Anyone that pays attention to the news and science, and not the desperate ads put out by the coal industry, knows that "clean" coal cannot be typed without quotes around "clean." Clean coal has been debunked thoroughly, and even the coal companies are beginning to pick up on their failed "facts."
This, however, has not led to any admissions on their part, only clever copy writing and continuing attempts to obscure the truth. Peabody Energy's latest ad is full of greenwash, offering us the chance to refute the coal industries' lies point by point.
The ad opens with:
"Clean coal means energy security, jobs and economic stimulus along with a cleaner environment."
The coal industry often tries to present itself as the savior of the American economy. While the coal industry does, of course, offer jobs, this is not a mutually exclusive arrangement. As the President and his advisors have noted, a clean economy would offer millions of new, green-collar jobs as well as a wellspring of economic stimulus.
In addition, the promise of "a cleaner environment" excludes, apparently, the air. Power plants are responsible for nearly 40,000 near-fatal heart attacks per year, almost 3000 instances of lung cancer, and countless asthma cases and assorted respiratory and cardiac illnesses. These effects are felt much more acutely in those areas near coal-fired power plants than in areas with little to no coal plants nearby, which is yet another reason to keep the "clean" in quotes.
"What is clean coal?"
"Part One of clean coal has taken place in recent years, as billions of dollars in new technologies scrub away emissions."
One of the most common greenwashing practices is taking credit for what the law requires of them. Or, as Stop Greenwash puts it, "It's the Law, Stupid!"
For instance, the toxic emissions that the coal companies so helpfully scrubbed away- sulfur oxide and nitrous oxide -not only are such emission reductions required by law, but using these scrubbers requires more energy, resulting in even more CO2 pollution.
"Part Two builds on this with new, efficient coal-fueled power plants with reduced carbon footprints. Eventually, carbon capture and storage will allow plants to recycle the CO2 back underground in deep storage or even oil fields, increasing U.S. oil production."
Again, the greenwash in this paragraph is subtle--the ad suggests that carbon-capture and storage is an inevitable technology soon to be sweeping the nation In reality, the technology is not yet ready for utility use, and experts believe it couldn't be deployed any earlier than 2030.
Carbon-capture and storage, first and foremost, wastes energy. Using 10-40% of a power plant’s energy, CCS could literally erase the efficiency gains made in the last 50 years. For every four CCS plants, another five would be needed to power them; all the "clean coal" industry offers the American public is false hope.
Lastly, carbon capture and storage would raise the cost of electricity of 21-91%. So much for coal being America's affordable electricity.
"Americans overwhelmingly support the use of coal. A landslide 72% of opinion leaders recently said yes to the use of coal to generate electricity and 69% say coal is a fuel of the future."
According to CoalCanDoThat.com, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity was the sponsor of this study. Perhaps this would indicate it is not as scientific and unbiased as one would hope—a textbook greenwash.
"So let's use coal to deliver energy security, more jobs and a stronger economy. And let's solve the technology and regulatory hurdles to let America recycle its carbon."
Carbon-capture and storage does not recycle carbon, by which they mean carbon dioxide, the second most-abundant greenhouse gas, but you wouldn't know it if you only read "clean" coal ads. Carbon capture and storage involves the separation of carbon dioxide, either before or after the fuel is combusted. The carbon dioxide is then sequestered in underground geological formations, such as oil fields, or pumped into the ocean.
The carbon dioxide would never be reused for energy, and in fact, could pose a risk to nearby communities if it leaked out of the sequestration.
In the end, then, what Peabody Energy and its accomplices are attempting to sell the promise of an unproven and unfeasible technology. They want the public to put up with dangerous, dirty, coal-fired power plants today, with the empty reassurance that sometime later, they'll clean it up.
Coal is hardly the energy solution America, and the world, needs.
P.S. All the specifics in this article were pulled from "False Hope," the comprehensive Greenpeace report on the myths and lies of carbon capture and storage. You can read the PDF here.
Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.