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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What If We Took the Coal Industry's "Clean Coal" Promises At Their Word

The coal industry has an image problem. They know it. And they've been spending millions of dollars on a PR ad push to convince the world that a "cleaner" variety of coal is around the corner. They can make something called "clean coal" a reality, they say.

Well, what if we took the coal industry's "clean coal" promises at their word?

First things first, we'd certainly want to get started right away on cleaning up the dirty realities of today's current coal industry practices, right? I mean, if there's some high-tech, new cleaner variety of coal coming soon, no sense continuing all these antiquated old dirty coal practices.

This video from Think Progress paints a clear picture of just one of the dirty realities of today's coal technologies:

[Note to the Reality Campaign people: this is the kind of ad you should be running!]

So if coal is going to be "clean" some day in the future, then I assume the coal industry would support new regulations to clean up and safely store all the toxic coal ash their power plants produce in the meantime, right? After all, the massive coal ash disaster in Kingston, Tennessee this December released over a billion gallons of toxic coal sludge across acres upon acres of beautiful eastern Tennessee. Studies now find high levels of toxic arsenic in the sludge that has already condemned several homes and sullied the waters of two tributaries of the Tennessee River. That sounds pretty clearly like dirty coal, not that "clean" coal stuff we've been promised, so we'd better get started on cleaning it up.

Similarly, the coal industry shouldn't mind when states like Washington and California - and maybe even the US EPA - enact emissions performance standards that ensure that the only new coal plants that can be built are those new plants that capture and store their carbon dioxide emissions you keep promising. After all, if "clean coal" is right around the corner, we wouldn't want to build any more of those dirty old-fashioned coal plants, right? So I hope you'll support us when we push for a ban on coal plants that spew millions of tons of global warming pollution into the skies.

And while the coal industry works on making good on their promises of "clean" coal, I'm sure they won't mind when states like Georgia, North Carolina and the US Congress consider (and hopefully pass soon) bans on the clearly dirty and devastating practice of mountain top removal coal mining.

You'll also support us, right, if we decide to keep our mountains intact and build wind farms instead that will provide more energy and more jobs than blowing up the mountains to get at the coal inside? That's what the Coal River Mountain Wind activists are proposing in West Virginia, and I assume since you support a clean energy future, you'll be happy to stop blowing up mountains and support clean wind power at Coal River Mountain instead.

Finally, while we wait for you to make good on that promise of "clean" coal at some point in the future, I really hope you don't mind if we turn to the clean, renewable energy sources that are already real today. Just this week alone, the Coal River Wind advocates in West Virginia were joined by folks in Michigan and Montana who also decided they'd rather get started on clean renewables and stop using dirty coal while they wait for you to roll out that fancy new "clean coal" stuff. And it's those real clean energy sources that are ready today that tens of thousands of young people will storm Washington D.C. to demand at the upcoming Power Shift 2009 summit in Washington DC, February 27th-March 2nd.

After all, the reality is that "clean coal" is still just a promise. And even if we take the coal industry at their world, it's all the more reason to get started today, cleaning up the dirty mess of today's coal technologies and deploying the clean, renewable energy sources that are already a reality today. Let's get started.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. R&D money for CCS for coal and R&D money for new nuclear.

Real money for solar and wind and other renewables that are ready now. Loan guarantees for hundreds of billions to solar thermal companies that can build now, and much faster than building nuclear plants; rather than the huge loan guarantees for nuclear in the current stimulus package in Congress. Solar thermal could displace a third of our coal plants before a single new reactor goes online.