Reducing Global Poverty Depends on Clean Coal Technologies


“We should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible… bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries…”  — Copenhagen Accord

The extent of global energy deprivation is difficult for most Americans to comprehend. Over 20 percent of the world’s population lacks access to electricity and has no linkage whatsoever to the benefits such access brings to an improved quality of life. For more than another billion people availability of power is extremely limited, e.g. electricity only a few hours a day or two days a week.

The Scale of Global Poverty
“Without energy, countries face very limited or no economic growth: factories and businesses cannot function efficiently; hospitals and schools cannot operate fully or safely; basic services that people in rich countries take for granted cannot be offered.”  — World Bank, 2010

China Shows the Pathway

China has used coal-based electricity to lift hundreds of millions of children, women and men out of poverty. Now, China is meeting its Copenhagen commitment to reduce GHG emissions by replacing small and inefficient coal plants with large and highly productive coal units. The 2,000 Megawatt Shanghai Waigaiqiao #3, for example, is the most efficient coal power plant in the world. Indeed, Shanghai #3 has an efficiency rate equivalent to abating 480,000 tons of CO2, 3,600 tons of SO2 and 28,000 tons of dust.

Out of Poverty
“Electrification in China is a remarkable success story … the most important lesson for other developing countries [is] that electrified countries reap great benefits, both in terms of economic growth and human welfare…. China is an example for the developing world.”  — International Energy Agency

The Accessibility of Coal

“China has … become the major world market for advanced coal-fired power plants with high-specification emission control systems.”   — IEA, 2009

Coal is widely distributed and readily accessible. Seventeen countries have at least three billion tons of coal and eight have over 30 billion tons. China, India, Russia and the United States each have over 50 billion tons, with the latter having over 230 billion tons. The opportunity to use these vast resources cleanly and for the betterment of humanity never has been greater.

Coal is Where the People Are


“Access to electricity is strongly correlated with every measurable indicator of human development”  — Berkeley Science Review

The Power of Coal at the Global Level

To meet projected demand by 2030, and replace projected coal-based electricity generation, the world would have to do the following:

To Replace Coal

Coal is Affordable and the Price is Stable

In countries where millions of people live on less than two dollars a day, the price of electricity is crucial. Consider the volatility and price escalation of natural gas to produce electric power in the United States over the past decade.  From 2000-2009, the price of natural gas per million Btu ranged from $3.10 to $12.41. The coal price never exceeded $2.28.

China: Levelised Cost of Electricity


“Electricity use and gross national product [are] strongly correlated.  The relationship … is so important that it should be considered in developing … energy and economic policies [which] seek to lower the real cost of electricity supply.”  — U.S. National Academy of Sciences

Clean coal works

Over the past several decades the US electric power industry has invested almost $100 billion to control pollutants with stunning success. Criteria emissions such as sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide have declined significantly since 1989 despite a dramatic increase in coal-based generation. Clean coal technology has solved other emission challenges, and now the creative gaze of the scientific and engineering communities has turned to the management of CO2.

Clean Coal Technology has Worked for the US


“We conclude that CO2 capture and sequestration (CCS) is the critical enabling technology that would reduce CO2 emissions significantly while also allowing coal to meet the world’s pressing energy needs.”  — MIT 2007
Coal's Ever-Growing Role


“Citizens of poor countries have the right to aspire to better standards of living… clean coal is key.” — Arun Ghosh, Global Economic Fellow, Oxford University

The Past is Prologue

“For decades, the coal industry has supported quality high-paying jobs for American workers, and coal has provided an important domestic source of reliable, affordable energy….  Charting a path toward clean coal is essential to achieving my Administration’s goals of providing clean energy…”  — President Barack Obama, 2010



[1] United Nations, Copenhagen Accord, December 18,2009
[6] MIT Energy Initiative December, 2009
[7] BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2009
[9] Berkeley Science Review,
[10] Presidential Memorandum, White House, February, 2009


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