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Focus on coal to fix global warming: CEO

By Lisa Lee (Reuters) - January 3, 2007

NRG Energy Inc Chief Executive David Crane said on Tuesday cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants needs to be at the center of addressing global climate change.

“We need to confront traditional coal-fired power plants,” Crane told the Reuters Global Environment Summit.

Coal-fired plants generate one-half of U.S. electricity but are also a major cause of carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas blamed for causing global warming.

Calling climate change “the defining issue of our generation,” Crane added, “The centerpiece of any global warming effort has to be getting carbon out of coal.”

Crane said he recently told students the way to become a billionaire, practice their profession and save the world is to find a method of removing carbon from flue gas. Flue gas is post-combustion gas emitted from pipes or chimneys.

“I don’t feel at this point the nation is rising up as one, saying we have to do something about this now,” said Crane, adding “Our industry is building traditional coal plants now, and they are going to be around for 50 or 60 years.”

NRG Energy currently has plans to build a traditional coal-fired power plant in Texas, which is in the permitting process, according to Crane.

The company does not feel “overly good” about its plans for developing this additional coal-fired generation, said Crane, and is working with environmental groups to offset the emissions.

Crane said the U.S. government has to take a leading role in promoting research and development for technology that would cut carbon emissions. He sees the advent of carbon capture and sequestration, which stores carbon emissions underground, as key.

Once the United States develops effective technology, it could then transfer the knowledge to developing countries, such as China.

“Sell it to them, or give it to them,” Crane said.