Barack Obama has spent the last week telling Americans that the economic stimulus program has to be passed right away, without any more opportunity for debate. It looks like President Obama will get his wish for an end to debate today, as the cloture vote will block further discussion in the Senate.
The thing is, I get suspicious whenever someone tells me I have to make a decision fast. When a car salesman says I need to make a decision today because his dealership’s “sale” is almost over, my skepticism is alerted. In the same way, whenever a political leader says that some legislation needs to be passed right away, I start to wonder why that leader is in such a hurry. I start to look at that legislation with an eye for measures that could not withstand thorough scrutiny.
In the Democrats’ stimulus bill currently nearing a vote in the Senate, the following line in particular grabs my attention: “$1,000,000,000 is available for selections under the Department’s Clean Coal Power Initiative Round III Funding Opportunity Announcement”. In case you have trouble counting all the zeroes, let me translate that number: It’s one billion dollars being made available through the Department of Energy for so-called “clean coal” programs.
One reason that number ought to alarm you: There’s no such thing as clean coal. This line in the Senate’s economic stimulus legislation provides one billion dollars to fund a source of energy that does not exist.
Fossil fuel energy corporations have been saying for years and years that they’re getting closer to developing clean coal technologies, but the truth is that there still isn’t any commercially viable clean coal technology. None.
Furthermore, the coal industry’s definition of “clean coal” allows so much pollution that it’s absurd. Even if supposed clean coal technology were able to eliminate 100 percent of the carbon emissions associated with burning coal to generate electricity, there would still be substantial carbon emissions from the extraction and transportation of the coal, and from the processing of the wastes. Furthermore, this imaginary clean coal future would still require either the destruction of entire mountains in order to get to thin bands of coal or the sacrifice of coal miners lives as they work in lethal underground conditions. The coal that they call “clean” would also continue to be stored in gigantic lakes of toxic sludge behind dams of the kind that burst open in December 2008 in Eastern Tennessee, knocking homes off their foundations and contaminating drinking water with arsenic and other poisonous heavy metals.
Funding so-called clean coal isn’t effective economic stimulus, because there isn’t any technology that’s ready to be deployed to actually lower the cost of energy or make it more clean. It’s just a huge gift to the same fossil fuel energy companies that pump pollution into our air, making huge numbers of Americans sick and speeding up climate change.
Republicans like Senator James DeMint have been busy adopting a pose of opposition to wasteful spending, railing against a small amount of spending on alternative, carbon-free transportation. But not one senator, not a Republican nor a Democrat, has proposed eliminating the one billion dollars in funding to the fraud of “clean coal”. Not one.
What’s more, Barack Obama supports this clean coal hoax. He’s been among the politicians pushing for this wasteful, anti-environmental spending.
Did we elect Barack Obama President so that we could see this kind of billion dollar giveaway to Big Coal? Did America give the Democrats majority control over Congress so that they could approve this Bush-style corporate welfare to support dependence on dirty fossil fuels?
Shame on Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, for trying to feed Americans this filthy coal swill. Shame on Barack Obama, for sprinkling his little bit of parmesan on top and telling us that it’s spaghetti.