Buy More Coal to Use Less

Lauren Gravitz describes an unconventional solution to combat climate change, encouraging "countries with means" to "buy up coal, oil, and other deposits while they’re still in the ground--then leave them there."

Bard Harstad, an economist at Northwestern University, thinks that current programs aimed at combating climate change by forcing decreases in consumption are exactly the wrong way to solve the problem. According to Harstad, "The problem is that when some countries decrease their use of fossil fuels, the decreased demand leads to decreased prices. And cheaper fuel means that non-climate coalition countries--which are then buying dirty fuel at lower cost--have no incentive to invest in alternative energy technologies like solar and wind. As a result, their carbon emissions actually increase, a problem known in the field as carbon leakage."

This solution isn't as off-the-wall as it may initially seem. A similar model has been employed to good effect for protecting tropical rain forests. "The World Bank, together with the United Nations, created their REDD program--Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation--which, by offering money and other incentives to developing countries in return for the preservation of their forests, created a financial value for the carbon contained in the forested land."

Harstad believes that retaining the value of carbon fuels but keeping them contained underground is a cost effective route [PDF] to combating climate change, and one worth taking.

Full Story: To Combat Climate Change, Buy More Coal


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