Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Look at Clean Coal

After our class lecture detailing carbon cycles, and the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, I decided to do a little research on the fossil fuel type I knew least about: coal. More specifically, I decided to investigate what is commonly referred to in the political arena as "clean coal". Finding an adequate definition of clean coal was a daunting task alone. As best I could tell, there is virtually no difference between clean coal and ordinary coal, except in the hopes and aspirations of politicians. Apparently, clean coal is coal that power plants attempt to burn with less CO2 emission.

After performing a search on the term "clean coal" (it's worth noting that the second item on the drop-down menu that google provides to show common searches, for clean coal, behind "clean coal technology", was "clean coal myth"), I came across a plethora of websites spanning all sides of the political spectrum. In my best effort to stay unbiased, I chose a website with an .org ending, hoping to get facts not politics.

What I came across was a website called "This is Reality", and I checked out their section called "the facts" ( ). Obviously, this website is heavily anti-clean coal, but unlike many websites, it is not just a list of stats and information with scarcely available citations. basically shattered my optimism for clean coal to be the "greener" fuel of the future, as many politicians contend. Among the abundance of scary facts concerning clean coal (bear in mind that each of these facts has an attached citation) are these highlights:

-Burning coal is the dirtiest way we produce electricity.
-CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-based electricity are greater than emissions from all the cars and trucks in America.
-There are roughly 600 coal plants producing electricity in the U.S. Not one of them captures and stores its global warming pollution.

and these two gems from NBC's Brian Williams and attorney Blan Holman, respectively:

-"While you might have heard the phrase ‘clean’ coal during the presidential campaign, it's actually an oxymoron."
-"'Clean' coal is like a healthy cigarette."

After hearing politicians, lobbyists, and PR companies hail clean coal as the technology that will save the planet, I decided to finally look into it. I'm glad I did, because now I understand that it is not some miracle technology that will save us from global warming. Burning clean coal seems to be just as harmful, in terms of CO2 emissions, as burning any other fossil fuel. I encourage anyone curious about this topic to look into it themselves, by all means don't take my word for it. But along the way, check out for some concise, coherent information.

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