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The Conundrum of Sustainable Energy: Clean Coal as One Possible Answer


  • Klaus S. Lackner

    (Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia University, 500 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027, USA)


Access to clean, cheap, and copious energy would allow the entire world to enjoy a standard of living taken for granted in developed countries. This paper identifies technologies for sustainable energy infrastructures, emphasizing that fossil fuels are amply sufficient for the next 100-200 years. However, today's fossil fuel technology will be inadequate to sustain a future world population of 10 billion. Pollution and greenhouse gases from unfettered fossil fuel use far exceed the environment's capacity to cope. Alternative forms of energy are presently either expensive or unsuitable for largescale energy production. Reliance on coal, in combination with carbon capture, carbon storage, and zero-emission technology, could break the world's dependence on petroleum and natural gas while providing environmentally acceptable energy for centuries. By also developing nuclear energy and renewable energy sources, it is possible to pursue a path characterized by plentiful and sustainable energy. Copyright (c) 2006 The Earth Institute at Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Klaus S. Lackner, 2005. "The Conundrum of Sustainable Energy: Clean Coal as One Possible Answer," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 4(3), pages 30-58, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:asiaec:v:4:y:2005:i:3:p:30-58

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