Clean coal technology is an umbrella term used to describe the many methods used to try to reduce the environmental impact of generating energy from coal, a fossil fuel which, when burned, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and increases global warming, as well as sulfur dioxides which cause acid rain. In 2004, over one quarter of the world's electricity was made from coal, so any meaningful international agreement on climate change must address how we handle this fuel.
The American government has been quite keen on the concept of clean coal -- George W. Bush, Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama have all lauded it. But some prominent environmentalists don't agree, arguing that it's just a mirage created by the coal industry. "There is no such thing as clean coal and there never will be," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program. "It's an oxymoron."
"I say this based on my experience as the former head of the TVA, which bought and burned more than 30 million tons of coal a year," wrote S. David Freeman, an energy policy expert who once headed the New York Power Authority, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water (DWP) in his 2007 book Winning Our Energy Independence: An Energy Insider Shows How. "I was deeply involved in the strip mining, underground mining, trucking, and most importantly, the burning of huge quantities of coal. No one who has been deeply involved with coal can rightfully say it is clean."
And now the Academy Award-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen have added their own clean coal criticism in the form of a 30-second video made for the Reality Coalition, a project of the Alliance for Climate Protection, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters.
Currently, there no buildings in America powered by coal plants that capture and store their global warming pollution. Until that technology exists, clean coal is just a nice idea. In fact, everything about coal is dirty -- from the extraction of it to its waste. It's the leading contributor to global warming and the dirtiest way to produce electricity.
- Join the Reality Coalition and help them push the coal industry to come clean about dirty coal
- Sign a Sierra Club letter to President Obama urging him to adopt a clean slate energy agenda because "clean coal" is a myth