Mayor Mark Stodola of Little Rock, Ark., asked Gore squarely about coal. He said that his city’s electrical rates had been rising, but that a new coal plant opening soon was going to lower the bills.

Naturally, my ears perked up.

Gore said coal is where "the rubber meets the road." We have enough coal here and in China to "incinerate the planet." And right now, electricity is being "recarbonized."

"We just can’t do that."

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The future of coal depends substantially on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and right now, CCS is difficult and expensive. Some people are doing it — in, say, Norway. Why does it work there? Because of a hefty CO2 tax. Gore said some coal CEOs have told him in private — though they’re not willing to say it publicly — that they would welcome a CO2 tax, as it would provide stability and predictability and direct investment toward CCS.

But new plants without CCS, or that can’t be quickly retrofitted for CCS? That’s "suicide." There should be an immediate moratorium.

Luckily, there’s a huge movement pushing back against coal — see: TXU, Kansas, Idaho, New Zealand. As a teacher of Gore’s frequently said, it’s about choosing "the hard right over the easy wrong." We just can’t keep using the atmosphere as an open sewer.

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