Clean coal might work in China, but here’s why we won’t see much of it here
In the United States, the case for clean coal is even weaker. According to a recent estimate from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a new clean-coal plant built now costs about as much as a new solar plant per unit of electrical generation — and that estimate looks optimistic next to the even higher costs Mann reports in Wired. U.S. coal power plants are much older than the new Chinese fleet, and it wouldn’t make sense install fancy new cleaning equipment at facilities that will need to be decommissioned soon anyway. Perhaps scientific progress or shifting geopolitical constraints will make coal relatively cheap again in the United States. “I wouldn’t put it past the market to revert to coal,” Gallagher said. For now, though, wind and natural gas are much less expensive sources of electricity. Meanwhile, the cost of solar panels is falling steadily and predictably, and solar energy is no more expensive than the market price for electricity in parts of Europe.