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This is What Clean Coal Looks Like

Proponents of clean coal promise that some day, off in the future sometime, they’ll be able to burn coal cleanly, by storing the carbon dioxide emitted by coal burning power plants, much in the way that coal burning power plants store coal ash waste now.

If the storage of ash is any indication of how clean clean coal is, we ought to have none of it. This week, about 300 million gallons of coal ash sludge broke through a containment damn and spilled out into the surrounding land, wrecking nearby homes and stopping a train in its tracks.

The coal ash from coal-fired power plants, also referred to as fly ash contains heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic. The Tennessee Valley Authority told residents that, although the sludge is seeping into the Emory River and nearby water supplies, there was nothing to worry about. “It does have some heavy metals within it, but it’s not toxic or anything,” said a TVA spokesman.

See, the water contains toxins, but it’s not toxic. Sure, and coal is clean. The spill in Kingston is what clean coal looks like.

coal ash sludge spill december 2008

2 comments to This is What Clean Coal Looks Like

  • jen

    I’m not half as scared of Carbon Dioxide (we exhale it, plants breath it) as i am of depleted uranium weapons!


    • Clicker

      Jen, your critique of the concept of carbon dioxide pollution is based upon a ridiculous unstated premise: That if we and plants normally bring a substance into our bodies, it must not be dangerous. You discount the fact that a substance that is not harmful in one context can be very harmful in another. We drink water, and plants bring it in through its roots. However, we can drown in water, and most plants plants, if their roots get water-logged, can too. We breathe in oxygen, and would die without it. However, when oxygen is combined with nearby flammable materials and a certain amount of heat, it can be part of a chemical reaction that can destroy our bodies and everything in our homes.

      I hope, Jen, that you realize that carbon dioxide’s role in climate change is much more complex than the idea of whether we can breathe it.

      No one is saying that carbon dioxide is a poison. However, artificial carbon dioxide emissions are a form of air pollution because we have gotten to the point where increased atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions have begun to warm global temperature, leading to a climate crisis that is present now. This has to do with how atmospheric carbon dioxide interacts with radiation from the sun. It has nothing to do with how carbon dioxide interacts with our lungs.

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