we don’t just need to stop U.S. emissions from rising — we should return to 1990 levels (or lower) by 2020.
Well, we now appear to have leaders that wise (see “Obama EPA to act on global warming emissions from new coal plants“). And we need real reductions by the end of next decade (see “The U.S. needs a tougher 2020 GHG emissions target“).
Also, while my original post focused on the key strategies of efficiency and recycled energy (i.e. cogeneration or combined heat and power), wind, and concentrated solar thermal, I left out one of the most crucial — biomass cofiring, which is almost certainly the cheapest, easiest, and fastest way to provide new renewable baseload power without having to build any new transmission lines!
I think it is incumbent on progressives to propose a realistic alternative to new coal plants — and a path to reduce emissions from existing ones. That’s especially true since it is increasingly clear carbon capture and storage will not be a major player by 2020 (see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?“). So I will revise and extend my previous analysis: