I can’t believe it, but Jon is going to make me sound like Mytheos. In his reflexive liberalism, it seems Mr. Booth can’t be bothered to do any actual research on the issue of clean coal.
Let me state loud it loud and clear: There is such a thing as clean coal!
Clean coal is located west of the Appalachian Mountains. You don’t hear nearly as much about Western coal because the eastern coal union, the United Mine Workers (UMW), and their representative in the Senate, the ancient Robert Byrd (D-WV), tend to yell really loud when the government tries to push environmental plans that put clean western coal (mined by workers who aren’t unionized) on an equal footing with dirty eastern coal. Nearly every reasonable act for stricter environmental standards has been pushed over Byrd’s tenacious objections. As a result, western coal is under-utilized, which also keeps it out of the public consciousness (I’d never heard of clean coal until I took Marc Eisner’s Public Policy class).
Still, the fact that Mr. Booth writes about the non-existence of clean coal without knowing what it is remains inexcusable. He writes: “Clean coal is simply coal that has had some of its most harmful elements removed.” This simply isn’t true. Clean western coal does not need to have elements removed, as it naturally has lower amounts of sulfur than dirty eastern coal. Jon, as well as many other knee-jerk environmentalists, tends to obfuscate this issue. When I tried to find a quote to verify this information on the clean coal Wikipedia page, I found the most vile, slanted article I’ve ever read on the usually well policed website. Because Wikipedia was completely unhelpful, I’ve provided a link from the Department of Energy website that plainly states my case: “[t]he use of western coals can result in up to 85 percent lower sulfur dioxide emissions than the use of many types of higher sulfur eastern coal.”
Additionally, clean coal isn’t mined in Tennessee. What Jon refers to when he talks about coal sludge is the highly problematic method of removing the waste products from the burning of dirty coal in power plants utilizing scrubbers, which block the emission of sulfur, lead, mercury and other nasty substances into the atmosphere. I agree there is currently no good way of getting rid of the products caught by these implements. However, there would be little need to burn dirty coal at all if Senator Byrd hadn’t repeatedly convinced his colleagues to nix legislation mandating how much sulfur, lead and mercury power plants could emit in favor of legislation that forced nearly all power plants to install scrubbers, even when it’s cheaper to buy clean coal. This legislation amounted to a subsidy for dirty eastern coal at the expense of clean western coal, a subsidy that continues today and will only end when all the power plants constructed before 1990 are taken out of commission and utility companies are given a real choice between installing scrubbers and buying clean coal.
To sum it up, I’ll repeat myself and say again that there is such a thing as naturally clean coal. If we wanted to, we could burn it at a much lower environmental consequence, but the actions of organized labor and its political representatives have made such an effort more difficult to achieve.