MR. MURRAY: And why not clean coal? Why not carbon capture, why not take advantage of the technologies that can make coal plants cleaner?
MR. SCHMIDT: First of all, there’s a lot of great progress in carbon capture and sequestration. I don’t use the term clean coal because I think it’s misused.
MR. MURRAY: Because you don’t think coal is clean?
MR. SCHMIDT: If we’re going to talk about coal, I’d like to talk about it in the context of its CO2 load as opposed to the other particulates that clean coal typically represents. So the fundamental problem is that coal, which is the most prevalent source of energy in the U.S. and China, generates too much CO2. It really does contribute to global warming.
Now, one answer to that is that you have a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. I am skeptical as to whether those are going to happen simply because they have the wrong words in them — taxes and prices and so forth.
There are many, many people who believe that they’re the right answer, but I think politically we have to act as though those will occur but not anytime soon. We assume carbon capture and sequestration will work, but we assume that it will take a fairly long time for those systems to be prevalent enough.
I should say that we’re having a U.S.-based conversation here, but we can solve all the problems in the U.S. and get them right and we can still die as a society, basically because of the issues in China and India.
And so we have to solve the efficient-car problem in the U.S., but it’s even more important to establish it at lower price points in developing countries, which is where most of the cars are going to get sold. Now, maybe you start in the U.S. and you learn from that and you scale from there. These need to be global solutions.
If President Obama’s cap-and-trade won’t fly politically in the U.S., wouldn’t the same pragmatism rule out the naive notion that some “global solution” will be paid for here and then exported elsewhere?