Today, Al Gore and a coalition of leading environmental organizations are launching This is REALITY.org. Simply put, despite all the glowing ads that you've seen and bipartisan romancing of clean coal, "clean coal" remains not much more than powerpoint slides and technological dreams that might (MIGHT) work in 20 years or so, at a very high cost. What is the reality today?
Simple fact: COAL IS DIRTY! From mountain top removal, through distribution, burning, and the waste, whether fly ash deposits, particulates into our lungs, mercury in the oceans, or CO2 in the atmosphere.
From today's press release:
Environmental experts agree that coal is the dirtiest fuel America uses to produce electricity.
You don't need to be an "environmental expert" to agree to this. This is simply, well, fact.
"The reality is that there’s not a single home or business in America today powered by clean coal," said Brian Hardwick of the Alliance for Climate Protection. "If coal really wants to be part of America’s energy future, the industry can start by making a real commitment to eliminating their pollution that is a leading cause of global
"The industry can ..." But is there any indication that they are willing or interested in doing so?
Simple fact. The coal industry spent $100,000,000s seeking to influence the election and the discussion of coal over the past year. Santas distributed Clean Coal a year ago at the Metro stations near the US Capitol. (Quite appropriately, because the only way we're getting "clean coal", in terms of atmospheric pollution, in the near term is if the elves make it at the North Pole (as long as there is ice still there) and Sanata delivers it down coal plant smokestacks).
"The industry can ..."
"It is high time for the coal industry to come clean and admit to the American people that today clean coal is not a reality." Hardwick continued, "No matter how much they say it in their advertising, coal can’t truly be clean until the plants can capture global warming pollution. With so much at stake, we can’t afford to hang our hats on an
And, let us be clear, that the "illusion" of clean coal is even worse than you think because the effects of coal on our planet and our health go well beyond simply Global Warming (and acidification of the oceans due to CO2). There are the reduced levels of Acid Rain. (Yes, that clean-up mainly worked -- yeah, enviromental regulation and pollution mandates for helping improve our lives). There are the 24,000 Americans (and more than 100,000 more globally) who die prematurely each year due to coal-fired electricity plant emissions. There are the scars on the earth from mining. (By the way, a tip of the hat to Bank of America for ending any future loans for mountain-top removal yesterday.) There is the radioactive and otherwise dangerous fly ash after burning. And, ... And, the list is far too long.
As for the "illusion", the capture and permanent sequestration (storage for 1000s of years) of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants is being experimented on, at a small scale, in a few places around the world. We (the large WE) don't really have a clear idea as to whether this can work at large scale. The costs of doing it will be quite high. And, if it can be made to work, it won't be available and working at mass scale for decades. We can't wait decades for this pollution to end. And, those massive amount of resources that need to be spent to see whether CCS can work at mass scale can be used to deploy existing and develop/deploy new paths for breaking our addiction to coal. By the time CCS would be deployable on mass scale, America could be basically fully off coal ... with much of the world not far behind.
Al Gore has laid out a 10 year plan for eliminating fossil fuels from America's electrical grid. Google (and CEO/Obama Advisor Eric Schmidt) has laid out a path for doing this in 20 years. (As have I.) Let's think of this this way: Gore's 10 year should be our "objective target", what we'd really like to achieve. Schmidt's (and my) 20-year path should be our "threshhold" target, or the minimum that we can achieve.
Energy Efficiency (negawatts and negagallons) is a reality today and can have a major impact on our energy situation, QUICKLY and profitably.
Nuclear Power, whatever you think of it, is a reality today and a real option for tomorrow.
Wind Power is a reality today and an ever growing option for tomorrow.
Solar Power is a reality today and an increasingly viable option for tomorrow.
Hydropower, Geothermal Power, Biomass are all reality today and provide options for tomorrow.
Clean Coal is vaporware today and something that might ... MIGHT ... work tomorrow.
I am not ready to bet my children's future on an uncertain might. Are you?