Emperor "Clean Coal" has no clothes

A Siegel has a great diary up on a new television advertising campaign launched by the "Reality Coalition" today to convey this message: "In reality, there's no such thing as clean coal." I love the use of humor in the ad:

After the jump, I've posted the whole press release issued by the Reality Coalition. You can sign up to join their effort by clicking here.

My only concern about this message is that it suggests greenhouse-gas emissions are the only thing that makes coal "dirty." Coal-fired power plants are not only a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, they are also one of the leading sources of fine particulate matter linked to asthma and other respiratory problems. This fine particulate matter, also known as particulate matter 2.5, "is much smaller in size and a more serious health hazard" than larger soot particles known as particulate matter 10.

Even if greenhouse gases and all other pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants could be controlled, coal mining itself would still create adverse environmental impacts. Making coal "clean" would require a lot more than capturing the carbon emissions.

Quibbles aside, I think this commercial is outstanding and look forward to more from the Reality Coalition.

I hope that future advertising will directly combat the coal industry's claim that we need new coal plants to meet future demand for electricity. In April, Iowa regulators approved Alliant's application to build a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown, and later explained that they did so because they think renewable energy sources will not be sufficient to meet Iowa's base-load electricity needs in the future.

The environmental movement needs to convince not only the public but also policy-makers from Barack Obama down to state-level regulators that Al Gore's vision of ending our reliance on carbon-based fuels is realistic.

UPDATE: Thanks to MyDD commenter mrlloy, who posted the link to a recent report from Greenpeace called The True Cost of Coal. It contains much more information about health and environmental hazards associated with mining and burning coal.

View the TV ad at: www.thisisreality.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 4, 2008
CONTACT: Josh Dorner, 202.675.2384

"Reality" Coalition Launches Campaign Debunking "Clean Coal" Myth

Calls on Coal Industry to Live up to the Promise of So-Called "Clean Coal"

Menlo Park, Calif.-- Today, the Alliance for Climate Protection, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club launched the "Reality" Coalition, a national grassroots and advertising effort to tell a simple truth: in reality, there is no such thing as "clean coal."

Environmental experts agree that coal is the dirtiest fuel America uses to produce electricity. The "Reality" Coalition, then, is challenging the coal industry to come clean in its advertising and in its operations. Coal cannot be considered clean until its carbon dioxide emissions are captured and stored.

"The reality is that there's not a single home or business in America today powered by clean coal," said Brian Hardwick of the Alliance for Climate Protection. "If coal really wants to be part of America's energy future, the industry can start by making a real commitment to eliminating their pollution that is a leading cause of global warming."

Hardwick continued: "It is high time for the coal industry to come clean and admit to the American people that today clean coal is not a reality. No matter how much they say it in their advertising, coal can't truly be clean until the plants can capture the global warming pollution. With so much at stake, we can't afford to hang our hats on an illusion."

Beginning today, the "Reality" Coalition will launch a multi-million dollar ad campaign, running in print, broadcast and online media and supported by the website, http://www.thisisreality.org/. The ads were designed and produced by Boulder, Colorado-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the agency responsible for the ground-breaking "Truth" anti-tobacco campaign.

The first "Reality" print ad shows a solitary door labeled "Clean Coal Facility Entrance." Behind the door, though, lies a barren field. "In reality, there's no such thing as clean coal," the ad states.

The ad continues: "Coal is one of the leading causes of global warming. But that hasn't stopped the coal industry from advertising clean coal. Yet, the truth is there isn't a single commercial coal plant in America today that captures its global warming pollution. Learn more about what the coal industry is not telling you ..."

Reality's first TV ad follows the same premise and can be viewed at http://www.thisisreality.org/.

"The coal industry has spent hundreds of millions promoting 'clean coal' technology, but in reality, there is not a single large-scale demonstration project in the United States for capturing and safely burying all of coal's CO2 emissions," Vice President Gore said. "The industry must make good its promise if they truly want to do their part to solve the climate crisis. Until that happens, coal cannot be called 'clean'."

