NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 19, 2006

If we scrap all the cars, SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks in America, greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by maybe 2 percent.  What if we could realize a similar reduction without the economic impact, asks Investor's Business Daily (IBD)?

Surely this would be preferable to consumers, businesses and environmentalists alike.  So why not try to extinguish the fires that continue to burn unchecked at dozens of coal deposits around the world?  This, it is estimated, could cut global emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuel by 2 percent to 3 percent, says IBD.

  • Coal fires can occur in natural settings or in or near abandoned and active mines; they can be ignited by lightning strikes, spontaneous combustion, even sunlight. 
  • But they're mostly a man-made problem and have been around as long as man himself; left alone, they "can burn for hundreds or even thousand of years," according to Environmental Health Perspectives.

According to Andries Rosema, director of Environmental Analysis and Remote Sensing Co.:

  • They are particularly messy in China, where about 120 million tons of coal are consumed in uncontrolled fires each year.
  • In addition to emitting CO2 -- which is not a pollutant -- coal fires throw off noxious gases, sulfur and soot.

If coal fires produced some economic benefit, there might be a reasonable trade-off to letting them burn.  But they create neither jobs nor wealth, let alone energy, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "Coals Of Fire," Investor's Business Daily, December 19, 2006.


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