Coal says “Goodbye …”

The latest advertisement from the coal industry warns us that without drastic measures to embrace Clean Coal, we risk saying “Goodbye to the American way of life that we all know and love.”

Goodbye. Adios. Sayonara. Au revoir.

Clean coal is important to America’s energy and economic security. The the process of generating coal is 70% cleaner than it was just 30 years ago, and continues to become cleaner still. This spot highlights the need to change outdated perceptions of coal and encourages all to realize that without coal, we would not have the energy we need to sustain our current way of life.

Goodbye to what? A wasteful energy culture that leads to polluted oceans that poison our food? Waste of energy that leads to $100s of billions leaving American shores to go overseas to pay for imported oil?

In any event, the industry keeps feeding us material that takes the truth out of truthiness. For example, re that 70%?

The coal industry is correct that emissions from coal plants are down 35 percent since 1970.

But the claim that the air is cleaner is only true from a 1970s perspective – for those pollutants which were regulated under the Clean Air Act and related statutes – chiefly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, the two main components of smog. But since coal use has more than tripled since 1970, total pollution from coal plants has increased.

Mercury emissions from coal plants continue to climb, and since 1990, carbon dioxide emissions – the prime driver of global warming – rose 27 percent from coal plants alone.

Clean Coal is an ugly myth, a myth that can can sooth people into accepting coal as inevitable into our future, a myth that will doom us to disaster. …


2 responses to “Coal says “Goodbye …”

  1. This article appears to suggest the correctness (but irrelevance) of the claim that ‘the process of generating coal is 70 percent cleaner’ by agreeing that there has been a 35 percent decrease in priority pollutants per ton burned. I think this misses the misleading point that the industry is trying to confuse people with. I could be wrong, but I read their claim as stating that they now emit 70 percent less pollution when extracting coal from the ground (generating coal, as opposed to generating electricty). In other words, the 70 percent claim is a technically accurate, cleverly worded diversion.

    Additionally, I think someone on the clean energy side is confusing two different numbers. Even if coal was 70 percent cleaner (ignoring its increased use), that should suggest a 70 percent drop, not 30 (or 35) drop in pollution. Either someone is trying to connect two unconnected numbers, or I shouldn’t read blogs before my morning coffee. Can someone please throw a cold bucket of clarity in my face?.


  2. Jim, Thank you for the catch. My error in a cut and paste. The 35 percent was from that site’s discussion which responded to less ambitious claims that coal pollution was down 35 (not 70) percent. “Since 1970, emissions from coal power plants are down 35 percent, the air is cleaner and yet coal use tripled during that period.”

    A much better deconstruction of the ad is at:

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