Trump thinks clean coal is when workers mine coal and then actually ‘clean it’

Back in the real world, clean coal remains a fantasy.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION BY RYAN J. GILL, NOTMYEARTHNOTMYPROBLEM.COM
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION BY RYAN J. GILL, NOTMYEARTHNOTMYPROBLEM.COM

How off the rails was President Donald Trump’s rally speech in Phoenix Tuesday night? He spouted utter nonsense on clean coal, and it didn’t even make CNN’s story, “Donald Trump’s 57 most outrageous quotes from his Arizona speech.”

Trump appears to believe that clean coal — which, it must always be pointed out, doesn’t actually exist — is when workers mine coal and then physically “clean it.” That does not happen, but facts have never stopped Trump.

“We’ve ended the war on beautiful, clean coal, and it’s just been announced that a second, brand-new coal mine,” said Trump, “where they’re going to take out clean coal — meaning, they’re taking out coal. They’re going to clean it — is opening in the state of Pennsylvania, the second one.”

There are many misstatements or outright lies in those brief lines. First and foremost, “clean coal” is a fantasy. You can’t “clean it.” In terms of carbon pollution, coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels, so you couldn’t clean coal unless you could remove or capture all the carbon and bury it.

The phrase “clean coal” refers to expensive and mostly non-commercial technologies that reduce pollution and capture carbon dioxide when coal is burned. Even Robert Murray, CEO of the country’s largest privately held coal-mining company, doesn’t believe in that. “Carbon capture and sequestration does not work,” he said last month. “It is neither practical nor economic.”

Second, there never was a “war on coal.” Indeed, as we reported last month, a leaked draft of the Department of Energy’s electric grid study concluded that factors like environmental regulations and renewable energy subsidies “played minor roles” in the shutdown of big coal plants.

Instead, coal has simply become uneconomic. “[Coal] plants that have retired are old and inefficient units that were not recovering their operations and fuel costs, much less capital cost recovery,” the draft report says.

Finally, Trump’s “second, brand-new coal mine” in Pennsylvania is actually a renovation and reopening project for a metallurgical coal mine. The increase in the metallurgical coal market is largely being driven by China’s steel industry, not by any policies from Trump, as the Washington Post fact checker explained in June. The mine project will create, at most, dozens of jobs.

The Post gave Trump three Pinocchio’s for lying about the first coal plant back in June. These new statements deserves a lot more.