Clean Coal is Simply a Myth!
While politicians may go around lobbying for usage of ‘clean coal’, this is just a campaign strategy. Coal cannot be clean! Right from the time it’s mined in its raw form to the time it is used after processing, it emits nothing but toxic waste into the environment.
The notion of ‘Clean Coal’
‘Clean coal’ is portrayed to be as a result of high-tech low emission of toxic substances. The processing of coal produces sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide; all of which have dire consequences to the environment. Extensive scientific research has led to discovering ways of reducing sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. However, the real problem is how to reduce carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide can be reduced by bottling it up and storing it deep in the earth. This is known as carbon-capture or sequestration. However, this is only true in theory, it’s neither viable practically or financially.
Carbon-capture requires more energy and this means 25%-30% more coal is needed. This will inevitably require an increase in mining activities and transportation costs. In addition, several tons of CO2 are captured daily so just think of how much infrastructure is needed to store all that! Another uncertainty is if the gas will remain safely buried. Leaks are likely to occur and this can be extremely dangerous.
Economically, such a process could guzzle billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and yet its effectiveness is not guaranteed. Needless to say, this is an impossible task to accomplish.
Burning of coal emits chemicals and particles harmful to the human body. A good example is soot and smog which are the leading cause of asthma. The American Lung Association claims that 13,000 lives are lost every year due to pollution caused by coal in America alone. 22,500 premature deaths are caused in Europe every year.
Death also frequently occurs in the mining sites. Coal miners die in mining accidents and direct exposure to the toxic chemicals. Countless others suffer injuries that render them incapacitated and therefore, unproductive.
Sulphur and nitrogen compounds in coal combine with rain to form acid rain. Acid rain corrodes metal and kills vegetation and this is very counter-productive.
Global warming is a crisis that the world is trying to avert, and coal mining only adds to this global headache. It’s carbon emissions create a greenhouse effect that leads to the rise in global temperature. According to UNEP, coal produces 1.7 times carbon per unit than natural gas.
Alternatives to ‘Clean coal’
The time, money and energy that is used to make coal clean is completely unnecessary because there exist cleaner and more cost-effective alternatives. These include the likes of solar power, wind power, natural gas and gas-fired power. They produce half as much carbon dioxide as coal, not to mention they are renewable while coal is finite.
More people are employed in the solar industry than the oil extraction and coal mining sectors. Worldwide, 8.1 million people are employed in industries that produce renewable energy so it’s only logical to follow this road.
Nothing beats conservation of the available energy; it’s the safest and cheapest alternative. Conservation can be accomplished through the use of insulation, LED lights and appliances that are designed to use less electricity.
Despite all that, research into ways of making coal cleaner should not cease. The danger comes in when we let it blind us to other alternatives that are more cost-effective and less dangerous to the environment. Perhaps, one day a solution to making coal genuinely clean shall be found but for now, ‘clean coal’ is just a myth!