"Some think that the only way to clean up coal is to stop burning it altogether. Now a handful of researchers and companies are pursuing a technology to do just that, but one that has the potential of keeping part of the nation's economy coal-fired.
They are skipping the burning step. "Direct carbon" fuel cells efficiently produce electricity straight from the carbon source, which can be anything from coal to coconut shells.
The nascent, laboratory-scale technology has the potential of making electricity by using less than half the coal burned today and sharply reducing the costs of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from the fuel."