The Clean Coal Myth

Throughout the most recent Presidential campaign in the United States, when energy came up, one of the misnomers that came up again and again was the oxymoron of “Clean Coal.” This is such an enormous lie, leaving such a huge miscomprehension, that it absolutely must be challenged. Let there be no mistake; to be unequivocally clear, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL.

Burning coal is, by far, the largest source of CO2 in the United States. All across the nation, in communities everywhere, regional electric companies burn coal to generate electricity. Right there in the heart of the midwest, in Pryor, Oklahoma, a train comes by a couple times a day — a long one — full of coal, headed to the electric company’s generators. This company does what it can to trap the exhaust. It’s record is exemplary… but it’s still not CLEAN coal.

Why does that matter to Protect The Ocean? Carbon Dioxide causes the oceans’ waters to turn acidic, and that makes those waters a hostile environment for the shelled creatures in those waters. (see the Acid Oceans post.) Burning coal hastens the acidic transformation. This is why we MUST move to passive generation of electricity, via solar and wind farms. This planet, and its oceans, are already damaged, in serious trouble, because of all the tons of CO2 that are being carried into those waters.

If it wasn’t bad enough before, now that the term has been bandied about in the election campaigns, there will be a push for MORE coal-burning power plants. Here’s the facts:

“Virtually all the new coal plants that have been proposed will, just like their predecessors, release 100 percent of the CO2 they produce into the atmosphere, where it will linger—and contribute to global warming.”
“Coal Power in a Warming World: A Sensible Transition to Cleaner Energy Options,” Union of Concerned Scientists. Oct. 2008

“Burning coal is the dirtiest way we produce electricity.”
“Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Generation of Electric Power in the United States,” US DOE 2000.; “GHG Emissions and Sinks 1990-2006,” US EPA 2008

“There are no homes in America powered by ‘clean’ coal.”
IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme CO2 Capture and Storage Database; Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies Program at MIT, CO2 Capture and Storage Project Database

All of these quotes (and more) come from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and M.I.T. It doesn’t get much more authoritative than that.

Now that the election is over, the tough work begins. Don’t let them push the Clean Coal myth any further. Don’t let them build any more coal power plants, or claim that the ones we have now are burning “clean” coal. This planet and her oceans, this earth, it’s the only home we have.