According to the results of an exhaustive study by Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, the best energy options for addressing climate change and lowering air pollution aren’t found under the ground in substances such as uranium or coal, but are provided by technologies such as wind energy and solar power.
Professor Jacobson has reported that coal with carbon sequestration (aka “clean coal”, “low emissions coal”, or “new generation coal“) generates up to 110 times more carbon and air pollution than wind power, and nuclear power creates around 25 times more pollution than wind energy. In regards to ethanol based biofuels, the professor states these will create increased harm to humans, wildlife, water supply and land use than current fossil fuels and may also emit more global-warming pollutants.
Professor Jacobson acknowledges that carbon-capture equipment can reduce 85 – 90 percent of the carbon exhaust emitted from a coal-fired power plant, but points out that it has no impact on the carbon emissions originating from the mining and transportation of the coal.
Professor Jacobson also flagged a more serious issue often glossed over by clean coal interests – as the carbon capture process needs a 25 percent increase in energy from the coal plant which translates to 25 percent more coal required. This requirement would wreak additional environmental havoc such as increased habitat destruction, the poisoning of waterways and an increase in non carbon pollutants such as mercury, a deadly bio-accumulative toxin. The professor asserts that clean coal is not clean at all.
Jacobson believes that putting people to work building new renewable energy infrastructure such as wind turbines, solar farms and transmission lines would not only generate employment, but would also slash health care costs, reduce crop damage and mitigate the impact of climate damage from current internal combustion engine and electric power related pollution, along with providing humanity with a truly unlimited supply of clean and renewable power.
The paper with his findings will be published in the next issue of Energy and Environmental Science. Further details from Professor Jacobson’s study, which received no funding from any interest group, company or government agency, can be viewed here.