Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Clean Power

5 Dirty Aspects of "Clean" Coal

carbon emissionsClean coal has been getting a lot of attention lately. Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama consider it to be an important piece in their energy plans. Even the recent $900 billion bailout package included $1.5 billion for clean coal. Because coal is so plentiful and relatively cheap in the US, the notion of clean coal is particularly appealing. Unfortunately, clean coal is a myth.

Here’s why clean coal is so dirty:

1. Clean Coal Requires More Coal

30% more energy is required to pump carbon underground for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). The captured carbon dioxide has to be compressed to 100 times the atmospheric pressure, transferred to an underground storage reservoir and then pumped in the ground. All of this requires large amounts of energy, thus the coal plant must burn an additional 30% more coal to generate the same amount of usable electricity.

2. High Expenses Make It Unfeasiblesolar coal

$5.2 billion in taxpayer money has been spent to foster this technology in the US, yet the results are dismal. A recent government report found that of the 13 projects examined, eight had extended delays or financial problems, six were years behind schedule, and two had gone bankrupt.

3. Commercial Carbon Capture Unlikely by 2020

A study from Australian energy consultancy ACIL Talisman states that CCS will not be available in the short-term to generate electricity with low carbon emissions and that technology breakthroughs are still needed to make this technology feasible. The study does however find that concentrated solar, geothermal, and wind energy already are or will be in commercial use by 2020.

4. Unproven Technology

No commercial scale examples exist. The FutureGen plant in Illinois was to be the showcase for clean coal technology. A total of $50 million was spent, $40 million of which was federal funded. The price tag for the $1.8 billion plant had nearly doubled. The government pulled support for the project due to concern that costs would continue to climb.

5. Coal Mining is Very Harmful

The US averages 30 coal mining deaths annually, while China averages a staggering 8,000. Mountaintop removal mining, a method that is common in Appalachia, destroys ecosystems and has permanently buried over 1,200 miles of streams. Coal mining causes water pollution and lowers the quality of drinking water in neighboring communities. Unfortunately, clean coal technology does not address the many negative impacts of coal mining and could even require large amounts of coal to be mined because of the additional energy needed to sequester carbon emissions.

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

Wrights Law isn't going to save the deep inefficiencies of SMRs. As I pointed out two years ago, the world tried tiny commercial nuclear...

Climate Change

Held vs. Montana is a succinct legal climate challenge, but such climate cases are new and uncertain.


The number of new VLCCs to be delivered in 2024? Zero. The number to be delivered in 2025? One.


After stumbling on biofuel, algae finds its footing and steps up to help the concrete industry cut its carbon footprint, too.

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.