The “clean coal” theory is an umbrella term used to describe technologies being developed that aims to reduce the environmental impact of coal energy generation.
“Clean Coal” is being talked about a lot lately and is all over the news. It is a great-sounding phrase, stirring in our minds images of abundant, cheap energy generated by squeaky-clean power plants. If that’s what comes to your mind when you hear the word then here’s some bad news for you: there’s no such thing as clean coal.
The concept is ambiguous
According to Jeff Goodell, “Clean coal” is not an actual invention, a physical thing – it is an advertising slogan. Like “fat-free donuts” or “interest-free loans.”
“Clean coal is like healthy cigarettes, it does not exist,” says former Vice President Al Gore.
According to David Roberts of blog Grist.Beta, “The clean coal PR people are running a scam…Here’s the scam: They leave the definition of “clean coal” deliberately ambiguous.”
Critics like Grist have pointed out; the term “clean coal” is largely an oxymoronic advertising gimmick.
It’s a lie
Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls it a dirty lie.
“How many such plants are there?” asked former Vice President Gore at the Clinton Global Initiative last year. “Zero. How many blueprints? Zero.”
Ben Jervey of GOOD says, “The coal industry’s PR machine has created a meaningless moniker that won’t die”.
A recent report released by The Union of Concerned Scientists says, “Slow carbon leaks could undermine the technology’s effectiveness as a global warming solution and contaminate groundwater.”
John Blair in his article on his blog Citizens Against CO2 Sequestration says, “Injection of CO2 can ultimately damage groundwater used for drinking by a chemical conversion when the CO2 is injected causing an increase in acidity which leaches dangerous chemicals like metals out of the formation.”
Clean Coal has many supporters too, President Obama being the top most in the list.
“As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power”, says President Obama.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal wrote a letter to President Obama. It said, “Finding a way to use our nation’s rich supplies of coal in a manner that avoids emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants is absolutely vital to the success of any national effort to reduce emissions, promote national security and create jobs.”
All said and done, I would like to add here that Clean Coal involves carbon reduction technologies that are still 10-15 years from being built for American plants. A lot has been spent on advertising the concept, but unfortunately, little has been done to bring the concept into reality.
Don’t you think it is cruel that after 24 years and billions of dollars spent trying, there is still no operating coal power plant using “clean coal” technology?
The catch is that for now—and for years to come—“clean coal” will remain more a catchphrase than a reality. Despite the eagerness of the coal and power industries to sanitize their image and the desire of U.S. politicians to push a healthy-sounding alternative to expensive foreign oil and natural gas, clean coal is still a misnomer.