Hybrid cars magnate says shutting down US coal industry would save the Earth for only $50 billion

Hybrid cars magnate says shutting down US coal industry would save the Earth for only $50 billion

Benefits from eliminating coal producers in the US, beyond addressing climate change, include eliminating acid rain from sulfur dioxide emissions, smog from nitrous oxides, human cardiopulmonary damage from particulates, and airborne emission of toxins like mercury, lead, and cadmium.

Felix Kramer, one of the founders of CalCars, a group dedicated to promoting hybrid vehicles that built the world's first plug-in Prius, has an interesting proposal. He is calling investors to buy and shut down all the coal companies operating in the US by 2024, in a deal that —he says— would save the environment and provide huge rewards.

The execution of this plan, co-written by leading thinker in sustainability Gild Friend, and published by The Guardian, would only cost $50 billion, with the potential to generate $100-150 billion in benefits every year for the next decade. That's quite an economic payback, makes you wonder why that hasn't already happened.

The phased buyout of coal companies and their assets, closing and cleaning up the mines, writing down assets, and paying off existing financiers, would take care of one set of stakeholders — the current investors.

Workers, meanwhile, would be retrained with the goal of creating new job opportunities in coal communities, they suggest.

But the main benefit of this initiative, write Kramer and Friend, would be massive reduction in carbon emissions both in the US and the world. The US's largest single source of greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide from coal plants. But currently the value of this is $0, because of efforts to squash any attempt at putting a price on carbon. Putting a price on carbon gives one way to pay for the investment, and to reap continuing rewards, the pair concludes.

Kramer is hoping to informally discuss this plan at the annual TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada, which begins on Sunday, March 16.

Image by Tyler Olson