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MIT panel provides policy blueprint for future of use of coal as policymakers work to reverse global warming

March 14, 2007 MITEI

Washington, DC – Leading academics from an interdisciplinary Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) panel issued a report today that examines how the world can continue to use coal, an abundant and inexpensive fuel, in a way that mitigates, instead of worsens, the global warming crisis. The study, “The Future of Coal – Options for a Carbon Constrained World,” advocates the U.S. assume global leadership on this issue through adoption of significant policy actions.

Led by co-chairs Professor John Deutch, Institute Professor, Department of Chemistry, and Ernest J. Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, the report states that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is the critical enabling technology to help reduce CO2 emissions significantly while also allowing coal to meet the world’s pressing energy needs.

According to Dr. Deutch, “As the world’s leading energy user and greenhouse gas emitter, the U.S. must take the lead in showing the world CCS can work. Demonstration of technical, economic, and institutional features of CCS at commercial scale coal combustion and conversion plants will give policymakers and the public confidence that a practical carbon mitigation control option exists, will reduce cost of CCS should carbon emission controls be adopted, and will maintain the low-cost coal option in an environmentally acceptable manner.”

Dr. Moniz added, “There are many opportunities for enhancing the performance of coal plants in a carbon-constrained world – higher efficiency generation, perhaps through new materials; novel approaches to gasification, CO2 capture, and oxygen separation; and advanced system concepts, perhaps guided by a new generation of simulation tools. An aggressive R&D effort in the near term will yield significant dividends down the road, and should be undertaken immediately to help meet this urgent scientific challenge.”

Key findings in this study:

About The MIT study: A group of MIT faculty has undertaken a series of interdisciplinary studies about how the U.S. and the world would meet future energy demand without increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. The first study, “The Future of Nuclear Power,” appeared in 2003.

Generous financial support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Energy Foundation, the Better World Fund, Norwegian Research Council, and the MIT Office of the Provost is gratefully acknowledged. Shell provided additional support for part of MIT’s studies in China.

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