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.

About Andrew Dermont

Andrew Dermont organized the overhaul of the Argus website. He is now the Blargus Editor and oversees the publication of all online-specific content.
  • Anonymous

    Why don’t we just say there is such a thing as the thing called “Clean Coal” and leave it at that.

  • Jon Booth

    Wow you’re ridiculous.

    sorry to be so crude, but low sulfur coal is not clean. it just has less sulfur in it. it still has lead, mercury and arsenic in it. as well as the main ingredient, carbon.

    and you still have to mine it, which is an incredibly destructive process that is dangerous and bad for the environment.

    additionally, one of my main points was that clean coal, which is being sold as having something to do with global warming is actually only related to acid rain, and it manages to be dirty as hell even with that. obviously low sulfur coal also has nothing to do with global warming

    but lets just go burn western coal and accelerate climate change. great idea. lets devastate more areas of the country so that we can have more coal!

    speaking of western coal… have you heard of the black mesa coal mine in arizona? its fucking terrible, they use up somewhere around half of the local regions water and remove indigenous people in arizona from their land. but yay! low sulfur coal! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mesa,_Arizona

    also, as to my “reflexive liberalism,” i hate liberals. i think its the one thing i agree with mytheos on. i am far from liberal.

    also i think robert bird is a dick. but thats not the point.

    so in conclusion you missed the point, and this article is ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    Still confused? Try FactCheck.

  • Anonymous

    Dag nab those knee-jerk-ing-obfuscat-ing fucks. They’re so obfuscated about where the energy to produce clean energy comes from.

  • “clean” coal

    The only “clean” coal is that which remains undisturbed and unburnt.

    Support the “clean” coal movement by shutting down all coal mining operations.

    No doubt.

  • Anonymous

    look, i realize that Mytheos Holt has recently made it his job to go to absurd lengths to attack your column, but that’s no excuse to suddenly become a reactionary.

    distilled to its thesis, this post uses a half-truth (coal with less sulfur is CLEAN!!!) in order to bash organized labor and environmentalism. there’s really little else of substance to be found in it.

    next time, show some backbone, and don’t get so butthurt when the token conservative picks a fight with you that you feel the need to find a scapegoat farther to the left.

  • I. Myne Koal

    Damnit, I don’t care! You can mine all you want if it will just get me 20 more years of this sweet, sweet modernity.

  • After reading this post I can sum it up in one word, “disingenuous”.

  • dguy53

    Disingenuous, exactly. You might say it is less dirty, but it certainly is not clean. Truthfully, there is no such thing as clean coal.