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Earth Day Facts

April 22nd, 2009 · 4 Comments


Unofficial Earth Flag (from Wikimedia Commons)

Earth Flag (from Wikimedia Commons)

We will talk about Earth day facts, about clean coal. What is clean coal? Is clean coal the environmentally-sustainable answer to our growing need for energy in the 21st century?

Happy Earth Day from Pacebutler!

Today, April 22nd, the United States and several other countries celebrate Earth Day to promote environmental awareness, community-building, and environmental protection.  Instead of the usual Earth Day facts,  I decided to write about something that has been a subject of debate recently  between environmentalists, politicians, and powerful industry lobbyists – clean coal.

Let’s talk real Earth Day facts about this so-called “clean coal.”  What is clean coal? Is clean coal the environmentally-sustainable answer to our growing need for energy in the 21st century? Does it even exist today?

Earth Day Facts – What is Clean Coal?

What is clean coal?

Coal supplies half the energy requirements in the US today. Until we’re able to develop cleaner alternative energy sources on a nationwide scale, coal, as an energy source, is here to stay.

Coal is cheap, plentiful, and being extensively mined in 26 states with Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky as the top producers.

It is also considered the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Burning coal for electricity releases global warming gases like carbon dioxide, as well as other pollutants, into the atmosphere. The destruction of Appalachian mountain tops, the sludge produced from coal mining, and the difficult disposal of the ash by-product after coal is burned are just a few stark examples of how dirty this fuel source is – from extraction to consumption.

The term “clean coal” (or “clean coal technology”) is a coal industry term used to designate the development of technology to extract coal and use it for electricity generation in a cleaner, and more environmentally-safe manner. This includes methods like chemical washing, “gasification,” and carbon capture. The last method – carbon capture – proposes to capture carbon dioxide emissions from a clean coal plant, and bury this deep within the earth.

Watch: “Clean Coal” cable ad paid for by the coal mining industry.

Earth Day Facts – Is clean coal environment-friendly as advertised?

The reasoning behind clean coal technology is that if coal is here to stay, we might as well clean up the entire process of extracting and using this fuel to generate electricity. There’s just one slight problem here. Clean coal or clean coal technology, as advertised, does not exist today.

There were numerous attempts in the past few years to establish clean coal facilities in different parts of the country. But all of these efforts were abandoned when the costs became too high or because of deficiencies in technology.  In short, no single clean coal power plant that can store more than nominal amounts of captured CO2, exists in the US today.

Leading environmentalists call the idea of clean coal a myth, the very term an oxymoron that exists only in the sound bytes of ads paid for by the powerful coal industry. Others use the term “greenwashing” which describes an attempt by an industry to clean up its image to be more palatable to an increasingly environment-conscious public.

Watch: Vice-President Al Gore, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative last year, comparing “clean coal” to “healthy cigarettes” – “it does not exist.”

Earth Day Facts – The Current Clean Coal Controversy

These last few months, we were all inundated by $45 million worth of advertising from the coal industry trying to sell the idea of clean coal. When then-candidate Barack Obama campaigned in the coal-mining states, he promised voters in those states that if elected, he will work towards the establishment of clean energy sources in the country – one of which is “clean coal.” You might have seen one of those coal industry ads that featured President Obama campaigning along those lines.

The coal industry also contributed heavily to both campaigns in the last election cycle. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the coal industry contributed a total of $15.6 million to federal candidates from both parties in 2008.

Apparently, their efforts paid off.  The coal industry is set to receive from the federal stimulus package a total allocation of $ 4.6 billion for research and development of  “clean coal.”

This sparked a huge backlash from environmentalists, politicians, and people working on the development of cleaner and renewable energy sources. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said, in an interview with Brian Ross:

It’s a sad testament to the impact of campaign contributions, our system and the political clout of this industry that you have very sensible politicians, including great men like Barack Obama, who feel the need to parrot the talking points of this industry that is so destructive to our country.

Imagine what $4 billion can do to stimulate growth in alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal.

I hope the Earth Day facts we presented today will help you form an opinion about this issue. Sometimes, cheap and plentiful just don’t add up to being clean and earth-friendly.


Tags: Environment

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Abby // Apr 23, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Energy is a difficult problem. I’m with you on the clean coal. And I’ve been telling people for years that our dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue as much as it is an energy issue. Though this last year is the first time the politicians actually used the phrase “national security issue” that I’m aware of. Maybe they’re finally listening to me 🙂 We must conserve. And we must explore utilizing all resources better (including wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas and our own untapped oil capacity).

    Had a great Earth Day here in Kansas. I even wore my green shirt yesterday!

  • 2 susan Crisp // May 6, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Our beautiful state of Kansas is going to get a coal plant-very large coal plant. How sad!!! Our current governor who replaced Kathleen Sebelius is bucking for political gain by not vetoing the plant. Clearly, he hasn’t any desire to do the right thing by our state by making this decision to support the coal plant construction. Wish we had Kathleen back to protect the environment.

  • 3 Cape Verde Property // May 8, 2009 at 2:11 am

    The onus really should be on renewable energy. Why are we still dwelling on fossil fuels for energy?

  • 4 Aloe Vera Gel Drinks // May 14, 2009 at 2:09 am

    @CPV: Because money rules and at the moment fossil fuels are cheap while renewables are incredibly expensive.

    The only time renewables get any attention is when its good for marketing.