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Addressing Coal Fires

This article was was written by Alex Steffen in February 2006. We're republishing it here as part of our month-long editorial retrospective.

Here's a problem I didn't know existed. spew as much CO2 into the atmosphere as all the cars in the US.

These fires are exceedingly difficult to put out. Indeed, some well-known ones have been burning for decades.

Finding a way to put out coal fires and prevent new ones would seem to me to be an area where some worldchanging innovation could yield profound benefits for everyone. A brief online search turned up some interesting projects -- Remote sensing GIS tools to support fire fighters, an ambitious-looking Sino-German project, some new coal fire-fighting techniques -- but I'm not at all confident that these are the best (or even good) ideas.

But I know some of you guys must have ideas and information. Are there better tools out there? What might be done to address this problem? Why isn't this a better-known issue? If we were going to make fighting coal fires a priority, what would we do, and how would we best go about it?

Coal Fires and Climate Change is a part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on Oct. 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.

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