I watched all the debates. I’ve read way too many articles on the upcoming election. I’m about as informed as I’m ever going to be. However, there is at least one issue that I’m still in the dark about: clean coal. Specifically, how in the heck is coal, a fuel that’s as dirty as they come, considered clean?
Both candidates have mentioned this seemingly oxymoronic term during their energy speeches, so I did a little research. According to the Sierra Club, there is “no such thing” as clean coal. However, the site notes that “new technologies and policies can help reduce coal plants’ deadly emissions, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and nitrogen oxides.”
HowStuffWorks.com notes that coal still generates half the electricity in the United States. Clean coal technology aims to “contain its emissions.” One of the most promising ways of doing this is through carbon capture and storage. Essentially, this is a way of sequestering “carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from stationary sources like power plants.” Whether they then take the emissions and launch them into space, I’m not sure.
The Department of Energy sums up the history of clean coal, while Greenpeace argues that clean coal does “nothing to mitigate the environmental effects of coal mining or the devastating effects of global warming.” In other words, even when the coal is “clean,” it’s still dirty.
If you’re still curious about this controversial issue, the BBC offers an excellent summary of the benefits of and problems with clean coal. Based on what you know about clean coal, do you think it’s a good idea? Does clean coal make the best of a bad situation? Or, is that not good enough given the environment’s perilous state? It’s a big issue this election–what are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading,
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