John F. Kennedy School of Government energy experts testified to the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee this month (March 10) on ways to use clean coal technology to make coal a more acceptable part of the United States’ future energy mix and to ease a natural gas shortage that is driving energy prices skyward.
The new technology could answer two major criticisms of coal: that it’s a source of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and mercury, and that it’s a source of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas implicated in human-caused global warming.

John P. Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy, and William Rosenberg, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Center for Business and Government, presented their views at an Energy and Natural Resources Committee panel on clean coal. The panel was held as the committee gathers information for legislation to update national energy policy.

Holdren, who directs the Belfer Center’s Science, Technology and Public Policy Program, spoke as co-chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a group founded in 2002 to present nonpartisan national energy policy recommendations.

Rosenberg, who submitted a written statement to the committee, proposed federal loan guarantees that would boost production of the advanced clean coal plants, helping ease a natural gas shortage that has caused prices to skyrocket, more than tripling since 1990.

Holdren outlined a plan that would raise $36 billion between 2010 and 2020 through a new permitting system for emissions of greenhouse gases. The plan would grant permits to existing emitters and auction off a small number of additional permits that would then trade on the market. The system would provide an incentive for companies to develop technology to restrict greenhouse gas emissions so they can sell permits to companies without such technology.

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