The "Reality" Coalition today echoes the call made by former Vice President and Alliance for Climate Protection Chairman Al Gore in a recent New York Times op-ed that until coal is truly clean, there should be no new coal-fired power plants built in America.

"The coal industry is running a cynical and dishonest campaign to mislead the American people, while they stand in the way of real solutions," said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters. "The 'Reality' Coalition is aimed at holding them accountable for their outlandish claims."

Added Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke: "Big coal is spending millions to make us think that coal use today is 'clean.' But all their dirty money can't hide the truth -- coal as it's used today is the dirtiest climate-killing fuel on earth."

"Everyone has a role to play in creating our clean energy future," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "It's time for the coal industry to stop fighting against efforts to bring about a green economy and instead start living up to its clean coal rhetoric."

"We need to clean up coal, not spend billions on a scheme to market coal as clean," said Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. "It's time to build a better energy future with existing clean sources like wind and solar that will create jobs, boost our economy and confront the climate crisis head-on."

About the "Reality" Coalition
The "Reality" Campaign is sponsored by the Reality Coalition, a joint project of the Alliance for Climate Protection, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club. The Reality Campaign tells the truth about coal today -- it isn't clean. We are challenging the coal industry to come clean -- in its advertising and in its operations.

Tags: Alliance for Climate Protection, Clean Coal, Climate change, coal, Coal mining, coal-fired power plants, Energy, Environment, fine particulate matter, Global Warming, greenhouse gases, greenhouse-gas emissions, Iowa, Iowa Utilities Board, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, particulate matter 2.5, Reality Coalition, Sierra Club, This is Reality (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

Does Clean Coal Actually Reduce CO2

What is the difference between standard coal, and clean coal CO2 emissions?

Does Clean Coal actually reduce the CO2 coming out of the process?

by Trey Rentz 2008-12-04 08:05AM | 0 recs
the technology is not there yet

and I doubt it will ever be economically feasible to make a coal-fired power plant carbon-neutral.

by desmoinesdem 2008-12-04 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Emperor "Clean Coal" has no clothes

Can coal ever be clean? I don't think so and you're right to say it's not just the CO2. My colleagues and I have just finished a report on The True Cost of Coal, including cases studies on mountain top removal, acid drainage from mines, injuries to miners and places where careless mining means the ground literally burns.

From the press release

"In Columbia, indigenous communities are threatened and forced off their lands to make way for coal mines; thousands in Jharia, India suffer from horrendous living conditions because of uncontrollable coal fires; in Russia, unsafe mining conditions have meant injury and death for scores of workers  

In places like Indonesia, China and Thailand, air pollution from coal combustion is destroying livelihoods, damaging ancient relics, reducing crop yields and killing people. The legacy of mining ensures that land in South Africa will continue to be poisoned by acid mine drainage long after mines are closed while in the Kuyavia-Pomerania region of Poland, mining activities have caused the water level of Lake Ostrowskie to drop dramatically. In the United States coal has meant blowing up mountains, burying streams and contaminating nearby communities. In Germany, reclaiming opencast mines has created dead lakes with water as acid as vinegar."

and the full report

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/ press/reports/cost-of-coal

by mrlloy 2008-12-04 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Emperor "Clean Coal" has no clothes

The only clean coal technology is charcoal from hemp. Hemp produces 20% to 40% more oxygen while growing than carbon dioxide when burnt. Too, hemp charcoal is sulfur free.

The holdup? Congress still considers charcoal from hemp in the same category as marijuana. That is, Congress calls marijuana a schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

So, hemp gets lumped with it.

Marijuana, the cannabinoid THC is not a drug. It's just what the name says. It's a cannabinoid. That it can heighten perception is a given. However, there's no evidence that it's addictive.

There are over 50,000 environmentally friendly products that can be made from hemp, as well as the medical benefits from medical marijuana.

Congress needs to remove all things hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

by Hempy 2008-12-04 06:25PM | 0 recs

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