Kerry Calls Carbon Capture Critical for Climate

No new coal-fired power plants should be built in the United States without the ability to capture carbon, Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) said in an interview with Colorado Confidential and two other web sites on Friday.

Kerry, who is visiting Santa Fe and Denver this weekend to promote his book This Moment on Earth, said that carbon capture technology on coal plants “has to be the new standard” for coal plants in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions.Kerry said:

“There’s a certain amount of damage that is automatically done now and is going to be done simply because of the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide that’s up in the atmosphere has a life of anywhere from 70 to a thousand years …

The trick now is to scale back from where we are. The only way to scale back from where we are is to be carbon neutral.

The largest single contributor to excessive greenhouse gas emissions — now officially qualified as a pollutant by the U.S. Supreme Court — is coal, chiefly from coal-fired power plants. But a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, The Future of Coal, issued earlier this year concluded that “coal use will increase under any foreseeable scenario because it is cheap and abundant.”

Asked if, in addition to carbon capture and sequestration technology, coal use would either have to be more strictly regulated or artificially increased in price, Kerry said:

“We don’t completely know the answer to that. Some people say we need to do both. I don’t know yet. I think the marketplace can respond adequately. Effectively if you have a cap” — a regulatory cap, or maximum, on carbon emissions — “you are setting a price. The cap is setting  a price because people are going to have meet the cap, and in order to meet the cap, they are going to have find the technologies that keep the carbon down.”

When it was pointed out that the U.S. has not set a cap — though a cap-and-trade mechanism has been proposed in legislation, primarily the McCain-Lieberman bill that’s been twice defeated on the U.S. Senate floor to allow emissions trading — Kerry said, “I’m fighting for that.”

Kerry also said:

“I believe that nuclear power is not necessarily the long-term solution because money invested in alternative and renewable and clean coal technology and energy efficiency actually produces a greater gain. But — and here’s the but — in the short term, I think that nuclear power is probably going to be one of the parts to our immediate response to global climate change.

Kerry will at the Tattered Cover in LoDo on Sunday at 11 am to promote his book. He said he and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry were inspired to write it during the 2004 presidential campaign. Talking to people in post-9/11 America, he came away with the idea that the term environmentalist was a “pejorative.”

“It somehow just didn’t break through to people that this was the future. They’re all scared about 9/11 and the war and this and that. We wrote the book because to a degree the environment has become a pejorative in some people’s minds. They think environmentalists care more about a tree than they do about a job, or they care more about a forest than about national security.

“We wanted to point out that the people who are fighting these issues locally all around the country are not some sort of a stereotype of an environmentalist. They are ranchers like Tweeti Blancett down in New Mexico, or Janine Fitzgerald in Colorado …

“These are the people who really make up America, and they are the people who are trying to enforce the law now and get the government to do what the government’s supposed to do.”

This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future by John and Teresa Heinz Kerry is $25 in hard cover, published by Public Affairs Books.

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Dan Whipple

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