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Dig the coal, bury the carbon

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Although solar and wind power and other renewable technologies are expected to generate more power in the future, coal is expected to remain a dominant fuel for decades. With numerous new coal-fired power plants being built in China and India, the US must take the lead in quickly developing new ways to slash CO2 emissions from them, Mr. Thompson says. Otherwise, he notes, the world could end up experiencing what climate scientists call the “more dangerous effects” of climate change.

“If coal is to maintain its share in the global power generation mix over the next two decades, its carbon emissions must be mitigated through the capture of CO2,” says Alex Klein, research director for Emerging Energy Research.

Underground storage of carbon dioxide has been demonstrated on a small scale, but large-scale commercial viability is still uncertain, analysts say. Nearly 120 CCS projects are under way worldwide in hopes of proving its effectiveness.

Nowhere in the United States is the bid to develop CCS moving faster than here in southern Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky – whose coal fortunes intersect where the Ohio River meets the Wabash River.

“The Midwest has got the three things you want most – deep saline aquifers to store CO2, coal for gasification, and big-city power demand,” says Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, an energy market-research firm in Washington, D.C.

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