B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Clean Coal Myth

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There really isn’t any such thing as clean coal, well, other than a marketing tool utilized by energy company hacks to greenwash coal, one of the dirtiest energy sources ever created. Clean coal might be created in the future, but then again, so might cold fusion1. Or robots with bees in their mouths.

Satanic Gift



I hope Barack Obama and Joe Biden will alter their campaign positions supporting clean coal, but I’m not holding my breath.

Withered and Died

From Greenpeace:

Coal washing results in the formation of large quantities of slurry. This is placed in waste piles. Rain drains through the piles, picking up pollutants which end up in rivers and streams. This runoff is acidic and contains heavy metals.

Between 7 and 30 percent of coal consists of non-combustible material that just has to be eventually disposed of. “Clean coal” technologies attempt to trap these waste products before they leave the smokestalks; waste material that is trapped is then used (despite containing a number of toxic elements) or dumped as landfill.

The use of higher quality coal – lower in ash and sulphur should reduce emissions and increase efficiency, but thermal efficiency is increased by only one percent. If clean coal is used to meet the increased electricity demand predicitions of govenments instead of cleaner renewable alternatives, there will in fact be a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) mercury and its compounds are highly toxic and pose a ‘global environmental threat to humans and wildlife.’ Exposure to it has been associated with serious neurological and developmental damage to humans. The report also states that coal-fired power and heat production is the largest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions. According to the Coal Utilization Research Council ‘there are no commercial technologies available for mercury capture at coal-fuelled power plants’. Furthermore, a US Department of Energy commissioned report, states that the consistent, long-term performance of mercury control has yet to be demonstrated. Experimental removal of mercury is prohibitively expensive at $761,000/kg mercury removed and even then 10% of the mercury still remains.

Despite $5.2 billion of investment in the US alone , clean coal research has been plagued with difficulties. For example, of the 13 clean coal projects that the US General Accounting Office looked at, eight had serious delays or financial problems – six were behind schedule by 2-7 years and two were bankrupt and will not be completed.

The operators of the $297 million Healy Clean Coal project in the USA intend to retrofit the current clean coal plant with traditional technologies. The plant has been closed since January 2000 because safe, reliable and economical operation was not possible with the experimental technology.

Hidden Social and Environmental Costs

Social and environmental problems caused by the use of coal begin at the point where coal is mined. Mine workers are at great risk of death, injury and illness. Local communities suffer from land degradation and pollution and in many cases are forced to relocate.

At a coal-fired power plant, coal is pulverised and burnt in a high temperature furnace. Various toxic gases and tiny particles are released from the furnace into the smokestalks; pollution devices are used to try to trap pollutants before they are released into the atmosphere. The use and disposal of solid wastes trapped in the furnace and the release of gases and fine particles from the smokestacks have severe impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and people’s health.

  1. note, not the cold fusion discovered by Kevin Gugan late at night at Guff House after he had been up for weeks at a time snorting speed. Ok, getting off point here. []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

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