Stories by Sarah Hunt

Expert Voices

Trump administration pushes clean coal, but wavers on investment

Antonio Guterres, Patricia Espinosa and Luis Alfonso de Alba at COP 24 in  Katowice, Poland on 14 December, 2018.
Antonio Guterres, Patricia Espinosa and Luis Alfonso de Alba at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 14. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Trump administration again used the UN’s annual climate change conference as a platform for its controversial advocacy for clean fossil fuel and nuclear technology as climate change solutions. Speakers at the Trump administration's event in Katowice argued that future coal plants should be built with advanced clean coal technology from the U.S., which includes carbon capture and storage (CCS).

The big picture: The U.S. has spent $56 billion on fossil fuel research and development from 1948 to 2018, including early support for hydraulic fracturing. The development of affordable clean coal technology could theoretically become another fracking-style game-changer, growing economies while cutting greenhouse emissions and making the U.S. and its European allies less dependent on fossil fuel imports.

Expert Voices

How fossil fuels could become a zero-emissions energy source

 Smoke rises from a natural gas power plant into the sky outside of Dallas, Texas, United States on January 04, 2018.
Smoke rises from a natural gas power plant outside of Dallas, Texas, on January 04, 2018. Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A 50 megawatt, zero-emissions natural gas demonstration plant near La Porte, Texas, had its first successful fire in May. NetPower, the company that owns the plant, has set a goal to deploy 300-megawatt commercial-scale plants around the world beginning as early as 2021, and says its technology should work with coal, too.

Why it Matters: Researchers have sought for decades to realize the potential of carbon capture technology to make fossil fuels into a cost-competitive, zero-emissions power source. If NetPower's technology keeps working, this dream could become reality. Implementing such a technology could make a significant dent in global carbon emissions, given that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects fossil fuels to account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040.

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