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Coal 1, Science 0

That didn’t take long.

As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steven Chu has been a fierce and consistent critic of coal. He’s on the record last year saying that “coal is my worst nightmare,” and he harbors doubts that clean coal technologies will ever work to filter the pollutants that poison the air and warm the planet. “It’s not guaranteed we have a solution for coal,” he said in December.

A continued reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, he’s said, will bake the planet. “We won’t run out of energy but there’s enough carbon in the ground to cook us.”

Fast forward to 2009 and Chu is now secretary of the Energy Department. And it’s startling how quickly he’s come to accept coal as an immovable part of the country’s energy strategy.

Here’s Chu in an interview with The Washington Post this week:

The United States actually has the most known coal reserves in the world, and over 50 percent of our electricity is generated by coal. Even if the United States turns its back on coal, China and India will not, given the state of affairs. I would prefer to say let’s try to develop technologies that can get a large fraction of the carbon dioxide out of coal. Start with 70, 80 percent and build up to over 90 percent, but start now and try to get it out.

Color our world blackened.

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