Is Barrack Obama a Believer in Clean Coal?

Clean coal is promised from presidential candidatesThat’s apparently what he’d like the voters of Kentucky to believe. But it’s unclear what good it will do for Kentucky.

With Hillary taking some much deserved flak over the blatant pandering in her call for a “gas tax holiday”, Obama has been focusing his campaign in Kentucky on his support for clean coal technologies.

Clean coal is generally considered coal burned in Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plants and combined with carbon sequestration.

Barrack did co-sponsor a budget provision with Kentucky senator Jim Burning (R) for $200 million to develop clean coal, but none of that is in Kentucky. There is only dirty coal in Kentucky, and the one proposed IGCC plant in the state hasn’t yet broken ground.

Even then, many believe that such technologies – the very idea of “clean coal” – is not an answer to our climate and energy problems

At best, most experts say that wide-scale sequestration systems are at least a decade away and may not offer much in the way of an overall solution – a study by MIT called The Future of Coal: Options for a Carbon-Constrained World (pdf) should make some excellent bedtime reading in the issue. 

Despite Obama’s claim of support for Kentucky clean coal, his own energy and climate advisor has said that

…[Obama] is confident … that his carbon cap program … will make it absolutely ludicrous to even contemplate any type of coal, new coal, that is not 100 percent sequestered. … if he is unable to get that carbon policy in place quickly, that he will do whatever is necessary to prevent the siting of a new generation of pulverized coal facilities, including setting [emission] standards that would be essentially a moratorium …

If sequestration is still a decade away at best, and  there will be no dirty plants built on his watch, where does this leave Kentucky in the meantime? It won’t be pretty, that’s for sure, dirty coal has already taken a devastating toll.

Of course, Obama isn’t alone on the campaign trail (the never-ending campaign trail I might add). I’m just picking on him today.

Last Friday Hillary told a crowd in Louisville “We’re sitting on a huge natural resource” pledging to invest more federal dollars in carbon sequestration.

On Monday John McCain toured a wind turbine plant in Oregon and made his pledge to curb greenhouse gas emissions and lead the international community in fighting climate change.

It won’t be hard to improve upon U.S. leadership thus far in energy development and climate change – the bar has been awfully low these past eight years. So low, in fact, as to be, well, sequestered.

Candidates Statements on Energy and Climate: 
Barrack Obama
Hillary Clinton
John McCain

Sources and Further Reading

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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