Clean Coal. Sort of like celibate hookers.

Via Lynn Hasselberger
on Jul 29, 2010
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50 percent of the electricity that heats our houses, lights our schools and powers our industries comes from coal.

Yay for coal, you say. Clean coal. End of story.

Not. Jeff Goodall, author of Big Coal, the Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future, says:

…clean coal is sort of like healthy cigarettes or limited nuclear war or fat free donuts. It’s one of the great oxymorons of our time.

The documentary, DIRTY BUSINESS, investigates the true cost of our dependence on coal for electricity. Check out the trailer:

If you’re not yet inspired to turn out a light or two, you may be interested in …

the side effects of coal:

Disappearing mountains. Already, over 500 historic mountains have disappeared, 2,000 miles of Appalachian rivers and drinking water have been poisoned and the health of countless families have been sacrificed to mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. On the bright side…

Mountaintop removal has transformed mountains and hundreds of thousands of acres of forest into smooth, majestic tracts of land, greatly reducing travel time in Appalachia and providing an unobstructed view of convenient highway rest stops.

Coal Power: Warming America, Warming the Planet (parody website by the National Resources Defense Counsel)

Air Pollution. Every year coal-fired power plants release about 3.5 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide, 10 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 48 tons of mercury, 56 tons of arsenic, 134,000 tons of hydrochloric acid, 130 million tons of toxic-laden waste–some of it right into our air, ground and water supply.

Water Pollution. Caused by mining and use of coal. See two points above.


Astroturf (fake grass roots) organizations…

Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky. American for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) was created to appear as a grassroots citizens group in support of coal power. In reality, it promotes the interests of mining companies, coal trade associations, and utility companies. In 2009, ABEC changed its name to America’s Power Army. You’ll learn about real people like Wendy, who says…

I’m an environmentalist and I’m proud to work for a coal company.

Carbon capture and sequestration–the technology behind ‘clean-er’ coal…

Simple. Just stuff carbon dioxide deep into the earth’s crust. And call it carbon capture and sequestration or CCS.

“If we can do this, we’re done. We can have our carbon and eat it, too.”
–Dr. Julio Friedmann, director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Carbon Management program.

In more technical terms, CCS technology is designed to filter out–or capture-–the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants. The idea is that once it’s captured, this CO2 gets compressed to a supercritical liquid state and injected–or sequestered–deep (sometimes around 2 miles deep) into porous sedimentary rock formations where it can be stored indefinitely. In theory, that is.

I say we call it Crazy Carbon Sequestration. Why? CCS essentially increases our dependence on burning coal–we’d have to use more coal to power the machinery to suck the CO2 out of the coal. The massive infrastructure required is mind boggling: twice as large as the entire existing petrochemical infrastructure.

I want to know how much can these “porous’ rock formations hold? We’ve never pumped that much CO2 (coal CO2 = 1/2 our entire CO2 emissions) into the earth’s crust. Even the best sponge has its limits. And how will all of this CCS be kept in check here in the U.S., much less globally? Could CCS cause earth quakes? Or oil gushes?

Your voice counts! Take action!

A minority of Senators in the pocket of fossil fuel interests are blocking any action in the immediate future on a bill that limits carbon pollution and helps solve the climate crisis, which Waylon addressed recently in Planetary FAIL. I say, let’s not give up. Bombard your Senators with phone calls and letters. Make sure they hear how inaction on climate legislation is unacceptable and that we’re not going away.

More ways to speak up for real clean energy…

Spread the word…

  • * Share this link on facebook, digg, anywhere and everywhere.
  • * Tweet this once a week: Clean coal. Sort of like celibate hookers. #elej
  • * Contact if you’d like to request a screening.

More about DIRTY BUSINESS. The first major public media project to explain and demystify “clean coal” and to explore the extent to which increased energy efficiency and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar thermal power might make “clean coal” unnecessary and uneconomical.

The film was written, produced and directed by Peter Bull and co-produced by Justin Weinstein, the team that produced the PBS FRONTLINE and CIR co-production, Hot Politics, about the politics of global warming. The narrator and editorial consultant on Dirty Business is Jeff Goodell, author of Big Coal, the Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future and contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine ( Alex Gibney, producer/director of the 2008 Academy Award winning documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, is consulting producer on DIRTY BUSINESS.

The project received funding from The 11th Hour Project, Cow Hollow Fund, Deer Creek Foundation, Educational Foundation of America, Fledgling Fund and the Fred Gellert Family Foundation.


About Lynn Hasselberger

Lynn Hasselberger is co-founder of GDGD Radio; The Green Divas Managing Editor; and Producer of The Green Divas Radio Show. She's also a mom, writer and award-winning cat-herder who lives in Chicagoland. Sunrises, running, yoga, lead-free chocolate and comedy are just a few of her fave things. In her rare moments of spare time, she blogs at and A treehugger and social media addict, you'll most likely find Lynn on twitter (@LynnHasselbrgr @GreenDivaLynn & @myEARTH360), instagram and facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.


9 Responses to “Clean Coal. Sort of like celibate hookers.”

  1. Padma Kadag says:

    The use of coal sped up the greenhouse gases from which we are suffering now. Unfortunately during the '70's the anti-nuclear movement did not consider this effect at the time. I am not saying that they were wrong in their concerns….I just wonder why we did not see this coming and why there has not been more demand for "safe" nuclear. If it is at all possible. Certainly the current use of coal is destroying this place called earth. I am not sure that solar could supply the demands for manufacturing,etc. Wind I am sure will be opposed for it's "littering" the countryside. Ethanol would not e an efficient use of lands or water and most likely the grain will need to be genetically engineered in order to lower the water and land use.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Padma. Great points. So many options, all with pros and cons. The biggest step we need to take, globally, is simple conservation and an understanding of how destructive our consumptive habits really are. Without grasping that, I think we'll be in trouble regardless of how energy is harnessed.

  3. While all of your concerns regarding the long term effects of sequestering CO2 deep into the earth are valid, we must face the fact that we are dependent on coal to meet the energy demands of the world. The demand will only increase in the coming years. So, while not the only solution, trying to "clean" coal MUST be part of the solution. I'm not saying that we should discontinue wind and solar projects, but we must not discontinue CCS projects. Please visit I work for a CCS technology company whose main concern is long term health of our climate. Our founder has invented a CCS technology that greatly mitigates Co2 emissions at the same cost as coal companies without CCS. So, we know coal is going to be used, why not use it as wisely and cleanly as we possibly can.

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  5. BrentBucho says:

    Clean Coal is just like being a little bit pregnant……it grows on you and has lasting effects for a Lifetime

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