Friday, October 31, 2008

The myth of clean coal

Writing in the Guardian, Fred Pearce explodes the myth of "clean coal":

It is, of course, oxymoronic. Coal is about acid rain and peasouper smogs, asthma and mercury contamination, radioactive waste emissions and ripping apart mountains, killing trees, lung cancer and, of course, global warming.

Coal emits more carbon dioxide for every unit of energy generated than any other fuel. Sure you can clean it up a bit – though the toxins you've taken out of the ground have to go somewhere. But clean coal? Just say no.

It's a nonsense phrase for a mythical technology which does not yet exist and will arrive much too late to do any good. But its being peddled - hard - by a fossil fuel industry who realise that selling snake oil is the only way they can stay in business. So they invest tens of millions every year on PR to propagate this myth, while continuing to burn the same dirty coal in the same dirty power stations and release it straight out of the same dirty chimneys into the atmosphere.

This is not a myth we can afford. Sure, if it ever arrives, it'll be great - but allowing this industry to keep on destroying our planet for profit simply on the hope that one day they'll be able to stop is a policy for failure. We need to be investing in the real alternatives we have to reduce emissions now, not in the hope of a mythical future solution. And the first step is to ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants. New Zealand has already taken that step; will the rest of the world follow?