The rise of “clean coal” is representative of the greater economic, environmental and sociopolitical push toward greener technology and more sustainable sources of energy. A greater awareness of the world and the Earth and its natural environment has prompted action on behalf of individuals, corporations and more to do their part in protecting it. The negative environmental impacts brought on by using coal in its traditional form, fossil fuels, and other nonrenewable sources of energy are contributing to the gradual overheating of the natural world year by year, particularly known as climate change. However, many view clean coal as a farce and as a halfhearted attempt at protecting and preserving the environment. Clean coal refers to both the coal itself and the process of using it, and as a “greenwashed” term, the concept faces much backlash, skepticism and outright disbelief.
The preference for coal, be it “clean” or not, has been driven by a long-standing use for coal as an energy source in the United States, especially, as well as other areas worldwide. A dependence on coal as a longtime and reliable energy source has many skeptical to deviate from it in the name of searching for better, more energy efficient and environmentally safe renewable resources (Plumer, 2015). In the context of the current presidential administration, coal has been meant to be a mainstay in the manufacturing, production and agriculture world’s, but to President Donald Trump’s behest, he has been unable to fulfill the campaign promises of keeping coal as a mainstay, which has led to several lost jobs and lost wages for coal workers. The effects of climate change are being felt and interventions meant to stave it off and prevent it may come at the expense of coal, whether it is clean or not. Several individuals and organizations have looked to bring awareness to the impact of traditional coal and clean coal, even saying that there is no such thing as the latter. Statistics of the impact of “clean coal” on the environment show that plants running on them emit more than 10 times more carbon dioxide than power plants that are fueled by gas as well as renewable energy systems (“Myth 2: Coal Is Clean”). Given the pollution in the air created by carbon dioxide emissions as well as other greenhouse gases, alongside the water pollution that occurs in the process of mining and preparing coal to be used as energy (namely through ash depositing into groundwater, ponds and landfills), “clean coal” does not have the positive and environmentally conscious and safe benefits that it is purported to. Advocates for the coal industry are such not only for employment, but for its cost-effectiveness compared to the construction and implementation of pollution controls on top of how much it costs to build a plant.
Proponents of other energy sources besides coal are in favor of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which reduces emission of carbon dioxide from coal plants. However, CCS is still a new concept in its own right and has yet to be implemented at a full-scale fossil fuel plant, which inhibits its growth and its legitimacy as a better, safer energy source. The viability of such plans remains to be seen because of a lack of focus, funding and attention on it, especially as the coal industry struggles to remain on top, thus suppressing any new ways of energy and power from coming forth. Essentially, there is no such thing as “clean coal,” despite its alleged benefits to the environment in the form of less air and water pollution than traditional coal. “Clean coal” is indeed a myth.
- Myth 2: Coal is Clean. (n.d.). Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://endcoal.org/coal-myths/myth-2-coal-is-clean/
- Pierre-Louis, K. (2019, March 18). There’s no such thing as clean coal. Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://www.popsci.com/coal-power-plants-cpp/
- Plumer, B. (2017, August 23). What ‘Clean Coal’ Is – and Isn’t. Retrieved August 22, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/climate/what-clean-coal-is-and-isnt.html