Saturday, May 3, 2008

Is "Clean Coal" and oxyMORON?

I have watched Al Gore's most recent talk (posted below) about 6 times now. As I wipe away the tears each time I ask myself in bewilderment how it is that we as a society are not seeing this as being like World War III. How much evidence do we need? Are we going to have to have food lines or be forced to wear oxygen masks before we act? This is a global emergency that everyone agrees on... yet, nothin from the press or our elected leaders. NOTHING!!

There were two points in Al's presentation that I can't get out of my head:
1/ The U.S. still uses more gasoline than every major country in the world combined
2/ The Carbon based (and overwhelmingly profitable) energy companies and associations (oil and coal) are busy re-positioning themselves as "green" even though everyone knows they are about as "green" as slime.

The example he uses is the Orwellian phrase "Clean Coal". Coal is the single "dirtiest" carbon fuel on the planet and the paradox we face in the U.S. is that we have it abundance and therefore is really inexpensive.
This Eco-friendly logo says volumes about how they are re-positioning coal to look shiny and clean knowing that Americans are too ill informed to let out a collective scream at such visual propaganda. And they must have hired the best design firm money can buy... cause they sure chose a clean contemporary shade of green that communicates that they are not only GREEN, but really really cool.

Well, in typical fashion, I couldn't help myself and had to let them know what I thought of their new "positioning" and told them that they are not fooling everyone. I was surprised and delighted to receive a response!

What follows is the email conversation I had with Kaitlyn R from

My first email I don't have a record of as it stays on their site. I said something to the effect: "How dare they call Coal Clean when everyone knows its not. That's a lie. Why are they lying?" Her response:

"Clean is obviously a relative term. I LOVE THAT!!! What might be “clean” for most people might not be “clean enough” for you.
We’re continuing to make progress on using technology to reduce emissions and make coal a cleaner energy resource to meet America’s energy needs. The coal industry is working with the Department of Energy on a $1.5 billion project to build a (notice a... that means one) coal plant that captures close to 100% of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury – and provide for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide.


Americans for Balanced Energy Choices"

I responded in my typically near-hysterical manner asking her how she could look her children in the eyes knowing that unless all coal plants have zero emissions, then we won't have a planet to live on and particularly, them.

Her second response:

"Technology has already made coal a cleaner energy resource – overall our plants are 70 percent cleaner based on regulated emissions per unit of energy produced. Department of Energy figures show that.
(Does this mean we're supposed to trust the Department of Energy?)

And with new advances in technology, we’re looking at a future where coal will meet America’s growing electricity needs with little to no emissions of the pollutants regulated by federal and state clean air laws.
(Notice how she used "regulated" twice knowing full well that there are little to no meaningful regulations on coal emissions.)
As a nation, we cannot ignore coal as a source of energy. (It accounts for 50 percent of the electricity generated today.) We cannot be left worrying about how we meet our future energy needs without becoming more reliant on imported forms of energy. We have to invest in our energy future by recognizing that coal is a fuel for America’s future.

Good talking points from Kaitlyn R!! You are doing a wonderful job Kaitlyn and no doubt they're paying you six figures to provide those enlightening facts to an ill informed public. But I could so easily (as Hillary loves to say) "obliterate" everything you're saying so that frankly, it would be boring and too long for this medium. But, as I like to do with B.L.O.G., I'm going to end with a fact (it's just awful) and some relevant questions:

Fact: $1.5 Billion is 1.5 days of spending on the Iraq War. (That hardly seems like emergency spending to me, does it to you Kaitlyn?)

Questions for America's Power:

  • If someone came and cleaned your house by 70%, would you consider it clean? Or just "cleaner" than before? Perhaps you should be branded "Cleaner Coal, but still super dirty."
  • And, why is it that if we have so much of this stuff, and have (or almost have), the technology to burn it with zero or near zero emissions, and currently not doing that, why has your organization chosen to brand coal "clean"? Shouldn't your tagline read "Coal Emergency, We Need Billions in Research and Development Dollars Now". And you could add something snappy like "Stop the War" as that would help YOU... hello Coal Industry, can you hear me?
  • Why are you not screaming and begging every American for help to make this stuff workable for a planet that survives and thrives... instead of telling us you have the answers when clearly you don't.
  • Why have you chosen to hide and distort the truth about the problems we face with coal rather than simply coming "clean" about it? It seems obvious to me that nearly everyone would be willing to help.
  • Coal is literally dirt cheap... if we made it clean right now, isn't it obvious that we would have solved one of America's greatest and most pressing energy and environmental challenges protecting your industry well into the future?

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david santos said...

Great post, Bruce!
You are Master!
I loved this post and this blog.
Good luck.

Bruce said...

David, thank you so much for the comment. And tell all your friends about B.L.O.G.!!!