Clean coal tech is ready, but there’s a catch

Climate-friendly coal faces a conundrum.
The federal government has funneled billions of dollars over the past two administrations into cutting carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, but so far the “clean coal” dream is far from reality.

Officials have been chasing a best-of-both-worlds scenario: using abundant, cheap but relatively dirty coal for generating power, and then eliminating the “dirty” part by capturing carbon dioxide and other toxic emissions.

The captured CO2 can either be stored deep underground in geological formations in a process known as carbon capture and storage or piped out to oil and gas fields.
While the technology is there, it’s struggling to make its way into prime time. The reasons: It’s expensive, and there are no limits on carbon emissions.
Without climate legislation or new regulations that mandate the technology, companies don’t really have an incentive to deploy the technology on a commercial scale. And some experts say billions of federal dollars are still needed to make it more mainstream.
The likelihood that these problems can be solved in the near future is small. The days when the federal government greatly boosted funding for energy research, demonstration and deployment are most likely long gone; the Environmental Protection Agency, though it has proposed climate regulations for new power plants, currently has “no plans” to impose the same rules on existing plants; and there is zero political appetite for legislation that puts a price on carbon.

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