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Ridin' Dirty

Unchecked, these three emerging economies could send the planet into flames. Here's what they're trying to do about it. THE PROBLEM China has the dubious honor of being the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, burning some 2.5 billion tons of coal at its 541 coal-fired power plants. THE SOLUTION China..

Unchecked, these three emerging economies could send the planet into flames. Here's what they're trying to do about it.

THE PROBLEMChina has the dubious honor of being the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, burning some 2.5 billion tons of coal at its 541 coal-fired power plants.THE SOLUTIONChina is building GreenGen, a 250-megawatt power plant that will turn the dirty rock into gas before burning it, and then capture the resulting carbon dioxide, which can be pumped underground for storage.THE CATCHThe storage plan involves dumping the CO2 into a depleted oil field-to recover more oil. So while the climate-changing CO2 will be locked away, more fossil fuels-and thus more greenhouse gases-will become available.THE UPSHOTGreenGen proves that the Chinese are addressing the ill effects of their coal habit, which is more than can be said for the United States. Some herald this as a sign that the Chinese stand to teach the world how to clean up air pollution from coal, and that the world will then follow their example. Of course, it may not work out that way.


THE PROBLEMA vast mass of pollution-known as the Asian Brown Cloud-is emanating from India and China. In a country of 1.1 billion, a love affair with cars and a rising middle class who can afford them could spell big problems for all of us.THE SOLUTIONThe Tata Nano, a tiny four-seat car, is one of the smallest and cheapest cars in the world. It also drives cleaner than the Prius, at 50 miles per gallon.THE CATCHPriced at the equivalent of $2,500, the affordability of the Nano is expected to put close to a million new cars on the roads. So, yes, the rising middle class will be more mobile, and yes, it might rid the roads of fume-belching auto-rickshaws. But cars, no matter how fuel-efficient, will never be nature's best friend.THE UPSHOTTata has announced plans for an "air car," a partnership with Luxembourg's MDI to fuel a car with compressed air. That means nothing but air coming out of the tailpipe. Of course, there's a good chance that the electricity used to compress the air comes from fossil fuels.

THE PROBLEMOil dependence, at a staggering $500-billion price tag, as well as the fourth-place spot for carbon emissions globally.THE SOLUTIONIn the wake of the world's last oil shock, Brazilians turned to the country's abundant sugarcane to become energy independent by planting nearly 9 million more acres of sugarcane to be used for ethanol. This year, the cane is on pace to yield more than 6 billion gallons of the fuel.THE CATCHRaising crops for biofuel puts the gas tanks of the rich in competition with the stomachs of the poor, causing crop prices to skyrocket globally. It also leads to deforestation of the Amazon, which leads to carbon emissions, which leads to climate change, which leads to…THE UPSHOTBrazilian biofuel yields 10 times the amount of energy required to grow the sugarcane, and displaces the carbon-intensive emissions from burning gasoline. The benefits are deeply compromised, however, by the deforestation required for the crop.

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