Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Clean coal or dirty politics?

Strip miningI'm so sick of hearing about clean coal. It's such an enormous oxymoron it's almost funny - it's right up there with "sexy back hair" and "edible poop". No matter how you spin it, it just doesn't work.

The candidates keep pulling this one out and touting it as the next great step to energy independence. But the real issue is that there's nothing clean about coal.

So, what is clean coal? The industry-sponsored American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity defines it as "any technology to reduce pollutants associated with the burning of coal that was not in widespread use" prior to regulations from 1990. As a result, you can call any newer coal-based power plant clean.

Oh, I suppose you can argue that it's possible to capture the gunk released from burning coal for energy generation even though carbon capture and sequestration is still an industry pipe dream. You can also argue that, since about 50% of America's electricity comes from coal, we might as well pursue all those extra scrubbing bubbles. The fact of the matter is that coal is still somewhat plentiful and it's cheap. What's a cash strapped America to do? Work with what it's got. And that's coal.

But, let's not kid ourselves into believing that coal is clean. The whole process of extracting coal is still a dirty, dangerous job. The mountain top removal and strip mining process doesn't go away. And huge water usage and contamination is still a big part of coal extraction.

So, while the candidates are pandering for votes from the swing "coal states" of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia, let's not all get wrapped up in the idea that coal is clean. It's about as clean as a mouthful of mercury.

20 comments:

Latigo Liz said...

I have wondered about that oxymoron as well. No fossil fuel is clean...ESPECIALLY coal!

Robj98168 said...

My Friends-I am sure McCain knows all about fossil fuels- since he was around when the source was walking the earth!
I kid- but I too don't see the clean in "Clean" Coal- As i said on another blog- if they could just harness the power of the hot air that politicians emit we would then have a true renewalable energy source

ruchi aka arduous said...

I totally hear what you're saying, but I do feel like carbon capture and sequestration has to be on the table. For example, in a country like India, where coal is one of its biggest assets, the only way you are going to get it to come to the table is if you allow for clean coal.

Is it dirty politics? I would argue that it's more economic reality. Like it or not, coal is cheap, and more plentiful than oil. Like it or not, people are going to use coal, especially as oil supplies decrease. Given that, I think we need to be pragmatic, say, "Okay, coal is never going to NOT be on the table," and aggressively pursue carbon capture and sequestration.

Tajrw said...

NO clean-coal! We owe China 500 billion and they are major coal users. We have more coal reserves than they do for their population. The lobbyists are trying to make this environmental suicide seem self-preserving for the U.S. in the short term, but in the long term they will have us believe it will make us more globally friendly. Yikes!

Dave Gray said...

Black Hair can be very sexy.

jlygrnmigt said...

I agree. I cringe every time I hear them say those 2 words.

And Dave? She said BACK hair :)

Greenpa said...

Totally true; "clean coal" is a scam, right up there with "oil shale" and "tar sands" (where it costs the equivalent of 3 gallons of diesel fuel to make one gallon of.. diesel fuel... and $10/gallon in subsidies.)

Ruchi- I'd be more interested in "capture and sequestration" if anyone had a full scale, cost effective, - and LONG TERM demonstration going. One big problem with sequestration is similar to the problem with spent nuclear fuel- it may come to the surface again for our great grandchildren to deal with. So far, I think most of the schemes there are wishful thinking.

MissAnna said...

I would hope most of the general public understand this as well. Hard to know what people will let themselves believe, though. Especially when it comes to energy...

Have to ask...why is your little coal miner wearing pasties? I somehow doubt that's OSHA approved :-)

Coffee Bean said...

LOVE this post! Sexy back hair and edible poop made me laugh out loud!

LeahBear said...

