WASHINGTON – One of the world's top scientists on global warming called for the United States to stop building coal-fired power plants and eventually bulldoze older generators that do not capture and bury greenhouse gases.
But 159 coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be built in the next decade or so, generating enough power for about 96 million homes, according to a study last month by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Burning coal is one of the major sources of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas causing global warming.
In prepared remarks to be delivered at the National Press Club Monday, NASA scientist James Hansen, who has been one of the earliest top researcher to warn the world about global warming, will call for a moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants.
Hansen's call dovetails with an edict by the private equity group buying TXU, a massive Texas-based utility. The equity group, led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Texas Pacific Group, agreed to stop plans to build eight new coal-fired power plants, not to propose new coal-fired plants outside Texas and to support mandatory national caps on emissions linked to global warming.
Hansen said all coal-fired power plants that do not capture and bury carbon dioxide "must eventually be bulldozed (before mid-century)."
The director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was speaking as a private citizen, said Congress should adopt these coal cuts and if not "citizens must accomplish this." He said increased efficiency can make up for the cutbacks in coal.
Coal provides about half of the United States' electricity, according to the Department of Energy.
Hansen's call "ought to be vetted by those who have an understanding of the energy demands placed on the U.S. economy," said National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich. "When seen in light of those demands, then statements like that will appear unreasonable to put it charitably."