I need to rant about “green coal”

What is this all about?! IT DOESN’T EXIST! COAL WILL NEVER BE “GREEN”!

Let’s say hypothetically in ten years there is a way to store carbon from coal-fired power plants safely where there’s no danger of giant carbon releases that suffocate and kill nearby populations. Heck, let’s go super hypothetical and say Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) doesn’t cost a bajillion times more than coal plants already do. (But it will) Here are some reasons this plan still sucks.

1) It is coal (video). It comes from blowing up mountain tops, destroying water sources, slowly (or immediately) killing workers in underground mines, and devastating towns that happen to have this unfortunate black rock.

2) After you burn it, it is still coal. Coal ash is a big issue as it is now — unregulated. You may remember the Tennessee coal ash spill. Stuff like this happens because companies can store their ash where they please. They can put in your drinking water, your back yard, your face — probably not your face. Check out this map.

3) How many coal plants will upgrade? Not very many at first. How long is that going to take? Forever. No, I don’t have any facts for this because this situation is so GD hypothetical. But CCS won’t even be an option for so many existing plants that the technology will be reserved for wealthier areas that can afford to build entirely new coal plants. (Although communities could have been smart and invested in energy efficiency and renewables now instead of waiting until CCS was supposedly going to save them.)

4) This one is sort of built into the given. The technology is just simply going to take too long to develop. We already have growing wind, solar, and biomass industries going that have the potential (according to the Union of Concerned Scientists) to replace coal before we could even implement CCS.

5) It’s a technology from the 1800’s. Freaking A. How long do we have to put up with coal? We have put people on the moon, we can watch movies on our cell phones, and we created the Snuggie. It seems to me, we should move beyond coal.

I bring up “green coal” in the first place, because of what Gregory Boyce of Peabody Energy recently said about expanding coal power. He talked about eliminating energy poverty, saying, “Only once we have a growing, vibrant, global economy providing energy access and an improved human condition for billions of the energy impoverished can we accelerate progress on environmental issues such as a reduction in greenhouse gases.” Translation: Build more coal plants and then worry about how to cut their carbon emissions and save our planet. Boyce, you are a selfish, ignorant, money-hungry CEO.

Here’s another gem from Boyce: “There is no sustainability with energy poverty.” That’s fair, Mr. Boyce; but does it make sense to build giant coal-fired plants to pollute already-troubled regions, when you can build a solar farm quicker and cheaper and provide them the power they need? A solar farm could do wonders for most energy impoverished areas. They don’t consume energy like we Americans do.

The moral: Let’s invest in some technology that’s realistic and will make a positive difference. I guarantee you that anything involving coal is not included in those categories.


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