Coal: Can’t We Do Better?

February 8th, 2010

Lisa was right when she said this month’s Green Moms Carnival topic would challenge us.  Coal. It’s one of those things most of us take for granted. We don’t really think about coal – where it comes from, what it does, why we depend on it.  Oh sure, we think about climate change. We blog about climate change. But climate change is a topic that’s front and center in the media and the blogosphere. We think about the ramifications of climate change: rising sea levels, economic destabilization, melting polar ice caps and so on…

When I stopped and thought about it, I realized I knew very little about coal besides the fact that it accounted for most of our energy use in this country, was a main contributor to global warming, and made up a very dangerous life style for the coal miners in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere.  Oh, and when I was exposed to it for the first time via our family trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine, I coughed and coughed and coughed…


So I went straight to the US Department of Energy website, where I learned:

Coal is one of the true measures of the energy strength of the United States.  One quarter of the world’s coal reserves are found within the United States, and the energy content of the nation’s coal resources exceeds that of all the world’s known recoverable oil.

The text pretty quickly jumped into an explanation of all that the DoE is doing to try to counter-balance the negative impacts of coal.   “Innovative, low-cost environmental compliance technologies and efficiency-boosting innovations are being developed by the Energy Department’s Fossil Energy research program.

To tap the full potential of the nation’s enormous coal supplies, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy is working with the private sector to develop innovative technologies for an emission-free coal plant of the future.

This research and development program is pioneering more effective pollution controls for existing coal-fired power plants and an array of new technologies that would eliminate air and water pollutants from the next generation of power plants.  Research is also underway to capture the greenhouse gases emitted by coal plants and prevent them from entering the atmosphere.”

Let’s face it. Coal is dirty. “Clean coal” is a dream, not yet proven and with unforeseen consequences for our groundwater supplies.

More people have probably died from coal – from the  toxic pollution it spews into our air and our water – than from both world wars and the 1918 influenza combined.

Coal is destroying our landscape too. Mountain top removal means exactly what it sounds like. It’s horrible. And it’s irreversible.


Can’t we do better than coal?

An entirely new, clean green economy is looking for investment, looking for opportunities to prove what it can do to make our nation more energy-independent and cleaner and greener. Solar. Wind. Hydrothermal. Even, dare I say, nuclear and natural gas – these are the way of the future.

Check out the other posts at the Green Moms Carnival on Coal, hosted today by Retro Housewife Goes Green.

— Lynn

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