Another Oxymoron – Clean Coal

My favorite commercial on television lately is one that opposes “Clean Coal”. It actually starts off with a man who is dressed in a yellow hard hat and promises a tour of a “Clean Coal” factory. As he walks you through the doors of the factory, he is showing you every inch of the production plant that offers “Clean Coal”. But as we see him walk around and shot over the machines, what you see is really nothing. He’s out in the desert and only pretending that he is in the factory. In actuality, he’s showing you nothing. Which is the message…there is no such thing as “Clean Coal.”

What is “Clean Coal”? Does anyone really know what it is? I know what coal is. It’s black and very dirty to handle. And when I burn it, it lets off a strong gas. Yes it provides heat, but it trade the heat for the release of carbon at a much higher rate than the earth can handle. I also do not know anyway to make it clean. The word clean is just another way to get you to feel better about coal as an energy source. In order to get “Clean Coal”, the coal industry chemically washes minerals and impurities from the coal, thus helping the environmental impact of the burning coal, or so it first appears. So the emissions are reduced, but what happens to the waste??

The problem is that emissions and wastes are still the problem. The waste is transferred from one waste stream to another. The burning of fossil fuels (coal) is a major contributor to Global Warming. The question is left, “What would you do with the waste after the commercial industry started producing it in mass quantities?” Very much like the “safety” of nuclear powered submarines that John McCain spoke of during his campaign…the sub is safe, but what about the waste? Ask the Navy where it stores the waste and what they are planning on doing when the time is up for the containers.

As much as we hear about the use of “Clean Coal” as a viable alternative, it is estimated that it could not be commercially produced until the year 2020. Great, what do we do until then?. What do we do now? It is imperative that greenhouse gases and carbon emissions are cut in half now…not another 11 years from now.

“Clean Coal” is just another buzz word for politicians to throw around when they don’t want to really commit to doing anything about alternative energy. The next time someone says “Clean Coal”, just ask them:”How clean is it?”

For more information about “Clean Coal”, check out these sites:

Wikikpedia The Sierra Club and the published report by Greenpeace (PDF)

2 comments on “Another Oxymoron – Clean Coal

  1. snilon

    Hi Michael,I would be concerned in storing anything in the ocean. How would it be any different than the Nuclear Waste generated by the Navy Subs? We are quickly approaching the 60 year cutoff date of these containers being safe. Now we have to worry about what to do with them before they start leaking hazardous material.

  2. Michael Ashcroft

    Good article. Clean coal is definitely used by politicians who want to make it seem like they’re doing something to deal with climate change while still continuing the status quo.It’s a shame though, because clean coal could be a possibility, if only carbon sequestration and storage methods were up to scratch. It’s possible to store carbon dioxide in spent gas reservoirs, deep in the ocean, liquified, and in porous rocks.Granted, it would be far better to switch to cleaner forms of energy, but if this is a way of reducing emissions whilst keeping the lights on then I’m all for it!Michael

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