Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Is Clean Coal?

Developing new cleaner technologies for refining and burning coal seems like a step in the right direction, but really it's just a way of holding on to something that must pass.  The real problem starts with coal mining. I've personally seen strip mines, where layers of soil are stripped from the Earth to get to the coal. It leaves a lifeless hole.  Mountaintop mining involves the blasting off of entire mountaintops to get to coal. The environmental effects are devastating, but in many areas people depend on mining jobs and will fight very hard to keep these practices going. (This is why offering comparable jobs in renewable energy is absolutely imperative.)

Clean coal relies heavily on some thing called carbon sequestration, which is storing carbon dioxide in geologic formations. The truth is that nobody on Earth knows how this will actually work on a large scale and a long time frame (especially in terms of geologic time where nothing is really staying put). And nobody has a clue how to pay for such a massive undertaking.

CO2 emissions are not the biggest waste product from using coal. Massive amounts of coal ash is produced. Currently, the dumping of coal ash is not regulated. We're talking about tons of solid waste that contains toxins, like mercury, which is known to be devastating to humans, the younger the human the more devastating the effects.

Most inhabited planets don't have the massive fossil fuel resources that Earth does. Other planets developed without fossil fuels. You can do it on Earth too. It just requires a shift in attitude.

*Watch your elected officials. Let them know it's not okay to give greater support to coal than to renewable energy.
*When clean coal comes up in your local news, write a letter to the editor.
*As always, use energy wisely. The less electricity you use, the less coal needs to be mined, processed, and burned.

To learn more read TIME magazine.


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