Democrats in the House have introduced a bill that would outlaw new coal-fired power plants, unless they are built to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise fuel global warming.
Under the bill, new plants would have to meet a heretofore unthinkable standard: keeping 85% of carbon pollution out of the sky. United Nations scientists have endorsed the goal of reducing carbon emissions by about 80% to stave off the worst consequences of global warming.
This bill takes a common sense approach to our energy future. Everyone realizes that federal global warming legislation is coming," said Bill Nilles, director of the Seirra Club's National Coal Campaign. "This bill recognizes that and forces us to look before we leap into a new generation of coal-fired power plants."
Technology has been used, and is being tested on additional plants, that either captures carbon dioxide at the smokestack and buries it in geologic formations underground, or turns coal into gas, capturing the carbon before it is burned. In some cases, the carbon dioxide is injected into oil or gas deposits to increase the yield in existing wells.
But the technology is expensive and there is no market force directing power companies to invest in this technology on new plants, or to retrofit old plants with the new technology.
None of the presidential candidates, Republican John McCain or Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have explicitly endorsed this idea. At least two of the Democrats who have dropped out of the race, Sen. Joe Biden and former Senator John Edwards, had endorsed such a ban.
In addition to the ban on new plants with old technology, the new Henry Waxman-Edward Markey bill would no new coal plants built with old technology could get free pollution allowance under future cap-and-trade rules for carbon. Both Clinton and Obama have endorsed the idea of auctioning those credits, but they haven't explicitly discussed the status of how new coal-fired power plants would be treated under such a regime.
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