What Is Clean Coal? Is Clean Coal Really Clean? Don’t Be Fooled

Ah, now there’s a term new to the TV screen: Clean Coal. Can you picture your kids playing with “the New Coal – The Clean Coal”? Nah, I didn’t really think so. But, the Presidential Candidates, Senator John McCain and Senator Barrack Obama are backing “Clean Coal” in their respective campaigns. So, I thought I would spell out what Clean Coal is, and to let you know if there is such a thing. Don’t be fooled by the Clean Coal banner.
Coal is a fossil fuel heavily dug from underground mines in two important election states Ohio and Colorado. There is nothing clean about digging coal from underground. There are other states that have coal mines, but these two states have the most coal production of any state in the U.S. which happens to make them important voter states. Hmmm. Go figure why both candidates are Pro Clean Coal.

What Is Clean Coal?
Clean Coal is a term used loosely to cover technologies that lower and possibly eliminate polluting discharge from coal fired plants. There are three primary technologies that are developed enough to have some sort of medium term impact on the coal industry’s impact on global pollution.
The three Clean Coal technologies are as follows:

The first way is just by implementing more efficient ways of scrubbing out coal fired plant emissions from current plants in operation in the U.S.

The second way is by producing more coal fired plants that are more efficient at burning coal thus they use less. New coal plants are also built with newer scrubbing technollogies which help reduce their polluting emissions.

The third way is by mixing coal with water and oxygen which is then converted to a gas. The gas is then burned at supercritical pressures and temperatures to produce electricity. This technology handles the coal in such a way that virtually all of the pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen that cause acid rain are removed and dealt with in a safe manner. This third way is what is now being dubbed Clean Coal. But is it really Clean?

With all three of the technologies, acid rain pollutants are scrubbed so that they are lower by some factor. But, in all cases carbon emissions are not captured. Carbon emissions are the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas buildup which is the principal cause of global warming. Umm, no Clean Coal yet…

Capture and Sequester – Or Bury Carbon Dioxide Underground A Solution
One method to solving the carbon emission problem associated with burning coal for electricity under development, albeit slow, is utilizing what scientists call capture and sequester of carbon dioxide gas emissions and storing these emissions underground. The U.S. has pulled the plug on plans to fund a plant designed to capture and bury carbon dioxide as the technology for the plant is too expensive. Efforts to get this technology rolling in the US are meeting dead ends. So for now…no Clean Coal.

So What Is Next For US In The U.S. For Reducing Our Impact On Global Warming?
A couple of choices seem to rise up from the problem of not really having “Clean Coal”.

One choice is reducing our demand for electricity in the U.S. This means smaller houses, more efficient houses, converting every light bulb to more energy efficient bulbs, turning off lights and computers when they are not in use, turning up the AC in the summer and down the heat in the winter, etc. This choice is not so sexy for the Presidential Candidates to talk about so they don’t really. This choice has been around a long time.

The second choice is by developing alternative sources for electricity such as wind, solar, bio mass fuels, and possibly more nuclear power plants. This choice has been around a long time, but in many ways it is a choice that is finally coming into its own as technologies that have been around for decades are now finally starting to improve to the point where they can be considered on a massive scale. This choice has much more political appeal which is why we’re seeing it in the Presidential Campaigns. This choice is what the Pickens Plan is all about. For sure by now you have seen TV advertisements for the Pickens Plan. Read: What Is The Pickens Plan?

Which Way Will America Go?
Will America continue to allow “Clean Coal” technologies to be at play given the American “entitlement” and craving for cheap electricity? As long as votes are needed to win an election – perhaps. Or is America finally being pushed into developing alternative energy sources to help us minimize our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, like oil, and to show to the world our serious commitment to stopping greenhouse gas emissions and global warming as our politicians spat out at voters in order to make them look good? Who knows, but these are the choices that lie ahead.