The Charleston (SC) Daily Paper’s Stratton Lawrence has penned a cover article on coal industry propaganda and reality with the appropriate title, The Dirty Truth. He demolishes the myth of “clean coal” propagated by front groups like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE):
Unfortunately, to call today’s coal “clean” requires a handful of mind-erasing psycho-somethings and a magic carpet ride to Fairyland. It’s true — the potential to burn coal far cleaner than in decades past is now here. Scrubbers, injectors, activators, and a host of other doohickeys and thingamabobs can be installed in smokestacks to trap and remove mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other toxins before they muck up the air we breathe. But the best devices are expensive and only in use at a few power plants across the country.
Lawrence also notes the problem that captured pollutants still need to be disposed of, often by “storing it in collecting ponds that can end up polluting rivers and groundwater. And that doesn’t even take into account the horrible effect that strip-mining has had on southern Appalachia, or the ecological impact of transporting mountains of coal around the nation.”
From the article also comes this excellent diagram:
The text of the diagram:
- 30 percent of Appalachian coal comes from mountaintop removal mining, destroying watersheds, ancient mountains, and communities.
- Trucks, trains, and ships all use fossil fuels to transport the coal to the plants, sometimes thousands of miles and across oceans.
- The coal is burned at the plant to heat water in steam turbines to generate electricity. Higher temperatures means more efficiency.
- The plant emits carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter. Scrubbers and devices catch some pollutants, but CO2 cannot be trapped with existing technologies.
- Ash is stored in a pond adjacent to the site. Some of it is recycled into cement and wallboard; some seeps into ground and surface water.
- Power lines carry electricity to homes and businesses, where a little piece of Appalachia powers your TV (in high def).