The Farce of Clean Coal

Clean coal may sound nice - but it is a fallacy

Clean coal is a farce by any reasonable person’s evaluation. Despite President Obama’s recent speech supporting “clean coal” as a component of our energy future, the reality is coal is neither clean nor cost effective.

The coal industry has long touted low costs of coal as a major argument for their business. However it seems no study has actually examined the true cost of coat from extraction to combustion. And the number would make Wall Street bankers shudder: $500 billion.

The farthest reach on this number is $74 billion for public health issues in Apalachia alone. The truth is, coal is still a very expensive energy option.

It’s interesting how, when it comes to wind or solar energy, the industry is quick to evaluate the long term costs of production, depreciation, upkeep and replacement of alternative energy. But when it comes to coal, they look only at one piece of the process.

In addition to a dramatically high cost, it also is not nearly as clean as the industry is claiming. Coal is the largest source of greenhouse gasses and is the largest source of air and water pollution worldwide. No matter how well the coal industry markets their products as “clean”, it is not.

One barrier to changing the coal paradigm is that it’s entirely endorsed by government. The 2008 economic bailout included $2.5 Billion in loan guarantees for new coal plants.

Sequestering the carbon emitted by coal plants make it a cleaner option. However that technology isn’t fully available yet. Even though carbon sequestration technology exists, it won’t be scalable to encompass an entire coal plant for probably a decade based on industry estimates.

So next time your co-worker perpetuates the term “clean coal”, put a stop to the farce and explain the truth about coal.

Image credit: Matador Network

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