Businessweek magazine and Vinod Khosla are talking down coal power Vinod Khosla is a major venture capitalist and has made several big green energy bets. Solar thermal power and biofuels.
Here’s Khosla’s argument: Much of the developed world has already imposed curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. is likely to follow suit. The European experience suggests that the cost of emitting a ton of CO2 is about $20 to $25. Since coal-fired power plants emit more than twice as much CO2 for the same amount of electricity as natural-gas-fired plants, coal gets hit hardest by the curbs. The effective price of coal could leap as much as sixfold, raising the cost of producing electricity by about 50%.
Khosla’s grand vision is to repower the U.S. via solar plants in the American Southwest. The idea: Use thousands of acres of mirrors to focus solar energy, heating water to drive turbines. An analysis of new Australian solar technology suggests that it is cost-competitive even with today’s coal plants.
Solar thermal will still take time to scale up even if it is cost competitive. If coal electricity is 50% more expensive that could also help shift things to nuclear power. Almost every power generation method except coal (natural gas and oil could take smaller hits) would win.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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