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U.S. and China to Clean Coal Together

New technology-sharing partnerships could help lead to a climate change agreement.
November 17, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China have announced several agreements for the two countries to cooperate on clean energy. The deals could help smooth the way to a climate change agreement in which both countries agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

China has been dragging its heels over strict cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, especially with the U.S. also so far failing to commit to such cuts. But if China doesn’t cut its emissions it will be impossible to meet goals for averting dangerous climate change.

One thing that could help–reduce emissions and convince China to agree to cuts–is sharing the latest technology with China, especially technology for making cleaner power plants. The agreements seem to be a step in that direction.

One deal in particular seems promising. Scientists from both countries will cooperate on developing cleaner coal plants through a new U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, which will be jointly funded with $150 million. What’s more, a number of U.S. and Chinese corporations have agreed to cooperate, including Peabody Energy, which will help with a project celled GreenGen, and GE Energy, which will help with coal gasification. Both projects could lead to cleaner coal plants that could be paired with technology to capture and sequester carbon dioxide.

Other significant agreements include one to develop natural gas resources, which could reduce greenhouse emissions because burning natural gas releases about half the carbon dioxide as burning coal. Another aims to improve the efficiency of buildings, industry, and consumer appliances. To address growing emissions from cars, both countries will work together to establish standards and roadmaps for the development of electric vehicles.

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