When I hear the term “clean coal” I can’t help but wonder what it could possibly mean? Coal to me is black and dirty and produces horrible black and smelly smoke when it is burned. The term “clean coal” is used to refer to any process used at a new or existing facility which will significantly reduce sulfur dioxide emissions or other green house gases in the fight against global warming.
Around 50% of electricity production in the USA is through coal fueled power stations. The clean coal technology term is used to describe the process by which carbon is captured and sequestrated (confiscated and stored). There are currently estimates that clean coal technology reduces emissions by as much as 77% so there are still at least 23% of emissions that are not captured.
The other issue is of course in the storage of pollutants and radionuclides. Significant amounts of fossil fuel energy are required to mine coal and transport it to power stations. Disposing of pollutants and transporting the waste also require large amounts of fossil fuel energy and therefore the whole notion of “clean coal” technology seems questionable at the very least.
Coal mining can strip away mountains, hills and natural areas and can cause enormous environmental destruction due to subsidence, erosion and degradation. While there is no question that “clean coal” technology reduces green house emissions it does not compare to the efficiency and environmentally friendly solar and wind technologies. These should surely be the methods Australia pursues. We can only hope.
this article originally featured on Clear the Air