I KNOW!!! It's so infuriating! I was just thinking about blogging about this because it just really makes me so angry, I don't have the words to describe it. No matter how "clean" it is coming out of the power plants, you still have to get it out of the ground. I am a native Virginian - born, raised, and have lived here all my life. I cannot STAND the thought of my beautiful mountains being sliced off and dumped into seasonal streams. It makes me f'ing nauseous. I think I'll still blog about it, actually, and I'll also link to you. I don't think most people really know about mountain top removal. ARRRRGH!!!

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Perhaps, 'cleaner coal' like 'safer sex' would be better? Coak sucks, lets all go bacl to whale oil-oops wait, no. Actually, we are doomed and we all know it, why kid ourselves? Lets all just have lots of safer sex until doomsday, at least we'd be warm.

Allison said...

Good points. But unfortunately, most of the population will think "Wow, clean coal! I didn't know. Those coo coo treehuggers are stupid. Because senator smarty pants said it's clean."
But I will definitely go away starting to use phrases like "edible poop" and "clean as a mouthful of mercury".

Crunchy Chicken said...

Missanna - my little coal miner is "strip mining". Hence the pasties.

Wendy said...

I wonder how many of the people who are advocating for "clean coal" have actually spent any time in a community where coal is mined. I wonder if those people who advocate for clean coal would change their minds about mining coal if they had to immerse themselves in the culture where coal mining is the economic base.

I grew up in southeastern Kentucky coal mining country (and I'm a little offended that you didn't include Kentucky as one of the "coal" states as the whole eastern half of the state is supported by coal mining :). It's a hard life, and as you mentioned, the process is dirty, dangerous, and environmentally devastating.

We spend a lot of time in these "green" circles talking about the things we'd "give up" or talking about how "sustainable" our lives are. All of those things we've given up to live lighter are things many of my former neighbors never even had.

turtlewoman said...

". . . in a country like India, where coal is one of its biggest assets . . ." Sun is also one of India's biggest assets and use of the sun produces clean energy.

I totally agree with you on the "clean coal" issue. Oxymoron with the emphasis on the "moron".

Then there are those words: "maverick" and "my friends". GAG!

As for "edible poop" - new mama dogs and puppies when they start eating will eat the puppy poop. GAG again! But I do understand this is natural for them - just difficult for me. :)

Lindy in AZ

aelfie said...

Hey! Back hair is sexy. Leave our hirsute men alone.

Going Crunchy said...

Oh yeah! Excellent point. Even if you bought into the "clean" idea, the fact that they are now blowing up mountains to get at it negates that who-ha anyway.

Bugs and Brooms said...

Crunchy - I think I am your only conservative reader but I agree with you on most environmental issues - including this one. What I don't get is what are we supposed to do right now? I keep hearing about all of these great alternatives but where are they? And, yes, I understand big oil and lobbyist blocking the way but WE the people are demanding progress so what is the problem? Why don't we have at least something in place now? Or, is the only real alternative right now to go without any source until alternatives are developed and economically available to the average consumer?

And I agree with Wendy. I spent many of my younger years in southeast KY and my grandfather was a coal miner who suffered from black lung. It is a horrible process that rapes the land. But the people living in these communities don't have a lot of other sources of jobs. The majority live in poverty - still. And I don't mean a little poverty - some still don't have running water or indoor plumbing! They live more like people in undeveloped worlds. There just aren't any other options for them and many of these families have been in these communities for generations. If the demand for coal goes down, these people will really suffer. What can we do to help these people when we no longer need their product? And they really don't have anything they can give up or cut back on like we do.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Bugs - you are most definitely not my only conservative reader, there are a bunch of you out there.

I think helping focus on cleaning up the removal process as well as protecting the people who work in the mines is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, most people have been concentrating on the burning end of coal and the environmental impact of removal and how it affects the people in the area (not only from an economic but from a personal impact as well) have been overlooked.

The only time you hear anything about mining is when workers are hurt, trapped or killed.

Coal mining won't go away, but focusing on both ends of the process to make it cleaner is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Think too about the human lives lost trying to get coal, and the other costs (what a terrible way to make a living...) There has got to be a better way. :P

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