Plan to Escape Warming Comes With a Hefty Tab
Worried about global warming? Two experts say there is a way out of our carbon-based economy: But it's going to cost a pretty penny -- $200 billion a year for the next 30 years or so.
Reuel Shinnar and Francesco Citro, two chemical engineers at the Clean Fuels Institute at the City College of New York, published a paper in the current issue of the journal Science that estimates that for that amount of money, the United States could reduce its fossil fuel use by 70 percent within three decades.
Burning fossil fuels, whether to power cars or provide electricity, emits carbon dioxide into the air. The buildup of this and other greenhouse gases, in turn, contributes to climate change. At the moment, 85 percent of the nation's energy comes from carbon-based fossil fuels.
Shinnar and Citro suggest that the country can alter that mix by promoting other energy sources, including solar thermal, nuclear, wind, solar cells and plant matter.
Eighty percent of the gas used to power privately owned cars and light trucks in the United States, they estimate, "can be replaced by hybrid cars with plug-in batteries, the cheapest way to reduce oil consumption."
In a telephone interview, Shinnar said the government would have to foot much of the bill initially because "nothing can compete with dirty coal" in a free market. "We need federal intervention," he said.
Shinnar -- who has worked as a consultant for Exxon Mobil Corp. since 1967 -- said he knows that spending $200 billion a year for the next 30 years would be a hard sell to policymakers, but he argued that it's worth it in light of how climate change is transforming Earth.
-- Juliet Eilperin